Wednesday, May 08, 2019

The dance between Wants and Needs

Like so many things in my life, I started off knowing nothing. Then I learned a thing or two, and I thought I learned everything. After I had failed a thing or two, now I know that I knew nothing.

I was talking with friends on Facebook about Fitbit when I remembered that I bought it not too long ago. It is obviously a want since I could exercise without the need for such devices and it cost me more than a few packets of chicken rice. But I knew how I ticked after living with myself for so long. If I look back with hindsight, I can safely say that the purchase of such a want creates a new habit that benefited me greatly. It makes me look forward to exercising and looking at all the data generated. Can I say that such a want is really a need in disguise?

Many years ago, I wanted to learn how to play the guitar. I bought the cheapest guitar available. It's even second handed because I thought it does not make sense to buy such a good instrument if I cannot sustain my interest in it. Silly me. I did not know that interest in something new is malleable, not constant and in flux. My future interest is dependent on what I do right now. If I had bought a brand new guitar, moderately priced and not the cheapest, it might have pushed me a bit harder towards the direction that I wanted to go. I did eventually bought a better guitar and sold off my low rated first one. Did I mix up wants and needs at that time?

In the past, my definition of needs is something that is aligned to your value system, while a want is something that is not. But with many trials and tribulations in life, I think my definition of needs and wants had been changed.




A need is something that is aligned to your current value system, but a want could be something that is aligned to your future value system. A person will change. What I like 20 years ago is different from what I like now, and what I like 20 years later. A value system is also subjected to changes. Who can tell if what I value in the future is going to be the same as what I value right now? Hence a want opens the window of possibility to peek into your future value system, to explore and discover a self that is more aligned to yourself.

Did the proverbial strawberryish yolo-ish generation get it right after all? They are stereotypically said to indulge in their wants because you only live once. To be fair, all generation have members that are like that. Perhaps the pursuit of Wants is really an exploration of our Needs. Is it too much to test out and explore what our needs are? If I haven't tried avocado toast and Starbucks coffee, how do I know if I like them? If I don't travel around different countries, how do I know if another place is really my home? Needs cannot be imparted, or instructed from a parent to a child; it has to be discovered through the process of trial and error and most importantly, reflection. We should not be too quick to point the fingers at others without taking a closer look at ourselves.

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 30...so 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!