Thursday 29 February 2024

Month of February 2024

After receiving his O level results last month, I was more anxious than my son in going through the options available to him. He had set his mind on doing accountancy which I fully support. There's only one issue. His results put him on the borderline of qualifying for the course offered by the various polytechnics. By right, in the Joint Admission Exercise, it was a straightforward action to simply put the nearest school and fill up the gaps with other less desired courses. Even though this was done, we weren't fully convinced and signed up for the SIM Open House over the weekend. The 1.5h spent provided a different perspective. As the details became clear, we were amazed to find out that a student could go through a diploma in 20 months, complete National Service and return to finish a degree in another 24 months. This meant a time saving of about a year compared to the same cohort but the tuition fees would cost about $10k more. We signed up, submitted the required documents and waited about two weeks for the letter of admission offer. That's now accepted and school starts in April. If things go accordingly, my son would graduate when he reaches 22!

Health wise, it's been a bad month. I fell sick a week before CNY. It was on off fever, body aches and itchy throat. Laying in bed for two days while dosing medicines, it didn't feel like I could recover in time. Then the fever just disappeared one morning and I could participate in the festive visits. But my youngest son got afflicted next and he suffered the same symptoms which meant he had to miss school. The doctor mentioned that a trending viral fever was going around. Covid had caused people to be extra cautious with mask wearing so the general population immunity had decreased. It's made worse by mass gathering over meals so the infection rate was high. This turned out to be true, at least in my family's context, because the next victims were my wife and followed by second son. Till today, they are still coughing or easily fatigued. Hopefully they recover soon.

As per the usual CNY practice, I caught up with relatives not seen over the year. One had transferred to be principal of a special needs institution, one became the head chef at a Japanese restaurant, an aunt had a fall recently and likely needed back surgery, also enjoyed a steamboat lunch with another aunt etc. Many nephews and nieces had grown much since I last saw them. Unfortunately, I don't think they would ever enjoy the close bond I have with my cousins, established over many years of constant meetups since young.

Tip: Sogen Samurai Queen JD, nectarine with strong expression, like tasty spring water

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Learning To Be Wealthy And Not Rich

I discovered this book by chance while waiting for a flight at Changi Airport. It caught my eye due to its author, Morgan Housel, whom I read some of his online articles and found them succinct. The book title was the other reason I chose it as I wanted to understand how big an influence that something as intangible as psychology has on a person dealing with money concepts.

Each chapter is quite short, 5 to 10 pages on average, perfect for quick burst of reading whenever I was free. But this took me six months to complete! I went through the book twice. The first round took four months because I was distracted and only touched it sporadically. Yet the topics were attractive enough to go for a second round so that I could really delve in the details. Don't be mistaken, it's not hard science and nothing formulaic.

The topics generally cover areas such as thinking in terms of risks, how a wealthy person behaves, encouragement to save and investing luck. Beneath all these lies the main issue; the individual's approach. While the market economy is a jumble with forces pulling in various directions, the key is to be clear on your own investment journey. The main thing I learnt is to strive for a life on my own terms, having money is just a tool to make it happen. Don't get disheartened when things go a little offside as it should be when events and policies are always unpredictable. This reminded me of the recently announced changes to the CPF SA which has big implications on many people. I took a deep breadth and decided it's time to move on. No point dwelling and better to spend the effort on recalibrating my portfolio.

Tip: Tenuta San Guido Alberto 2014, gum and raisin, chewy tobacco with uplifting nose

Thursday 15 February 2024

Finance Investment Movement 42

It’s been four years since my last visit to China. During these years, from what’s reported and feedback, it seemed China’s economy had taken a huge blow and people were generally downbeat. The property sector is badly impacted, foreign investors are pulling out and government financials are tight. So in my latest business trip, I went about to verify on the ground. My first night in Shanghai gave an indication. I was in Nanfeng City mall to grab dinner. The restaurants were mostly empty, maybe because it was a weekday. In the subsequent days, I spoke to bankers, friends and observed the surroundings. One of them told me the unofficial Shanghai population number had decreased from 11m to 9m. Many businesses had folded over the Covid period. Previously, the local government had pushed out low value manufacturing in order to focus on better quality sectors such as AI and banking. But with business owners relocating overseas, that had caused more damage than intended. Jobs were lost, wages stagnated and that’s affected domestic consumption. The banks are willing to lend but there are no takers. As a result, tax revenues dropped and government payments got delayed. So it’s become a vicious cycle that saps confidence. Worse, the BRI strategy had seen countries defaulting on debts and now appeared fragile with uncompleted projects mounting. Funds are urgently required yet the RMB is being weakened. Within the CCP, the military and appointed minister are being revamped to weed out corruption. The confluence of many factors have projected a certain idea of a weakened China. At the moment, nobody expects things to get better this year.

My opinion is China would require a monumental effort. Fortunately, they have the resources and structure to make quick changes. This might take a few years so I won't be in a hurry to make a bet. Therefore, it's better to play a safe card by putting funds in government bonds, the bluest chips or Etfs with non China focus.

Tip: Cloudy Bay Te Wahi Pinot Noir 2019, remarkable floral nose with good balance, a winemaker's pride