Sunday, January 21, 2018

Books read in 2017

In 2017, I didn't fulfill my goal of reading 52 books a year. The number of books that I had read is a far cry from my goal. I had read a total of 11 books, and that is all. The reason for this is the lack of energy, time and commitment because I had a child. Whenever I feel I feel I have the energy to read, there will be a nagging feeling in my mind that I'm not doing my duty as a father. Could I have missed some important development that I would regret eternally by keeping my eyes on the pages of the book I'm reading?

Anyway, here's the list of books read in 2017:

1) Step by step trading - Dr Alexander Elder
2) The new trading for a living - Dr Alexander Elder
3) Anti supernatural assault team - Book 0 - Michael Keyth
4) Search inside yourself - Chade-Meng Tan
5) Lost cat - Caroline Paul & Wendy MacNaughton
6) Pre-suasion - Robert Cialdini
7) Anything you want - Derek Sivers
8) Tools of Titans - Tim Ferriss
9) Three Squares - Abigail Carroll
10) The subtle art of not giving a f@#k - Mark Manson
11) Two roads diverged: trading divergences - Dr Alexander Elder

Like the previous years, I'll highlight a few books that I thought are worth recommending to others, and to re-read for me.


1. Tools of Titans - Tim Ferriss

You cannot profess to be a lover of self help books without having read Tim Ferriss books at all. This is a monstrous, thick compilation of all the interviews done by him over a course of several years. It breaks down all the interviews into 3 broad categories, namely health, wealth and wise. There's always some lessons to be learnt in each of the interviews and there is so much wealth of information that I probably have to revisit this book again when I require certain information. The book should be treated as an encyclopedia of empirically proven good living.

This books was so good that I kept my study notes on it. I link it here for your reference.




2.  Anything you want - Derek Sivers

This book is about an accidental business owner who stumbled onto a multi million dollar business while trying to find the solution to his own problems. Since the problem cannot be solved by existing businesses, he just started it himself. In the book, you'll read about the author trying to do all the things that are not conventional business wisdom, like trying to keep the business small instead of expanding it. It's interesting because the author is not trying to make money but trying to go back to his roots of solving a problem in the first place, hence this book is very refreshing. In his own words, he said that a business is a little utopia world where you get to decide the rules. It's a reflection of the creator, and nobody, not even profits, should take that idea away from you. If you're losing meaning and happiness in your work, read this. It's a short and sweet book that you should read whenever you're lost.



3. Pre-suasion - Robert Cialdini

This is the sequel of one of the best book I've read on social psychology, Influence. If Influence talks about the different techniques used by influencers to persuade you to do what they want you to do, then this book talks about how you can set the context right even before you ask the prospect to do what you want them to do. One book is about defense, while the other is about offense. One book talks about the period in which the sales presentation take place, the other talks about the period before the sales even happens. Rightly, one should read both books, in either order.



4. Search inside yourself - Chade-Meng Tan

This is the second book that I've read about mindfulness. The first book is by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. I think while the first book is my spiritual motivation to begin meditation, this book by Meng (as he is affectionately called) is the users manual on meditation. Written with the precision and clarity that only an engineer can, this book gives the reader a very good grounding in mindfulness practices, complete with superb and clear instructions. This is a book that is life-changing and will definitely be re-visted time and time again.

This is a sure re-read for me in the future. I suspect I will get different results in different reads. I did my study notes on this book and I link it here for your reference.



5. Three Squares - Abigail Carroll

This interesting book talks about the history of American meals and their eating culture. It traces the historical influences from firstly England and the native Indians, and then the French, and finally all the different immigrants who came in to America after the world wars. I always thought that the proper study of how and what food we eat can be the social history of our forefathers, so this book did not disappoint. What follows is the breakdown of what we know about breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. It's a bit long winded though. If you want the summary, just read the last two chapters of the book. It summarizes all the other chapters and also give a taste of what is to come in the future with regards to American meals.



So there it is. I will try to read more in 2018, at least much more than in 2017. While I feel like I'm not learning anything new without a book on my lap all the time, I also felt that I have a lot more time to consolidate all the knowledge and insights gained from this reading habit that I started in 2007. 10 years of reading and trying to read 52 books a year must mean something. 

I don't think I can ever read 52 books a year anymore, but that is no longer important. I started the challenge of reading 1 book a week to discipline myself and to avoid wasting time on other frivolous pursuits like checking on social media etc. It succeeded wildly beyond my imagination. But with a growing kid and still, that nagging feeling that I might miss something important while my eyes are on the books, I think it's time to move on from that challenge. 

I counted back in 2007 all the way to 2017, exactly how many books I've read (or re-read). It's 419 in total over 11 years, which is about 38 books per year. Even if I retained 10% of what I've read, it is still a lot of knowledge to be had. It certainly also improved my language a lot too. Well worth the price of my kindle LOL

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Reflection of my Bangkok trip 2018

Me and my wife went to Bangkok for a short trip, but without our baby boy. It was a break away from him and really a morale booster after not having gone for a trip for almost 2 years. It wasn't the first time we're in Bangkok and a few thing have changed.

Firstly, we went to a pretty good hotel that costs more than usual. The hotel is located right at Central world, so for the first time in so many trips, we didn't have to take any cabs at all. It's either walk or just take a train if the distance is too far. That was quite different because in the past, we would take a more budget hotel and take cab all the way because the location is usually more far off. So instead of a cheap hotel and spending time, energy and money moving around, we opted for an expensive hotel but saves effort and money moving around minimally.

Half panoramic view from the hotel room 

Secondly, we met a friend there. It's Derek, the blogmaster of TheFinance.sg and his wife. It was one of the rare times we met any friends overseas, so that was a very good experience for me. We went to our hotel's roof top bar to have a drink and see the world and soak in the atmosphere. Usually we won't go to such places, and we're glad to play host to our friends, meeting in a foreign land and seeing familiar faces.

View from the hotel's rooftop bar

Thirdly, we went there as a couple many times, and this is the first time we went as a parent. I kept thinking and missing our baby boy. Thankfully we arranged for video call with my mum periodically, who is taking care of our boy. I didn't know I can miss someone so much. I am literally scrolling through past photos and sharing with my wife. That's an aspect that I didn't expect from myself.

These three things alone makes this trip slightly different and special. That's the external things. Internally, I feel that the whole trip makes me realise what the important things are in my life. While we are living the high life in Bangkok eating restaurants in almost every other meals, I thought to myself that I would not want to live such a life if my wife isn't around with me. Removing my wife from the context would make me miserable. Removing the high life context from me and my wife is very okay. So having my wife around me is very important to me, much more important the tour. Touring around with my wife is the point, and must not be mistaken for touring overseas. Next, we spent most of our time shopping, eating and resting. It feels shiok for the first few days, but after a while, it too became pointless. Why? We're missing our baby boy, so that's a new experience for me. There's only so much tom yum gong we can eat, so much thai milk tea to drink and so much goods to buy. Everything else is just bland after a while.


This is how my boy feels on the second day after he realised his parents are not around

I'm not sure why I was feeling like this. It's supposed to be an long anticipated trip, but around the middle of the trip, I wished I am home so that I can hug my baby boy. It's a funny feeling, and it makes me know what is important to me: family.

There are some observations I've made in my trip:
1) People stand on the right for escalator, meaning the 'speeding' lane is on the left. This is quite the opposite here in Singapore. I think sometimes when we take the escalator locally ourselves, we tend to mentally scold the person in front of us for blocking our way. But they could be used to their own way of doing things and blind to the new ways. We have to learn to be more understanding and also to be aware of our blind spots.

2) The car park in shopping malls are not located in basements and are actual stories. It's like in Singapore if we want to go to the carpark, it's usually located in B1, or B2. But in Thailand, it's in story 3 or story 4. It's interesting because perhaps they have too much land over there, so it's easier to build up than to dig down. The cost increases a lot as you go deeper down.

3) I've not been to thailand for 2 years, and suddenly I see a lot more people are into the mobile phone culture. Meaning that they will whip out their phone and stare at it for long periods of time.

4) There is a floor in MBK where there are artists selling copies of artwork and painting. I didn't see it anymore. I guess it had moved along with the times.

5) In big shopping malls, there are plenty of spaces that are under renovation and closed off. It's something like Singapore, where sections of malls are boarded up, with something 'exciting' coming along in the near future. The retail scene in Thailand is like ours too...slowly fading off.

6) Empty stores in Singapore are guarded by pots of money plants. But not over there. So money plant guardians is a local culture.

7) There is plenty of Japanese food over there, but not so much Korean food. In Singapore, it's quite the reverse. Korean food is popping up all over the place. I've not eaten any korean food before, nor wish to try haha

8) There's rarely authentic thai food restaurants, but I think Thai food is mainly street food, and that's where the authentic Thai cuisine are to be found. 

9) Electrical sockets are turned clockwise from our orientation, meaning that the live is on top, neutral at the bottom and earth is on the right. Why is it rotated, I wonder...


Oh, and during the flight, I didn't watch any movies. None feels interesting to me. I listened to some music and kept reading. These are the things that brings me joy. After a few days of eating rich food, I stopped eating so much. I wanted to feel hungry again instead of eating at fixed timing. I also don't have to sit in a plane in order to enjoy some quiet moment with my wife. Sometimes I wonder whether I really do need this trip. Do I really need to go overseas? Actually no, but sometimes we need to go outside to realise what is really inside.

And boy, by disrupting my usual schedule, I've broken out of my usual thinking and re-found myself.

THAT is the true goal of travelling. At least in my definition.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reflection of 2017

Today is the last day of 2017. Like previous years, I will grow reflective and think what I've done in the past year. I usually begin by asking questions to myself (and everyone) whether the year 2017 is a good year or not, and how anyone would grade this year out of 10. This year, I imagine having a conversation with myself, sort of an interview between me and myself.

Interviewer: I
Myself: M

I: I'd like to ask you this question. How would you grade this year 2017 out of a scale of 10? Can you share how and why you grade yourself this score?

M: This year is a fantastic 10 out of 10 for me. My usual categories are Finance, Mind, Body and Spirit.

Financially I did better than expected. I didn't do as much work because I had a child earlier this year, so I had to forgo some work scheduling so that I can be more present for my kid. But the lack of income is made up by other sources of income, so I ended up the year with nearly 70k of savings, when I only expected 30 to 40k. I was pleasantly surprised by that. I also managed to accumulate 240k, which means I can activate my plan to invest it at 5% pa to get a dividend income of $1k per month.

On the Mind part, I only managed to read 11 books instead of the usual 52 books a year. This is because the time I usually spent reading is now spent watching Netflix instead because I have only so much energy to spare throughout the day. I expect myself to start reading when things are more stabilised, but it doesn't seem like anytime soon. I did however read a few great books and I still take with me the lessons right now.

On the Body part, this is a total flop. No exercises, no more strict diet, no more pullups and pushups. No excuses for me.

On the Spirit side, I stopped meditating, but even after more than a year of stopping, I still think I got the positive effects of practising both mindfulness and meditating. There's nothing new on this front for me in 2017, just more of the usual stuff.


I: Hmm, from what you've described, it seems that 2017 is not such a good year isn't it? Why did you say it's 10 out of 10? Are you delusional?

M: Haha! Perhaps I am delusional. But there are people scoring 100% on every front yet they are also unhappy, so how do you make sense of it all? I think happiness is not just tied to these categories. More importantly, happiness is a state of mind, and this year 2017 is a joyous year for me. The birth of my son overshadows all the little things I had not achieved. My son is healthy and well, my mum who is recovering from cancer is also doing very very well and I am generally healthy. There's a lot of bad things that might had happened, but it didn't, so I am thankful and grateful for it. I make it a point to make every year a better year than the year before, and so far it had been true.




I: Alright, I see. So where do you see yourself at the end of 2018? 

M: My big plan had been established a few years ago and I'm still following it. More of the usual, like saving 50k (or more) per year, and reading more often instead of watching Netflix. I don't think I still have the energy to exercise, but we'll see what we can do on that front. I want 2018 to be better than 2017 too.


I: What are your major challenges that you've encountered in 2017 this year?

M: It's getting used to a new regime and schedule after taking on a new identity - that of a involved father. I've seen a lot of tuition kids who fathers are absent and I am not going to let that happen to me, hence the conscious decision to be present to my kid. This means that there's a lot of personal time and work time that is sacrificed. I take it gladly.

The other thing is how not to not just survive but also to thrive in my caretaking of my son. I don't want to just feed and change the diapers, but also to build a relationship and really want to spend time with my son. I'm still learning to do well, but there's still room for improvement. At least he called me papa before anyone else and I'm secretly happy and glad that I must have done the right thing.


I: You said that this year you read less than your usual 52 books a year. How do you feel about that?

M: I think after a few months into the year 2017, I already had an inkling that I am not going to hit that figure, so I took it in my stride. I started taking down notes instead of just reading, so instead of going for breadth, I went for depth. I am practically studying the things I was reading this year, so it is very refreshing for me. I took a long break from reading and I felt better of it. I had been reading intensely ever since I started that habit in 2007, so a break after 10 yrs seem appropriate. It's a liberating feeling to be honest. I always felt that I had to continue reading and reading, because I had a target to meet. That was like being disciplined and goal oriented. I'm still learning to take things easy.


I: How do you feel about being a father?

M: That is one of the best thing that happened to me. I didn't know I am capable of giving love to another person, not even to my wife. I didn't know that I can be melted just by a flash of a smile and with tiny fingers wrapped around mine. I thought I won't be able to handle taking care of babies too. But I believe I handled it pretty well. I think my relationship with my wife also improved tremendously. We always think to ourselves, whether it'll be better being younger parents. But I think the answer is no. We're more ready now than before, and if we have our child before we're ready, we will be much more anxious and subjected to peer pressure. This is the best time for us.


I: Alright, we know you're a good father, but besides the baby, what's the scariest thing you've done in 2017?

M: It must have been the public speaking gig I had at DBS NAV. I had to prepare some presentation slides on powerpoint, and the last time I did that was back in my university days when I had to present to a panel of lecturers who are grading my thesis. It had been decades since I last did any sort of such speaking. That was some scary shit, but I think I managed to pull it off. It's definitely the scariest and the most stressful thing that happened to me in 2017. Even way above seeing my wife giving birth naturally to my son, for sure. I'm not the one in pain and I'm not scared of blood lol


I: Last question for you. If there's one thing in 2017 that you would like to repeat in 2018, what would that be?

M: I'm quite torn by this question. There's the bullishness of the stock market that propelled by networth quite a bit. Do I want to repeat that? I think not. It might feel good, but I'm about 45%+ in cash, and I would like to have some chance to utilise that at some good point in 2018, haha! I think I'll go for great health for everyone that I love. I want that to repeat again in 2018 and I will be so thankful and blessed by it.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

30 things that I realised in 2017

1.You don’t know how tired you can get until you are a parent. It gives me a new perspective and now see my own parents in a different light.

2.If you don’t want to complain about work, have a kid. You will also see work in a different light because you can finally be ‘in-control’ of your life. You might even volunteer for OT.

3.Babies are manipulative little creatures. They flash a smile, and you suddenly forgot you haven’t slept well for the past year, clearing their shit and feeding them in the wee hours of the day, and still want to continue doing so.

4.People can say what they want, but it’s the doing that differentiates them from the rest of those dreamers. Follow what they do, not what they say.

5.Haven’t been reading much this year, but I’m surprised how much clarity it gives to my mind. I’ve been reading too much for the past few years!

6.If you eat more carbs, you will want to eat more carbs to fill you. Vice versa.

7.The fastest way to see if you are too idealistic is to be in the thick of things. Your idealism will get destroyed quickly by the practicalities of life.

8.If life is a RPG (role playing game) where I can get to allocate points to stats, I’ll maximise charisma. I think that’s what my boy did.

9.My boy is well on track to save 100k by age 20. He has 18k in his possessions now, inclusive of a big fat contribution from the govt. Boasting rights for him in the future.

10.Learning the different roads and how to drive from one place to another is like learning a language. If your family do not have a car when you are a child, you can learn to drive in your adulthood, but you will never be able to know how to go from A to B without a GPS.

11.I spent nearly 4 months preparing milk from formula the wrong way, until I had a chance encounter seeing how my wife did the proper way. I suck. Or maybe the lesson here is that there are many ways to succeed.

12.Being a old father, I wondered if I will have more energy to catch up with my son if I had him when I’m much younger. The conclusion is that I will have more energy, but I will be less self-assured, more jittery, will do more comparison with peers and have less priority to my kid than now. I think it’s a good trade off.

13.Having a kid doesn’t cement the relationship between couples. It amplifies it. If you have a good relationship with your spouse, you’re going to have an even better one after having a kid. If it’s weak to begin with, it’ll go even weaker.

14.I think I’m a patient person. Having a kid will test that limit to the max.

15.I see less and less grandparents having the skillset to take care of their grandkids. It might not even be the skillsets, but also the inclination to want to do so. Grandparents these days prefer to travel and/or work. I wonder if I’ll be a good nurturing grandfather too.




16.I am paying my tv watching debt with interest now, catching up years of not watching. From less than 3 hours a year of tv, to about 3 hours a day now. You can be so tired you just want to vegetate in front of the tv to celebrate the official ending of the day when my baby finally fall asleep.

17.It’s hard to isolate my kid from viewing the screen. They are digital natives, and it will be wrong to stop them from using it. I guess the key here is self-control and how to have the discipline to regulate desires internally. Work in progress.

18.I really hate students who lie. Usually they will fire me, or I will fire them. I dislike spending half my time trying to decipher whether what they say is real or not, rather than spending the time tutoring them.

19.There’s a huge stereotype that fathers can’t be caretakers. It rivals the one question that I keep getting asked – does being a tutor mean that I don’t have to pay tax? But can I really blame them? From my work, 99% of the time, fathers are absent. Out of 14 years of my tutoring work, I can only recall less than 5 instances where the dad is involved.

20.The returns of the stock market does not contribute much to my networth right now. I have to keep reminding myself that when I think I’m spending far too much energy and time on it. The focus right now must be on my active income and career.

21.I can be stingy on myself, but generally I don’t think I am on others. If I am, let me know lol

22.2017 is officially the year of the cryptocurrency. People left right and centre are just talking about it all the time.

23.Being a self-employed working at home rocks! The benefits of it is slowly materialising. I see my family all the time and don’t have to ‘go out’ to work.

24.I’ve started writing a diary entry every day for the past 8 months. I realised when I’m tired, I talk about events without emotions, basically in chronological order. When I’m not so tired, I talk more about my feelings and other people’s feelings. It could be an insight to my personality.

25.What’s the difference between love and like? If you like a flower, you will pluck it off the ground and keep it. If you love a flower, you will water it everyday and keep it healthy.

26.Having a baby allowed me to see the evolution of needs. As we grow, the needs of the baby increases and gets more complex. That’s the winding up part. I think at a certain point in life, we should do a winding down process too, where we scale down our needs and simplify things.

27.I’m at the age where I don’t get invited to wedding or even baby showers anymore. Morbidly, I’m waiting for notification to attend funeral wakes and such. It’s interesting to observe such trends among my age group peers. Is it all unhappiness down the road from now?

28.As I get older, I’m getting a lot more frugal on my time. Negative influences are generally out of my life and I actively censor and avoid, especially when I can do nothing to change them. Positive influences I’ll actively seek them out. I cannot stand being a driftwood floating in the open sea, drifting aimlessly in any direction.

29.2017 is the year where my relationship with my mum had never been stronger. It’s all possible because she comes over to help me out with the baby almost everyday. From her love and care of my son, I think back to the days when she took care of me in the same loving and caring ways too. It had come full circle.

30.Don’t let me avoid challenges. Give me the strength to overcome them and the courage to face future challenges.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Planning your end game after FF

There is a reddit share about a person in the US who had already reached financial independence without being married and having kids, but had a lot of other non-financial issues to deal with. For example, he talked about how to let his close family and friends know about his new found status, yet he does not want to lie about it. He has issues with being honest with them without being taken advantage or being probed at. There is also the existential issue about what else he is going to do with his life. This arises mainly because he does not have a routine to follow, and days can become weeks and weeks become months. Before he knows it, years would have passed with him wandering around aimlessly. He obviously does not want this.

For those who are aiming for financial freedom (FF), it's important to read the bad side of it. He laid it all out in his reddit post. The journey towards financial freedom is such a long and arduous one, and I think we forgot to think about the end-game. What are we going to do after we have reached it? It's a good idea to start thinking about these issues earlier rather than latter, because it's important to realise that while money solves a lot of problems, it does not solve issues like what is the meaning of life. My friend Christopher, who had reached FF himself, blogged about this here. He had a good word for this issue, calling it existential independence. It's like a twin set of booster rockets - you cannot be truly free if you have only one rocket of financial freedom blasting away. You need the other rocket of existential independence to bring you out of the earth's gravitational pull to be truly free.

I've not reached FF and I'm still on my way. But I've seen enough people who had already FF to know there are only a few end games after reaching FF. I list them out here:

1. Meaningful work
2. Religion
3. Travel
4. Family

Let's talk about them in more detail below. I will also share what my own end game is after reaching FF. I know it's still far away, but some of these stuff needs time to 'compound', just like your financial assets. You can't just tap on it on the day you needed it and expect it to start running on its own. Like all things, you need time and effort for your 'investment' to work out at the time you needed them most.


1. Meaningful work

Work that is meaningful, as opposed to work that pays the bill. I think there could be some misunderstanding about what happens after reaching FF. You might take a long holiday, being relieved that you are finally freed of work, only to come back to some sort of work again to resolve some of the issues that only purposeful work can help. FF is not about not having to work ever again. It merely gives you the option not to work for money again. It's very different.

I am most likely pursuing this path. I'm a tutor and I blessed to be one of the few people who loved his job so much to do it for free. The good thing about my job is that I can scale it down easily; I just need to work lesser and take in fewer students, or choose to work on 3 days. Flexi-work arrangement is not for everyone, nor for any industry. If your boss refuse such arrangement, what can you do? Also, the work that pays for the bill might not be the work that is meaningful for you. If the work that you are doing on your way to FF doesn't give you satisfaction beyond the paycheck, then you should look for other sort of meaningful work. Even mentoring younger people can be said to be meaningful work. The best way to find out if it's meaningful is to ask yourself if you are willing to do the work for free over extended periods of time.




2. Religion

When I say religion, I really mean spiritual work. I know some people, after reaching FF, start to get a lot more involved with their own respective religious groups. Born again Christians or born again Buddhist. Volunteering with these religious groups can be nice intersection between meaningful work and religion, since it satisfies both at the same time. It need not have to be any religion too. Practicing mindfulness and meditating also gives the same kind of spiritual purpose in your life.

I'm more of the mindfulness and meditating kind. I'm already reading up and practicing on such stuff in my own journey towards being FF. Some friends started on this religious route when they reached their mid life crisis towards mid 30s and 40s, and the continuation of this involvement allows them a very smooth transition when they finally become FF.


3. Travel

This is the route for a lot of singles. Take a backpack and they start travelling all around the world. Bitten by the travel bug, they are out of town almost every other quarter. The planning of the trip, the logistics arrangement, the research and packing all constitute a sort of project management work for them. It's a very structured project, where you know the start and the end point and it's highly repeatable.

Not for me though. I'm not a travel bug, and I can stay at home for prolonged periods of time as long as I have my creature comfort.


4. Family

I did not mention friends, because friends can come and go. But friends can be like family too, providing a very strong support for your mental health. If you have children, this can be a project that last for decades. As a new parent, it's never ending work. When your children starts having children of their own, it's like your shares started to give you bonus shares. But it might not be everyone's cup of tea, and I totally understand that. Those who are married and have kids are generally okay with their end game after reaching FF. I have limited examples of this type though, because it's so hard to be FF when you have kids.

In the end, what this feels like to me is similar to playing a game with your own selection of game difficulty. If you choose easy (or easier), your game play involves not having family and kids and reaching FF. But you might have an existential crisis much later on after FF. You ultimately choose an easy (or easier) game play but a much more difficult end game. If you choose hard (or harder), your game play involves juggling family time and work, having less resources towards the goal of FF and finally reaching FF. But you have a much easier end game after FF. This game of life is really well balanced lol




There are some other options that I can think of. These are people I've read but not actually encountered. One type is the health fanatics that chose to focus on health or health related activities. They become like addicted to marathons or body building. Then there are the Bilbo Baggins type, who wanted to write books to perhaps reach a certain sort of immortality with their works, so that their books can be their legacy when their mortal body passes on. Again, I've never met them before. 


Whatever rocks your boat man. But you need to plan for it. This end game planning after reaching FF is what will determine your happiness once the financial part is taken care of. 

Friday, December 01, 2017

Networth update in 2017

Another year is almost coming to a close. This year is yet another fantastic year for me. Every year seems to be fantastic to me, so either I'm delusional or I'm really happy with my life. I'm going for the latter haha! The last time I did my networth update is around the same time last year, back in 2nd Dec 2016 here. To clarify, this is my networth, not the networth of my household.

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. Unlike most people, I excluded the value of my property but included the debt associated with it. Took me a few years to reach from a negative value to 0. 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

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)

A good friend, Azrael, finally legitimize the way I calculated my networth. He introduced the term Net Current Asset Value (NCAV), first coined by Benjamin Graham to valuate a company. NCAV basically means taking the current assets minus all total liabilities. Since property value of my residential property is not under current assets (I could be wrong, I'm no accountant), hence what I did to valuate my networth is similar to the conceptual definition of NCAV. I stand to be corrected of course. But seriously, it also doesn't matter. I'm still going to do it my way haha

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




At first glance, there seems to be a huge increase in networth. Nearly a 100k increase year to year since 2016. Liabilities did not drop that much, only dropping by 6k from 2016. Assets went up a lot, nearly 100k to 449k in 2017.

The assets increased by a lot, and I think it's mainly due to my dividends and the bullish stock market. This year, because of my kid, I definitely worked much lesser compared to previous years. My total income fell as I free up my weekend time slots to make more time to take care of my kid. Hence, initially I thought my savings will drop as a result. Surprisingly, it came in pretty strong at 72k. This amount must have been saved by the combination of more dividends, parental leave and child care leave added together. So even though I worked less actively, these streams of income played their role to cushion my fall in active income. In the future, I would expect my asset value to generate more and more cashflow for me, as I progressively spend more and more time towards my family instead of wealth building. Inevitable.

Liabilities is mainly from the amount that I owed for my HDB mortgage. I switched from HDB loan of 2.6% to a commercial loan. It's somewhere in transition yet, so I have not paid my mortgage since November. Traditionally, I would also do a lump sum partial capital repayment for my loan, but because it's in between lenders now, I would do it only in 2018 when things are settled down. That would explain why my liabilities only dropped 6k from 2016.

Networth went up nearly 100k, and I think it's mainly due to asset value increasing. This means it's mainly the bullishness of the stock market that causes my asset value to go up. I'm about 40% cash. That will be my option if and when the market allows me to buy. Not in a hurry to use it all, so let it rot.

My networth is finally way over my liabilities. This means that if I choose to, I can liquidate everything and pay off my liabilities. I wouldn't do that of course, but I can choose to do that now. I look forward to the day that my networth is twice of my liabilities, then my whole family will be relieved of one great debt.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

I'm officially retired!

I'm officially retired...for the year. Due to the nature of my job, I have about 2 to 3 months of relatively free work. It's my eat-grass season and my winter month. This obviously affects my income, because I'm probably earning like 20% of my 'normal' months. Every year, I'll face this forced retirement and I've come a long way to deal with the uncertainty and the emotions that comes with it. This article will share my thoughts about the emotions of retirement. I must say I've not retired for good, but I've plenty of experience on retirement. All 15 years of it. Strange eh?

The emotions comes in 4 stages:

1. Relief
2. Happiness
3. Guilt
4. Resolution

I'll discuss a bit more in detail for each stages now:

1. Relief

I've worked very hard for about 10 months of the year, working through the weekend. This year is a bit lesser because I'm a newly minted father, but usually I'm so packed with work that I'm actually looking forward to my winter months. I think most employees will share the same feeling that I had. It's like you have worked hard for 20-30 years and finally you can see the deadline to end your working life. But it's only a relief if you've prepared for it by settling your debts and saving up a nice stash and all. I've saved about 70k+ for the year and am prepared to 'draw down' on the savings during my wintry months. If I haven't saved enough or at all, I guess I'll be very very stressed. So the first few days, I felt a immense weight off my shoulder. Very light and...relieved.

2. Happiness

After the feeling of relief, next came the feeling of joy. I felt happy that I'm finally having a good time catching up with long neglected friends or spending quality time with family. Quality time means you have no agenda or have no other appointments other than the current one, not trying to rationalise to yourself that although you have only 1 hour you will squeeze it by doing as many activities as possible. This period is where I catch up on my social life, my gaming and my books. This stage rejuvenates me and prepares me for the next period of work. It refreshes you and prepares you for the longer journey ahead.

3. Guilt

Unfortunately, the feeling of happiness is usually short lived. After what could be weeks to months, I might feel guilty that I'm wasting my life away. While others are busy working their asses off in offices and scurrying away to important meetings, I'm sitting, alone, in a cafe, sipping coffee and staring at nothing. There's only so much nothing to stare at. I'll say that most people who are taking leave for a week or so wouldn't feel this stage yet. They will certainly reach stage 1 of feeling relief, or stage 2 (if the leave is long enough) of feeling joy and happiness. But to reach stage 3 of guilt, you need a few months of doing no work at all. I could be playing so much games that I start to feel that I'm wasting my day away bashing digital monsters and collecting digital gold coins, where I could be earning real money fighting real life monsters. The real lesson here is that even if you are fully retired, you cannot stop working. Just stop working for money. Work keeps you in contact with other humans, or makes you feel important, or gives you joy. Find other reasons to do some sort of work again, something to set your routine and make you feel like a useful citizen to society once more.

4. Resolution

The period of guilt will build up until you start doing something. Usually this will end up where you start looking for work again (or in my case where my work starts finding me again), or you find some sort of semi retirement arrangement where you decide to spend the bulk of your time on. It could be project based, working on some hobby or some thing that keeps you occupied for the bulk of your free time. It could be volunteer work or some part time work or mentoring work. This might run a few iterations of the stages again, especially if the work you chosen overwhelms you. Eventually you'll reach an equilibrium where there is optimum work life balance that you can continue...until the next emotional crisis hits you again.




Those are the 4 stages. When you take a short leave of a 1-2 days, you'll reach stage 1: relief. When you have a longer leave of a week, you'll reach stage 2: happiness. When you have a much longer sabbatical leave of more than a few months, you'll go through all the stages from 1 to 4, passing through stage 3 of guilt and stage 4 of resolution. 

While reaching financial independence is important, don't focus solely on the monetary aspects of it. Most of the time, the emotions will be the part that you derail your best laid plans. Financial independence is not just about passive income > expenses. Work might be an important part of your identity, regardless of whether you liked working or not, hence to take it all away in one shot might be too sudden too soon. Practice the emotional aspects of retirement!

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Migration of email

I read from Investingmoat's article here that Yahoo finance is not functioning anymore, hence it affected the spreadsheet to track one's portfolio. I knew this would happen one day. Yahoo finance used to be my number 1 get to site to get things on finance, but after Yahoo had been bought over, things just started to break apart at the seams. After yet another series of email hacks, I finally threw in the towel and said my goodbye to the very first email that I had for 20 over years.

I knew it's going to be somewhat of a major operation to switch email, especially one that I had used for so long. So I listed out a couple of steps to migrate over:


1) Change and inform all the email address in websites that I follow

I have last pass, which is a password management website, so this step is a breeze. I just go to each and every website that has my yahoo email registered under them, and change the email address there and then. There are some websites with accounts tied to email address, so unless I'm prepared to open a new account, I've no way to change it. I guess those are a rarity. No choice. Despite yahoo being my main work email, I didn't email all my contacts with regards to the changes. Unlike changing a handphone number, I think this step is not necessary.

2) Update and change every email that you received for the next 2 weeks or so

There are bound to be some website that I've missed out, so for the next 2 weeks or so, every email I received is updated to my new email address. There are some sites that send less frequently, so I guess those are by default not urgent enough to affect me. It's okay to miss those.

3) Keep track of the old yahoo email, but don't use it for future correspondence

Use the new email to respond to any email you received from the old yahoo account. After a while, you should get lesser and lesser email from yahoo, which is the whole point of this exercise. But I will still track this account. If you're a signaller in army, it's just like putting this yahoo 'channel' in 'scanning' mode. You use one email but you scan several. And oh, I'm nostalgic. Once every blue moon, I like to go to my sent folders in yahoo and see what are the things that had happened in the past. I see it like the facebook's memory function, or just simply a time capsule where all my memories are stored digitally somewhat in my yahoo email. I'm sentimental like that.




That's it. Those steps should allow you to change the most urgent ones first, followed by the next tier of urgency and so on.

Before you jump to another email, you might want to consider the longevity of the company. Back in 20 yrs, I didn't expect yahoo to go bellyup like this, but hey, it's still a better bet than some of the smaller internet companies I suppose. I migrated over to Google if you must know. I think Google stands the best chance of serving me for the next 20 years or so I hope.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Debut of the Wizard and the Fighter-rogue

The four of them stood at the cavern entrance to the mythical beast. They had sailed great oceans and climbed ragged mountains to reach where they are standing now. The wizard took out his spellbook and did some last minute memorisation of the needed spells, while the fighter-rogue adjusted her utility belt, double checking that all the tricks of her trade are right where they are. Both of them are anxious. They looked at each other’s eyes, thinking of the day where they got married and had marched down the aisle, hands held together. The feeling is much the same – a mixture of fear and anticipation. The other two fighters – both sisters – drew out their swords and tightened the leather strap of their shields. The husband and wife team are level 10 while the two sister fighters are level 1. The latter are recruits from the tavern at the bottom of mountain and they joined the party without hesitation when they learned of their quest.


Out of the cavern came a deafening roar. As the party forms a semi-circular formation at the entrance, a furry creature came out of the entrance. It was a kitten, complete with its big eyes that can melt a thousand hearts and more.


The two sister fighters laughed at the ‘beast’. So this is what they had been toiling for the past week? They unsheathed their swords and walked towards the kitten, which is now rolling on the ground, innocently licking its paws. The wizard shouted out a warning to both of them, but they seem enchanted by the cuteness of the kitten. The younger of the sisterly fighters squatted down to pat the kitten. Before she even touch it, she was gone. A distant shout can be heard echoing down the mountain. A swipe by the beast, too fast for the naked eye to see, and too sudden for the mind to phantom, had thrown the fighter off the cliff! The elderly sister was stunned by the sudden attack; the beast had drawn first blood! She tried to unsheathe her sword but before an inch of the sword is lifted out of the scabbard, she too was gone.


The fighter-rogue had sneaked behind a boulder while all this was happening, and was disappeared in plain sight from the beast. Crouching and moving as silently as her training allowed, she opened her utility belt and threw a potion at the beast. It contained all 120 ml of pure holiness from the twin peaks of Breastopia and it is said to induce sleepiness in the beast. As the glass vial breaks and the white liquid spills out, the beast lapped up the liquid. The beast seems to be satisfied. But with a loud and sudden burp, and the beast screams out a deafening cry again.


As the fighter-rogue was covering her ears to block out the noise, the wizard gripped his staff and shouted a word of power. With a bright flash of light and smoke, he had summoned the ancient guardian spirit “Grandma” to deal with the beast. As the smoke dissipates, a silhouette can be seen. An elderly figure walked out of the smoke and smiled a toothless grin. Grandma did not wait; she waved her hands and cast Taunt on the beast. It worked! The beast was eyeing Grandma with its big beady eyes, and ignoring the rest of the party. The fighter-rogue took the chance to quaff down a potion of recovery while the wizard prepared another spell. Everywhere Grandma moves, the beast followed it like the little kitten that it appeared, but it seems that the spell is going to end soon. The beast can be seen fighting off the spell as it struggled, shaking its head occasionally to somehow shake off the enchantment.


The fighter-rogue opened her utility belt again and took out a pacifier of ease from the Forest of Avent. By then, she has sneaked close enough to the beast to push it straight into the mouth, and it was just in time as well because Grandma dissipates like a smoke and fades into thin air, just like the way it had materialised into this plane. The magical pacifier seems to work; the beast quietened down for a while. The wizard waved his hands in intricate patterns of power. At the right moment, he threw a figurine of a green dog and soon another guardian spirit was summoned. It’s the fearsome Scout the green hound.

This is the figurine of Scout the green hound, needed to summon the guardian spirit

The hound howled into the cold mountain air and magical notes can be heard. The wizard shouted to the fighter rogue to cover her ears, because the howl can cause an 5 by 5 area effect of sleepiness. As for him, he is immune to sleep spells; he had problems sleeping as it is. With the pacifier of comfort and the sleep spell howled by the hound, the beast appeared lethargic and slumped on the ground.


The battle is over, at least for tonight.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Getting the most out of a Rights Exercise

Just got news that Capitacom trust (CCT) is issuing rights to acquire Asia square towers 2. It's a 166 per 1000 shares @ $1.363, renounceable rights issue. This means that for every 1000 mother shares you hold before it goes ex-rights (XR), you are entitled to 166 shares of rights, which you then need to go to the ATM before a dateline is up to subscribe to it by paying $1.363 per right shares.

Here's the timeline for the major events of the rights issue:



I've been answering a lot of posts on rights recently, especially on Investingnote, so I thought I might want to consolidate all the stuff and recap all the posts I've made on the rights. I don't think I have updated my information on rights exercise in this blog ever since SGX implemented the 100 shares board lot instead of the 1000 shares. 100 shares makes it less complicated actually; less things to hack.


Basic rights information

Before going into the strategies part of rights exercise, let's have a breakdown of what to expect. The timeline for rights goes like this:


1. You get announcements of a rights exercise. Pay attention to the x per y shares @ z price. "z" is the subscription price for the rights exercise. For example, a 25 for 1000 shares @ $1.25 means that for every 1000 shares of the mother shares you hold before XR, you are entitled to a 25 rights that you need to subscribe at the atm for @$1.25 per rights price. Take note that upon subscription of the rights (by paying $1.25 per rights), you are converting the nil paid rights (so called because you haven't subscribed to it; you are just holding the rights to convert to ordinary shares) to ordinary shares.

nil paid rights => before you subscribed by going to atm for it
paid rights = ordinary shares => after you go to atm to pay for the subscription per rights shares

If you don't subscribe to the rights before a certain date, the rights will expire worthless.


2. There is "renounceable" and "non-renounceable" rights exericse. Sometimes non renounceable rights exercise is called a "preferential offering". Renounceable rights means that the rights can be sold off if you don't want to subscribe to it. This means that there will be a nil-paid rights trading period where you can sell off your nil paid rights. Note that if you don't want to subscribe to the rights by going to the atm, the rights will expire worthless. I can't stress that enough. If you don't want to subscribe, go and sell your nil paid rights during the nil paid rights trading period. For this CCT rights exercise, it's renounceable, so the nil paid rights trading period is from 4th Oct 2017 to 12th Oct 2017. During this period, you can sell off your nil paid rights or buy more if you want.

The mathematics of it all is described elegantly below:

Nil paid rights price + Subscription price = Price of mother shares after XR

The subscription price for this cct rights exercise is 1.363. Let's say upon XR, the price of cct mother share is at 1.450. The nil paid rights price should be trading at 0.087 (1.45 - 1.363). If the price of the nil paid rights is way below 0.087, then the logical question to ask if this: is the mother share overvalued or the nil paid rights undervalued? It presents an arbitrage opportunity here. But this is advanced technique to play with rights, and it's highly advisable for newbies not to do it unless you know what you're getting into. Don't want you to get into a quagmire of doom.

Link on difference between preferential offering and renounceable rights: here


3. Know how many entitled rights you have. You can calculate yourself by dividing your shareholdings by 1000, round down to the nearest integer and multiply that by 166. For example, you have 5500 mother shares before XR, so you'll be entitled to 5500/1000 = 5.5 = 5, then 5 x 166 = 830 rights shares entitled. ** If you don't want to calculate manually, or want to confirm, wait for the Offer information statement (OIS) to be sent to you. In it, there'll be a circular on the whys of the rights exercise, and the how to the different scenario where a shareholder can subscribe to the rights. Most important, there will be a form where they will tell you explicitly how much rights you are entitled to. You can either fill the form, send a cheque and post it to them for rights subscription, or just ignore the form and go to the atm to subscribe for the rights. In the above example, you are entitled to 830 rights @ 1.363 each, so you have to pay $1,131.29 to convert the nil paid rights to ordinary shares. And you have to do so by 19th Oct 2017, if not it'll expire worthless.

** update on 22nd Sept 2017: I asked my broker whether we will get fractional and proportional allotment of rights, meaning that if we have 900 shares, do we get (900/1000*166 = 149.4) 150, 149 or 0 shares? He said we will get 149 and not 0, because it is proportional, and 149 and not 150 because it is rounded down, not up. I learn new things everyday.


4. You can also subscribe to excess rights above and beyond your entitled rights. Using the above example, you have 5500 mother shares before XR, so you are entitled to 830 rights shares. Beyond that, you can apply for another 1000 excess rights. In total, you have to pay (1000+830)*1.363 = $2,494.29 for all the rights. You will definitely be able to get 830 new shares, because well, that's your entitlement. But for the excess rights, preference will be given to round off odd lots and the rest is luck. The issue here is, after the new board lots is changed from 1000 to 100 shares per board lot, it's unclear whether the rounding of odd lots is still based on 1000 shares or the newer 100 shares. If it's based on 1000 shares, it's likely you will get 1000 - 830 = 170 excess rights, minimally. If it's pegged to 100 shares per board lot, it's likely you will get 900 - 830 = 70 shares minimally. I am for the latter, not the former.

How much to subscribe excess? I think if you hold very little holdings before XR, you can potentially double your holdings by getting a lot more excess rights. Let's say you have only 1000 shares, you'll be entitled to 166 rights shares. Rounding to 200 shares will likely give you another 34 excess rights. But you might get another 500 shares of excess because you're lucky and you have small holdings. So in total, from 1000 shares before XR, you might get 1000 + 200 + 500 = 1700 shares, of which the extra 700 shares, 166 is your entitlement, 34 is for rounding off odd lots, and 500 is just that lady luck shines upon you. 700 shares @ $1.363 each will lower your average price way below the theoretical ex rights price (TERP).

If you have much more holdings, then don't think so much lah, just put 1.0 times the holdings before XR. It's unlikely you will get excess rights beyond the number of shares you hold originally. Let's say I have 5000 shares, I'll be entitled to 830 rights shares. I'll just apply 5000 - 830 = 4170 excess rights, so that in total, I'm applying for 5000 rights. Likely you won't get it all, but you'll hit some and the rest will be refunded back to your account.

Link to step by step guide on using ocbc atm to subscribe for rights: here


5. Check for the rights shares to come in. For this cct rights exercise, the expected date of commencement of trading for the rights shares is 27th Oct 2017, 9am. The expected date of crediting of rights units is on 26th Oct 2017. I'll check the CDP account around night time to ensure that the rights shares are credited into my account if you're using non-custodian brokerage. If that's slow, try checking the refund in the bank account where you applied for the rights. From the amount of money refunded to you, you can back calculate to see how much excess rights you got. The slowest confirmation is after a few days, you will get a snail mail of the rights shares you get through your physical mail box.

From fastest to slowest:

a. Check refund of funds in same bank acct linked to atm during subscription
b. Check CDP for stock holdings. Will need a pin number from them, so go apply beforehand
c. Check physical mail box for snail mail confirmation


Strategies for rights player

Now that the basic is covered, let's talk about strategies. There are strategies for existing shareholders who already holding shares before the rights exercise is announced, and there are also strategies for people who want to take advantage of the rights to get into the company at a favourable time. These are the wannabe shareholders. I must say rights issue favour the latter rather than the former. That's just the way it is.

I further define two types of player: the casual and the advanced one. Casual ones are usually newbies, but need not be, and quickly wants to get over the rights issue as soon as they can. Advanced players want to hack the rights and get a more favourable price, meaning getting their average price below the theoretical ex rights price (TERP).


w: no of mothers shares before XR
x: no of rights shares successfully subscribed
y: price of mother shares before XR
z: subscription price of rights shares

TERP = [(w*y)+(x*z)] / (w + x) 


As you can see, to get a lower average price, you need to get much more excess rights beyond the rights ratio. If the rights ratio is 166 shares for every 1000 shares held before XR, to get a lower price than TERP, you need to get more rights shares than 166.


Link for casual rights player: here
Link for advanced rights player: here


For existing casual shareholders:

a. Just wait for offer information statement (OIS) to come in. It'll inform you of the number of entitled rights shares you have.
b. Go atm and subscribe to the entitled rights
c. At the same time, apply for the excess rights. There's also a $2 admin fee charged by every bank.
d. Wait to see how much excess rights you get
e. Update your spreadsheet/program on your holdings


For existing advanced shareholders:

1. Sell all your mother shares before XR, buy back after XR and after the price drops lower than TERP
2. Buy more mother shares before XR and take adv of the drop in price, be entitled to more rights, apply for excess
3. Buy nil paid rights during nil paid rights trading period, esp when there are opportunities for arbitrage, subscribe to entitled and also apply for excess

* 2 and 3 can be combined, but make sure you know what you're doing


For casual wannabe shareholders:

a. Buy the mother shares before XR
b. Wait for OIS to inform you how much entitled rights you have. If you bought too close but still before XR, the OIS might not reach you on time. So calculate manually.
c. Go atm and subscribe to the entitled rights
d. At the same time, apply for the excess rights
e. Wait to see how much excess rights you get
f. Update your spreadsheet/program on your holdings


For advanced wannabe shareholders:

1. Buy in after XR, at or below TERP, and skip all the rights exercise
2. Buy in before XR, get your entitled rights, apply for excess

2a. To decide how many lots to get in, look at the table below:

Since preference is given for excess rights applicants to round off odd lots, and assuming that the rounding of odd lots is for 100 shares per board lot, it make sense to change the number of shares you want to buy before XR to maximise the odd lots rounding. For example, if you get 1000 shares before XR, you are entitled to get 166 excess. To round off to the next nearest round lots, you are almost guaranteed to get 34 excess rights (to round to 200 shares). Can we maximise that rounding so that you can get the best out of it?


I didn't show the whole table, but you need to get in 47,000 shares so that you can get 98 shares of rounding. But we haven't looked at the average price of all the shares, after including the rights exercise. No matter what price you got in (must be reasonable of course) for the mother shares before XR, the advantage of getting more 'guaranteed' excess rights for the purpose of rounding odd lots reach a diminishing returns after 5000 shares. For the above table, I use an entry price of 1.70 for the mother shares. You can see that there's a slight dip on the average price for 5000 shares.

But all these just to shave off less than 0.005 cts on your average price? That's why I don't do such hacks anymore. It's just not worth the time. In the past, where the board lot is 1000 shares, there's some savings to be had, but not anymore.

Just ignore this method safely, knowing that you are not going to hack a lot to get a lower average price using this method.

3. Buy nil paid rights during nil paid rights trading period, subscribe to entitled

* 2 and 3 can be combined, but make sure you know what you're doing


This should do it! The end-it-all guide to rights exercise for newbies and a good refresher for oldies!