Friday, April 12, 2019

The leaf on the branch

Yesterday, after sending my boy to childcare, I was brisk walking along East coast park with my wife. It was when I am enjoying the breeze and the smells of the sea when the childcare center called me that my boy had a fall and his nose is bleeding. The teacher asked if we would like to take him back home. We asked if he is still alright and if he is still bleeding, and the teacher said the bleeding had stopped and he is okay.

So, we continued walking.

I told my wife that this behavior is likely not normal at all. From the way the teacher speaks to us, apprehensively, I guess she was quite used to getting scolded by parents. She was quite apologetic and was genuinely sorry for what she interpreted as neglect, because it happened on her watch while she was distracted by other kids. Well, it could have happened to anyone, and as long as there isn't any major and permanent damage, I think it's a good lesson for everyone, including and especially my boy.

When a leaf falls, whose fault is it? The tree that let it go, the wind that blew it away, or the leaf that got tired of hanging on?

I don't think I ever mentioned that I am one of the Hyflux 6% cumulative preference shares holder. I got in at $98, while the par value is $100, thinking that it is a good deal. Well, it was, for a time being, until it wasn't. I could have cut loss when it started plunging lower but I didn't. Conversely, I could have bought more while it fell, but I also didn't do it and that's something I can be grateful about. It can always be worse. When I suspect that the saga is going to drag and there's a possibility that I could get nothing back, I immediately wrote down the value of that investment to $0. That's a write down of close to $9.2k net.

When a leaf falls, whose fault is it? The tree that let it go, the wind that blew it away, or the leaf that got tired of hanging on?

I never participated in any of the town-hall meetings nor the Hong Lim park's protest, or any of the myriad online vitriol about what could be, should be, must be. It's a have-been now, and I thought I should just suck it up and focus on making better mistakes next time.

I think I handled this whole saga pretty well, meaning I was not at all bothered. Why? I remember a decade or more ago, when s-shares are hot and fashionable, I was embroiled in a s-share company called Longcheer. I bought and bought and finally capitulated, losing about 12 to 15k? I can't remember. And that episode sank me deep to depression. Not the oh-I-am-so-angsty type. The suicidal type. Looking back, it was quite serious, but I didn't seek help and I just sort it out myself in about a month or two. Essentially, my work brought me back. That was such a educational and enlightening experience, mainly to know about myself. That was a great mistake, and I learned from it to never to average down, or to catch a falling knife. I didn't repeat it anymore, but it would be better if I had cut loss instead of holding it till kingdom come. I guess it takes one solid painful incident, instead of many insignificant ones, to remove the shitty directive inside my mind of being a 'long term investor', or that 'in the long run, things will be fine'.

If you're a Hyflux bond or pref shares holder, whether you're happy or unhappy, I doubt there's much things you can control at this point in time. What you can control is your emotional landscape, so try to make the best out of the whole situation.

Make better mistakes next time.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Can smell be captured like a photograph?

We can take pictures to freeze a memory at a single instant in time. We use a camera for that purpose. But memories aren't just made up of lights and colours, they consist of smell and tactile sensation too. How come there isn't a device to capture the smell at any particular instance? Or the warmth of the sunlight hitting your face? Or the gentle caressing of the breeze that tussles your hair?

I guess that's why looking at pictures feels like the copy of a copy to me. It's like eating aspartame - your tastebud feels the sweetness but it is ultimately empty in calories.

There are a few things in the future that I'm looking out for:

1) A transparent metallic material

I'm in the market looking for a water bottle, but whenever my wife asks me what sort of water bottle I'm looking out for, I'll reply it must be made of metal (so that it's more durable and doesn't have chemicals leaking into the water) and transparent (so that I can know how much water is left). I'm still searching for one, so let me know if you know one lol

2) A device that can change the size of things

Whenever I'm tired of walking in the shopping centre, I told my wife to shrink me and put me into her pocket and carry me around. I guess the device can also be used to shrink a car and save everyone more land space instead of building car parks. I'll be willing to buy such a device.

3) A 'camera' take captures smell

Imagine taking a picture of the sea, and looking at the pictures will immediately trigger smells of the salty breeze. The best I can think of are those scratch-and-sniff stickers, that is said to take over the gaming world (imagine in a first-person shooter game, you walk in a sewer so you scratch a sewer sticker and sniff it for the atmospheric immersive experience) but ultimately became as extinct as a technological dodo. That'll be something to look forward to.

I'm sure in the 1800s, there'll be someone wishing for a list of things like these too. And when it happens, a lot of the old ways of doing things are disrupted. Gone like the buggy whips companies used for horse carriages. If I can imagine this wishlist, I'm sure it'll become a reality one day. Perhaps not in my lifetime but it'll be possible in somebody's lifetime.

Are there any investments now that you have that are on the cusps of extinction? The closest one that I have is perhaps Singtel. We all say that the fall in price for Singtel is due to the competition locally and worldwide...but what if it's the beginning of the fall of traditional telco business? How about banks? Will banks be obsolete in the future? Is there truly any business that you can guarantee that will stand the test of time?

I can't answer that, hence I will invest accordingly to my lack of knowledge. I will never be able to concentrate my stock holdings, and can never be able to sleep well with just 8 stocks in my pocket. This company might be so good and I'll whack 80% of my networth inside? Some people might be able to do so, but I'm quite sure I'm not one of them.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Personal updates

Haven't been blogging for a while, so I thought it's time to give some news about what is happening in my life in case there are still readers following me haha!

Wars are fought by two sides who thinks they are right. When we argue with someone else, we always think the other party is an idiot. I'm trying to practice not thinking the other party is an idiot. The disadvantage of doing that is that it's hard to blog on anything or give an opinion on anything, not because I don't know anything, but because I think of too many repercussions and the repercussions of the repercussions. It tends to develop into some sort of a writer's block, which is what I think I am having now. I've been blogging since 2003, and I've had such years before, so I know I'll get through them. It just takes time.

The other significant reason/excuse for not blogging is because there are higher priorities now. Since I've bought the fitbit charge 3, I've been exercising almost daily and it's been more than a month now. If I'm not doing interval training, I'll be walking. Damn, I didn't know walking feels so good. In the past, whenever there is rain, I'll be coming up with excuses not to exercise. But it's different now - I am thinking of how to continue exercising even when there is rain. It did rain this morning, so I decided I'm still going to walk, hence I carried an umbrella. I've never done something like that before. I always said that the removal of a structured test on fitness (because I've done my time in National Service) is going to be boon for my health. I am shocked by my sudden enthusiasm for exercising. Why do middle aged men wear tight pants and go cycling? Or buff themselves in the gym? Or join marathons? Is it a sudden realization that time is running out? Or the onset of mid life crisis? I've no answers.

I can't be exercising for 24 hrs right? The other time-soaker is reading. It's the beginning of April, and I've read 21 books. My yearly quota is only I'm two thirds done. I stopped checking my phone so often for the social media apps (I deleted them), so whenever I use my phone, I'll just read a little. It's amazing how those little minutes here and there add up. So, if you find that you have no time, really, just delete youtube/facebook/instagram and see how free you are.

That's it from me, till the next article.

Monday, March 04, 2019

The idiot who didn't switch

With the opening up of the electricity market, I recently signed up with another retailer. I'm not here to talk about which is more worth while, but you can comment below to ask me which one I've chosen. The fact is that I've made a choice to move out of the standard Singapore Power SP retailer, because changing to another retailer will cut my monthly bills by at least 20 to 25%. Since electricity is a commodity, I really don't care which company supplies me with it, as long as it is reliable and cheaper than my current provider.

But I've asked around. Quite a lot of people are reluctant to change, mostly the older folks. I've asked my parents to switch to another retailer too, but my mum said that SP is still the more reliable one. When I told her that she can save 25% off her monthly electrical bills, she said paying more is okay because it's higher quality. Wah...okay, then I realised that the reason not to switch is based on something other than rational thought. A.k.a status quo bias.

I guess a big reason why people are reluctant to switch is because there is a lot of information to digest. And it's true. You have to read up, do comparison, which is difficult for people. There are better ways to spend your free time than to pore over boring fact sheets of at least a dozen different electricity providers and their various plans. Too much work.

While I'm pointing fingers at these people for not switching to something cheaper, am I also guilty of doing it on other aspects of my life? Are there some aspects of my life that I am procrastinating, because it is perceived to be too much work even though I know I'll be ultimately better off? I'm sure there are, even if I had sub-consciously buried it in the deep recesses of my mind.

If you're financially savvy, did you neglect your health? If you're health conscious, did you forget about growing your wealth? If you're good at investing in stocks and shares, are you dismissing properties? If you're good at investing in properties, are you missing out the potential in the stock market? If you're strong in savings, are you equally strong in growing your income? If you're good at earning money, did you play defensive well by cutting your expenses?

Too much work to do? You're comfortable where you are right now? Status quo bias?

Realization: Just because I've switched to a cheaper electricity retailer, I'm no better than the people who choose to stay with the incumbent. All of us have some better part of our lives that we can improve and better ourselves, if only we can look past the tough work to get there.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Buying two insurance policies

After having a kid, I thought it was due time for me to update my insurance protection. I summed up all my policies and realised that I have a huge shortfall for death, tpd, as well as critical illness. As it is now, I applied for the Mindef Aviva plan to cover this shortfall and am still waiting for them to get back to me. This should add another $700 to $800 per year to cover me until age 65, which I gauge it to be adequate. I'll do a separate post on it when the insurance plan is confirmed. Might be months later, since I likely have to do a health check and all the other documentation.

So that's the easy part. Just spend the money, pay the premiums and lo and behold, you're covered for xxx thousands here and there.

The harder part is this other 'insurance policy' I just started - exercising. I haven't been actively exercising since the birth of my child two years ago. I want to take care of my grandchild many years later, hence it's important for me to maintain good health. I know what motivates me, and that's having a to-do list unfulfilled and waiting for me to do them. Hence, I went straight to get a Fitbit charge 3, which is a fitness tracker that comes accompanied with a great app for use in my mobile phone/desktop. With the app, it allows me to track all sorts of things, like how much water you drink, how much calories you take, how much exercise you do per week and how many hours you sleep. Fantastic. My tracker will vibrate every hour reminding me to move my ass if I didn't hit 250 steps. Yup, every hour it will remind my sorry ass to move, until 6pm.

I started jogging today too after having a break of more than 3 years. Imagine the pain burning through my legs now. I always thought that the IPPT, which is the required annual physical fitness test for all combat fit guys here in Singapore (at least until 40 or when you are in the Mindef reserve), is damaging to my health. I want to run and do all the exercise item, but not to the extent that I had to 'kill' myself to pass. I'm glad all these official tests are over for me so that I can focus on the fitness that I really want. Fitness to me is just this: able to run after my active son without feeling tired and able to live long healthily.

Maybe I will join a gym or something, but we'll see. For now, I want to be sufficiently cardiovascular fit but I think about the gym. Hey, taking care of your health is the best investment you can do for yourself!

Looks like a great start to the year 2019, in terms of coverage lol

Saturday, January 12, 2019

POEMS MMF rate increasing?

I've always been putting my warchest in POEM money market fund (MMF). Recently, I noticed that the unit price of the MFF had been increasing at an accelerated rate. Fortunately, I had some data that I always recorded when I'm doing my monthly accounts, so I had access to the unit price changes of the MMF every month (most of the time anyway). I needed to know roughly how much interest it will generate so that I can properly allocate to the various instruments for my cash.

So far, I've been putting it in these few places:

1) MMF
2) Normal savings bank account (not the hurdled type)
3) Singapore savings bond (SSB)

This is my allocation to my warchest. It doesn't include emergency funds:

1) MMF - 30%
2) Bank accounts - 35%
3) SSB - 35%

I keep some liquid cash in normal bank accounts for day to day use and the bulk of the money under the bank accounts is parked in the CIMB fastsaver account. The good thing about that account is that for the first 50k, there will be a 1% interest pa (thereafter is 0.60% pa), fuss-free. There's no hurdles to jump and no credit card spending to clock. I know many people have the hurdled savings accounts with much higher interest, like about 1.8% pa, if they satisfied certain criteria like credit card spending and salary. Since I'm self employed, I don't qualify for the salary part, hence it's such a hassle to jump over all the hoops to reach that the high interest, only to see it fall away when the hoops are raised even higher.

Savings bond (SSB) is always a good place to store cash because recent issues has been giving 2% for 1 to 3 yrs, but it is slightly less liquid. MMF takes about 2 working days to cash out, while the cash in banks is immediate. SSB takes a maximum of 1 month, but if you actually apply to cash out towards the end of the month, you really just need 1 week to get the cash out. Hence, it's also a timing issue.

What about MMF? Below is the raw data for the tracking of the MMF unit price:

The compounded interest rate for the years are shown below:

2016: 0.868 % pa
2017: 0.818 % pa
2018: 1.117 % pa

You can see that the interest rate is creeping up for poems MMF recently. This is of course far from its heyday about 10 yrs ago:

2007: 2.01% pa
2008: 1.33% pa
2009: 1.04% pa

As you probably already know, the interest rates had been creeping up from the start of 2018 till now. It's still increasing, but at a slower pace now compared to the start of 2018. Hence, in order to forecast how the MMF's rates is going to be like going forward in 2019, we should look at the latest quarterly rise in the unit price in 2018 to get a gauge. It's 1.231 % pa so I think we can expect the MMF's rate to be around this in 2019. In fact, I expect it to be more than 1.2%.

That means it's better than the interest given by the CIMB fast saver account. Well, slightly better with some caveat. There is FDIC deposit insurance for cash parked in banks. For mmf, I don't think there's any. But it's been a pretty safe MMF with nary a drop in unit price since I've been tracking it in 2006. I think the more important thing is about the cap for the 1% interest rate in CIMB. That's only for first 50k, whereas for MMF, there is no cap whatsoever.

I need to rejig my current set up. With a kid in tow, I need more emergency cash. And I will need to park them in a place I can't touch easily. The best place right now is SSB. I will also be parking more money into poems MMF since it has higher interest than my bank accounts, doesn't have a cap and makes it easy for me to buy equities (MMF account is linked to shares account). Yet, I also can't keep pumping money into MMF, because what if the MMF goes kaput? There's no insurance for me. So maybe a self imposed cap of 50k in MMF is what I'll do, coupled with a cap of 50k for cimb fast saver account and another self imposed cap of 50k in SSB. Fill up MMF first, then fill up fastsaver, then fill up SSB, in that order.

That totals...150k. I don't even have that much cash right now, but at least this exercise makes me think of the hard and soft limit that will be staying with me for the next 3 to 5 yrs I guess.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

First day in childcare

Today I sent my boy to the childcare centre. He's about a month shy of 2 yrs, so it's his first experience going to a proper school environment, hence his crying is all expected. But I left the childcare centre, being all warm inside and proud. Why?

I think it's important to establish a very strong emotional link between the child and the parent. With this strong emotional link, you can motivate the kid to limits beyond the wildest expectations from the parents. There are times when we brought my son out for walks and after an hour or so, he starts to get tired. We don't ever have a pram, because my thinking is that we (as parents) either grow stronger by carrying him, or my son will grow stronger by continuing to walk until the destination is reached. So when he is really tired, he will want us to carry him, right? That's normal. But what we will do is to tease him a bit. When he runs towards us, we'll run further away and he'll laugh and continue running after us for a little bit more. We can drag this 'game' for another 30 mins or so, pushing him beyond his own perceived limits. And he'll do so because he trust us completely.

In essence, we're using this strong emotional link between the child and the parent to do great things together. This is what the book by Dr. Petunia Lee, Internal drive theory, had mentioned. I quote these from the book (I might have paraphrased it when I took down notes from the book),

"A child might give up in the face of difficulties, but if he can draw upon someone else’s emotional energy, they can still stay on the course. Hence it is a strong motivating force."

"This is so important that if emotional connection is not there, the first thing to do is to fix it up. That will make all the other motivation strategies more powerful."

Aha! Now I finally join the dots and link the connections. Initially when I first read the book, I was just knowing. Now I really understand. It is the same motivating force when my tutee likes me, and do not want to disappoint me, hence with the strong emotional bond between us, I as a tutor can push the tutee beyond his/her own perceived limits. And that's how a real change can be observed.

So, what happened at the childcare centre that had me beaming with pride? My wife stayed on with him, while I left the room. Only one parent is allowed and we decided to have my wife accompany him, at least for a while, to calm him down. Initially my son was inconsolable. After a while, he started being his jovial playful self again. When my wife gave a firm goodbye, he was still smiling, and I knew it's going to be alright.

Seriously, I've never had a prouder moment as a parent. It's a great start to the year 2019!

Monday, December 31, 2018

A very long reflection of 2018

My baby just fell asleep, so I had to myself an hour or so to reflect on the year 2018. I started off by looking at the diary app that I had been conscientiously writing every night before I go to sleep. Here's a few highlights monthly:

Jan: Went Bangkok for a trip with my wife, but not with son. Left him with my mum back in Singapore, and happily so! We're so tired and we need to take care of ourselves. Looking back, we're so...noob being parents, haha! Perhaps the new year 2019 will see me bringing him along. Already done up his passport.

Feb: Looking back, I realised I was too reliant on my mum to take care of the baby. When she wasn't around, I was complaining how hard it was to manage the whole day. These days, I can take care of everything and more, alone, with nary a complain. I've improved a lot over the months.

Mar: Met up with a bunch of bloggers at Canton Paradise. Some of them I met only once a year, so it's great to catch up with them.

Apr: My son fell sick, and all hell broke loose. As mentioned, I'm not a very good parent. Not skillful enough at doing the task and also just generally tired. There are so many posts talking about how tired I am taking care of the kid. Too many. Oh, and my son started walking in 4-5 steps. Milestone achieved.

May: Mum had a fall while crossing the road, and fractured her wrist. Had to send her to the nearest emergency department. Could have been worse. Looking back, I think this is the catalyst that made us truly take care the care of our son from my mum. Without her fall, we could still be relying on her and not learning the care-taking part fast enough. It's true - everything that happens, happens for the best. My son also fell sick, a major one.

Jun: My air conditioner is spoilt. In bloody hot june. In the end I had to change the compressor. My son started to develop a mind of his own and insist on doing things his own way. Can't control him against his will (as easily) as before now. I see that as a good sign, not a bad one. I'm also starting to act like the disciplinarian of the family, which is quite startling to me. I thought my wife is the one. And we had discussed about it before! We all got a plan until we got punched in the face. Also met up with another group of Investingnote friends (let's call it that) at Singpost center.

July: After eating some prawns, I had rashes all over me. Thankfully it subsided and no further action required. Started learning python programming by reading the text myself. Brought my son out to the airport - the first time ever. It was such a pleasant experience that we ended up going there almost every week. If you see a couple chasing after a cute botak kid, that's likely me. Oh, and I went there today too. Son called me 'papa'. Not the first time, but the clearest I've ever heard from him. My heart melted at that instant. Started test driving my current car too. COE must have dropped enough to make me test drive new cars.

Aug: Son had diarrhea while we're out going to the doc for his vaccination. On a day that I decided not to bring any diapers because it had been fine all along and it's a short trip. I learnt my lesson very well. I ALWAYS bring along diapers now. Bought a new laptop for my wife. Son started climbing flights of stairs on his own. Back then, he was managed maybe 1 floor. Now, he is doing 3 floors of stairs, and doing it repeatedly up and down for 6 to 8 times. That is progress.

Sept: Went ahead and booked a new car. Met up with my long-lost primary school friends. Even my teacher is there. The entire block of my HDB flat had a blackout, which lasted for a few hours. Sold my old car to a dealer. A bit sad to see it go, but I knew it was a right choice.

Oct: Collected the new car. The smell of a new car is ...over-rated. Started going to the library more often as my work starts winding down. I'm still trying to hit my 30 books a year target. Majority of work is done.

Nov: Went omakase dinner at Teppei sushi. Wasn't up to my expectations though. Been going out a lot with my son. I realised I'm very proficient at taking care of him now. Going to send my kid to a childcare centre in 2019.

Dec: Met up with a group of friends for steamboat dinner. Had a lot of fun, though most of them are strangers. Had a very quiet Christmas and a very quiet new year's eve. Just the way I like it. I also deleted facebook and messenger app from my handphone. No more of it.

If not for the diary, I would have forgotten most of these stuff. Looking back the year by browsing through all the daily entries is really a very good exercise to be grateful for what had happened and also to have faith that whatever is happening now, is happening for the best.

Since I'm a self employed, I also noted that my working hours had reduced by about 12%, leading to a corresponding drop in income by about 12% too. I don't really care about that as long as my savings goals are reached (it is). The time that I didn't spend working, I spend it all on my family. I think with the new responsibility as an involved daddy, it's inevitable that I will reduce my working hours. I had to. There's always a cost to everything, of course, but I think as long as my savings goals are achieved, anything more is just a bonus. I'm okay with the reduced working hours and income. 2019 might be a better year for me, as my order book had been more or less filled up to a comfortable level. We shall see.

My investment portfolio had a time-weighted return of -7.7%, doing worse than STI's -6.6%. XIRR for 2018 is -8.4%. It's auto calculated from stocks cafe. I think it's actually worse than that, because stockscafe didn't include the suspended Hyflux perps that I had. In my own spreadsheet I had already treated it as totally gone. So be it. 2018 is a tough year for most people, and I know I'm not one of those investment greats with double digits gains, lol! My strength is not in investment, but in my active income and savings. And I'm very sure I'll still achieve some sort of financial freedom in 10-15 yrs time. That's comfort enough for me. I'm not dying to hang up tutor's boots anytime soon.

And just as I'm very well trained in my current parental role, the new year 2019 brings along new challenges as I'm going to send him to a child-care center. Starting half day first but planning to put him for longer hours. I heard the first few months will be enduring illness and also the heart breaking of leaving a child in a strange place. I'm a bit apprehensive, but I'm sure by the end of 2019, I'll be looking back in hindsight and seeing that as a wonderful decision.

I don't really do new year resolutions, believing more towards long term plans. So there's nothing 'new' that I resolve to do for the coming new year. It's the same old boring stuff:

1) Save at least 30k, preferably 50k and above
2) Read at least 30 books
3) Cultivate peace of mind and gratefulness


Attack of Takashi castle - SUCCESS!

Since 2018 is better than 2017, I'll give myself 5 stars out of 5 stars again, LOL! I know how it sounded - a bit self-congratulatory and delusional perhaps. Punch me :)

Wishing everyone great health, great relationship and great wealth in the coming new year 2019!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2018 viewed in the eyes of the books

I set up a goal to read 52 books way back in 2007. I saw the list of all the books I've read, all typed out neatly in a Microsoft word document spanning over 11 pages in size 10 font. It was easily the best habit I've adopted and the effects are still rippling through me. It has been 12 yrs since I started this habit, and still going strong. I was a little behind my reading list last year when I only read 11 books, and that's because I just became a father, and so it took some time for me to discover my new roles and to carve out personal time for reading.

This year 2018 is so much better. I didn't shirk away from any fatherly duties but I integrated the duties together with my reading. How? I read more physical books instead of ebooks so that my son adopt a reading culture. After several months of me reading physical books, he no longer disturbs me. He sort of understands this is what I do, and hopefully, when he is able to read on his own, he will see that reading is part and parcel of our family.

I also read more books from Singaporean authors. I've no idea why I started reading more local books. Maybe as we get older, we start to think more nostalgically about the concept of home. Or maybe I finally get over the revulsion which is English literature, a much-hated subject that I took in school but I know I love deep in my soul. The subject usually uses local literature together with the usual core of Shakespeare to inject a local flavour. I hated it because I don't think I've had good passionate teachers, or maybe truthfully, I am not of the right age and of the right mind at that point in time. Nevertheless, I started devouring those from the nearby national library.

Here's the list of books read in 2018. Again, I'll pick a couple of memorable books.

Singapore, Incomplete - Cherian George
Rise of the King - R.A Salvatore
Night of the Hunter - R.A. Salvatore
Roll out the champagne, Singapore! - Catherine Lim
Timeless: A Drizzt novel - R.A Salvatore
Sayonara Singapore - Parapuram Joseph John
Factfulness - Hans Rosling
Sundays with Sumiko - Sumiko Tan
The good earth (graphic novel) - Pearl S. Buck/Nick Bertozzi
Tall Order: The Goh Chok Tong story - Shing Huei Peh
Billion dollar whale - Tom Wright / Bradley Hope
My best with honour - William Wan
Bang my car - Ann Ang
Quiet girl in a noisy world - Debbie Tung
Dying to meet you - Angjolie Mei
Personality driven portfolio - Sam Phoen
Conscious Parenting - Dr. Shefali Tsbary
Internal drive theory - Dr. Petunia Lee
Good grief! - Alan John
Raising financially savvy kids - Ernest Tan
Starting out with python - Tony Gaddis
Orange is the new black - Piper Kerman
The myth of the spoiled child - Alfie Kohn
This is how inequality looks like - Teo You Yenn
Tribe of mentors - Tim Ferriss
Skin in the game - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Never split the difference - Chris Voss
Montessori from the start - Paula Polk Lillard/Lynn Lillard Jessen
The Undoing Project - Michael Lewis
Meditations - Marcus Aurelius
Child Development - Laura E. Berk

1) Singapore, Incomplete - Cherian George

This is my first introduction to Cherian George. I know he is a controversial figure, and I first know about him when he was denied tenure-ship in NTU. This book is about a series of essays, which are pretty friendly to read. They are not written for academics, so it's fit for consumption by everyone. The essays, sometimes like blog articles by yours truly, touches on various topics and themes that concern Singaporeans and Singapore. I thought they are very good, thought-provoking. I especially like the last essay, titled "Accidental losers". It talked about SG50 celebration in 2015, so 1990 should be the SG25 celebration right? Alas no, SG25 celebration was in 1984. Why is that a 6 yrs difference? Is history being re-written and for what purpose?

I might dig out more books from the local library penned by the same author. I like his style.

2) Internal drive theory - Dr. Petunia Lee

I've heard of this book before and only when I chanced upon it in the local library that I actually borrowed and read it. This book is useful, both professionally for me as a tutor and also as a parent. In fact, I found it so useful that I wrote a detailed summary of the entire book in order for me to revise and revisit them in leisure when I needed the lessons again in the future. I like the author's principles with regards to studying, in that she not only wants students to do well, but to do well because they themselves wanted to do so. Interwoven with the theory, there are personal examples of how she treated her own children in various case scenarios. I found that very helpful in interpreting the theory. This is like Robert Cialdini's classic Persuasion, but written for kids and specifically in the context of encouraging them to study. I'm into books that delves into the science and art of motivation, so will gladly devour anything that falls within that sphere. This is one of the special ones that I know I'll keep coming back to.

I highly recommend all parents to read this. If you're a tutor or teacher teaching primary school kids, I think this is great too.                       

3) Skin in the game - Nassim Nicholas Taleb

NNT is another of my favourite modern philosopher and author, and I'll gladly read anything by him. This book essentially gives the reader a framework to evaluate if someone has skin in the game. I like this chapter titled "Surgeons should not look like surgeons". In it, he talks about choosing a surgeon who looks like a butcher, works as a surgeon but totally doesn't look the part of a surgeon. The fact that he succeeds as one despite his appearance is an indication that he is the real McCoy. Among all his books, I find this the most friendly and accessible, with lots of everyday examples that people should be able to relate to.

If in 2019, you are going to read only one book, then let it be this.

4) Never split the difference - Chris Voss

If you've read Robert Cialdini's Persuasion and the more recent Pre-suasion, then I think you'll find Chris Voss's Never split the difference taking on the topic with a different feel. Robert Cialdini's approach is more academic and scientific, with all the controlled laboratory-based experiments. Chris Voss's approach is born from the fire of actual FBI hostage negotiation. There are no controls, no academic reports to write at the end of each negotiation - only humans lives saved or lost in the process. So he only talks about what works, based on his experience dealing with stressful high stakes negotiation in real life. This is a book that is worth re-reading because I'm very sure it doesn't sink in with the first reading.

Highly recommended to all who are interested in the science and art of motivation.

5) The Undoing project - Michael Lewis

This book has the characteristic smell of the works of Michael Lewis, the author of Liar's Poker. He talks about Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky and how they came to destroy the notion of human beings being rational. Like his past works, Michael Lewis starts from the very beginning and leads us to understand and empathize with these two persons, leading us to understand why they think as they do and why they write as they wrote. He expertly weaves in personal anecdotes and shows us as readers how that little incident can lead to a particular point in their lives. The two friends are like lovers, started off inseparable, but eventually becoming strained in their relationship. A very lovely read. 

I will personally read anything written by Michael Lewis.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Networth update in 2018

2018 is a rather slack year for me. I don't think I work as hard as I do in previous years in terms of work, so the time that is otherwise spent working is channeled to my family, especially my growing child. This year is also a bad year for those who invested in equities. It seems like if you put money under your pillow, you'll end up being better. Will it affect my net-worth? Let's see.

The last I wrote on my net-worth was back in 1st Dec 2017, here. I'm going to do the same below.

There are so many ways to calculate networth, but I've always done mine this way. It's essentially assets minus liabilities but how you define assets and liabilities makes all the difference. Like in the past, I excluded the asset part of my stay-in property, but included the liabilities portion. This year I incurred new debts too, in the form of a car loan of 3 yrs. I'm also not going to include the value of my car in the assets part, but will include the liabilities part.

The assets part include:

1. Cash in my wallet
2. All the money in my various bank accounts
3. Cash holdings under mattress and milo tins at home
4. Money in my paypal account
5. All the money in the 3 accounts in my CPF
6. Money market fund account
7. Marked to market investment portfolios
8. Surrender cash value of whole life insurance plans

Again, I do not include the value of my 5 room flat that I'm currently staying in, and also the value of the family car that I own.

The liabilities part include:

1. Credit card bills
2. My portion of the HDB mortgage loan (total remaining loan amount divided by 2)
3. My portion of the car loan I took this year (total remaining loan amount divided by 2)

Here goes:

2014: Assets: $226k, Liabilities: $220k, Networth: $6k
2015: Assets: $295k, Liabilities: $207k, Networth: $87k
2016: Assets: $351k, Liabilities: $188k, Networth: $163k
2017: Assets: $449k, Liabilities: $182k, Networth: $267k
2018: Assets: $483k, Liabilities: $191k, Networth: $291k

There's a few things I should be glad and grateful for in 2018. Firstly, despite the downturn in the stock market, my networth is still up. Of course it didn't go up as much, like the crazy almost 100k increase from 2016 to 2017, but the fact that it is still positive is good enough for me. This year is also when I paid a hefty down payment for my new car, so that is also why the asset didn't go up as much. Secondly, overall I saved about 55k this year and that surprises me. These days, I no longer consciously check how much I saved. Just perhaps a brief look every half a year or so to make sure I'm generally on the right track. Not all the savings are in cash too, because I transferred a part of it into my CPF to fulfill my self-employed contribution, and also to shore up my OA for my reserves. My work income dropped a bit, but my dividends pushed it up, so net net I'm not that far off. That is exactly what the dividends are for, and I'm thankful for stabilizing my income.

Market can go up and down, but my net worth must go up all the time. That's the philosophy that I adhere to. If not, there's nothing to show for at the end of a year of hard work.

Financially, there's more things to look forward for year 2019. It looks like my work income is going to have a boost as I have a very robust order book for the coming year. If all things go according to plan, I should be running when Jan 2019 comes, instead of strolling. There's also more expenses to come, because I'm sending my child to a child-care center next year.

Till December 2019 then!