Thursday, December 05, 2019

Reflection of the year 2019

I promised that I will write a bit more in-depth about the year 2019, qualitatively instead of quantitatively. I shall attempt it here. It's always good to reflect on what had happened in this year, learn from the lessons and make new mistakes in the future. I last made a self-reflection for the year 2018 here. I'll try to give a grade for different themes. My grading matrix is like this: 4 categories, namely Finance, Mind, Body and Spirit. Here goes:

This year my networth increases by about 100k, boosted by higher active income. I had quite a good year with more group lessons, so my income got boosted more than average. On the investment front, STI is up pretty much and as they say, a rising tide lifts all boats. Time-weighted returns is a modest 11.8% vs STI's 6.62%. Okay lah. At this stage, I'm more interested in accumulating enough capital to have a high potential dividend income to prepare for the future when I have to scale down on my active work. The current target is 500k investible cash plus the invested amount. I've a shortfall of about 120k, so I think I should be able to reach that target in 2 to 3 years. If the stock market crashed 50%, then it's a different story of course, haha

Without really tracking closely, I also realised that my dividends from companies + all interest-bearing accounts + income from non-active work, adds up to about 1.2k per month. That is the goal that I had set like 5 yrs ago. Even after subtracting some income that I think are non-recurring, it is still about 1k per month. This means that the plan that I had started 5 yrs ago is starting to bear fruit. I'm very happy about that. 1k per month is about the mortgage (for my half) that I had to pay per month, so it's a huge load off my mind since it is the single biggest debt, and hence worry, that I have currently.

Finance: 10/10

This year I read a lot of books and discovered a new genre to delve into. At present, I had read 50 books, so I should be able to come close to my target of 52 books. I read more because, in the earlier part of the year, I borrowed a lot more physical books from the library in order to show my son that reading is something enjoyable and it's what we do at home. From the book tearing enfant terrible earlier in the year, he progressed to someone who will pick a book up on his own, flips through the pages and tries to read aloud (like us when we are reading to him). I think it's a terrific improvement in that aspect.

The new genre that I discovered this year is Chinese Sci-fi, particularly the works of Ken Liu and Liu Cixin. Mind-blown. I'll do a proper post on the books I've read in the near future, and will also recommend some of the better books from the whole list.

I started learning the piano this year too. I've always said that I wanted to learn how to play the piano, but my 'excuse' is that I'll wait till my son wants to learn so that I can learn together with him. One day, I asked myself what is stopping me from learning right now? Nothing. So I went ahead to buy a weighted digital piano, signed up for Udemy, and started learning. It's slightly more than 1 month already and I'm practising every day for about an hour, regardless of how sucky I am. Learning something new is quite a good experience since it puts me in beginner mode. Very humbling experience.

Mind: 10/10

This year, after Chinese New Year, I bought a Fitbit charge 3 and started exercising every morning, unless I'm ill or otherwise occupied. I've been keeping to that routine for nearly 10 months and I think it is sustainable. It's the longest near-continuous exercising regime that I had ever begun, and I think it's a great start. If I'm sick, I'll just walk for an hour. I started reading up on HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and started incorporating some of it in my exercise too. If you see me cheong-ing up and down a hill in Bedok Reservoir in the morning, it could be me. Hence, this year, I've never felt fitter and more able to run after my kid when we are out. Feels very good. This is probably a life-changing experience for me, and I'm glad to have taken this step.

Started sending my son to childcare earlier this year and was soon introduced to the vicious cycle of illness. It goes like this: son gets flu bug from school, passes around to us, son recovers and goes back to school, we recovered, repeat again and again. Went to take a flu shot for the entire family, and things got so much better. Also took a miracle medication called Clarityne that relieves a lot of symptoms from flu so that I can continue to function properly despite being ill. Being able to function well in spite of illness is part of the routine for self-employed, so carrying it over to the caretaking of my child is just natural. Clarityne is an antihistamine that relieves flu-like symptoms. I wish I knew it earlier lol

I also got infected with Hand Foot Mouth Disease (HFMD) too. In fact, my whole family got it. Thankfully mine isn't that bad. I'll give myself a 9, mainly for the introduction of a sustainable exercise routine.

Body: 9/10

I've stopped doing sitting down meditation for a few years now. These days, if I need to, I'll walk and practice mindfulness. It's a very nice experience and helps to clear my head, especially during stressful period. The interesting thing I've discovered is that even playing on the piano is a great activity to practice mindfulness. It is like I went into a flow and didn't realise an hour has passed. During frustrating practice sessions, I practised on noticing such emotions arising. The only thing that I can't really control well enough yet is when I start recording myself on the piano. During normal practise I'm okay, but when the record button is pressed, things start to go haywire. I start to overthink or just get anxious. I need to work more on that because the skills are transferable and I think it's a great way to practice working under duress.

There's an interesting observation that I noticed about myself. One day, my wife and I are out in a fast-food restaurant. She accidentally spilt the whole lemon tea drink onto me. My whole pants are completely drenched. I noticed that there is a flash of surprise and then anger but it quickly morphed into acceptance. My wife was apologetic but I found the whole situation a bit humorous. It was a strange experience for me because I noticed I didn't react much to that external event, and it didn't affect my mood at all. I think a few years ago, I might have a totally different reaction.

Good progress, I think.

Spirit: 10/10

Attack of Takashi castle - SUCCESS!

Overall, I think 2019 is a great year for me. I lived a lot in this year and will continue to be grateful for what I have and the people around me. In this week alone, I had to send 2 people to the ICU. One is my elderly neighbour, who is in because of severe intestinal pain after a trip to Malaysia. He ended up having to cut away nearly half his entire small intestine out because of inflammation. The other is a family friend who suddenly developed many red rashes all over and had his airway constricted. Both are still under observation in ICU but I think the critical life-threatening period is over. Health is like a bear market - when it crashes, it is sudden and unexpected, often with severe consequences.

In the journey towards financial independence, we often hedge against a longer life, more than our money can last. Remember to hedge against plenty of money, more than our lives can last. Live a little. Appreciate the people around you. Be grateful. Don't regret.

May the new year 2020 be filled with great health, great relationship and great wealth. In that order of importance.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


An enjoyable read :)

I practice "meditation" during my evening walks too.

I think I've improved a little little bit in my cultivation?

I think I'll write my reflection too!

la papillion said...


Pls do! Looking forward to reading yours :)

lateinvestor said...

Learning to play the piano via Udemy? Speaking from an advanced player perspective, quite hard (leh) to learn this way. But keep learning though ... keeps your mind challenged. All that hand and feet (pedals) coordination will do your brain lots of good. Nice piece on reflecting 2019. Enjoyed reading it.

la papillion said...

Hi lateinvestor,

Can you explain why it's hard to learn from udemy from your expert perspective? I would wish to have a tutor to guide me, but that's not likely to be possible until much later stage. Possibly combined with my kid haha, if he even wishes to learn.

Thanks for your encouragement :) nice blog you have there!

EY said...

Hi LP,

Shaun started learning piano on his own from YouTube when he was in Sec 3. Yes, with no foundation at all! None of us play any musical instrument at home. After more than a year, he started taking weekly lessons at Yamaha when he finished O levels. He only bought a weighted digital piano last year with his savings cos his giam kana mother refused (still refuses!) to buy him a real piano. LOL.

That chap has cleared Grade 6 in barely 3 years and preparing for his Grade 7 exam in Feb 2020.

From what I have observed, it is possible to pick up the basics from YouTube or Udemy. But to learn the proper way of playing, formal lessons would be more helpful. Just like learning yoga. :)

Bet you didn't learn piano to play it professionally, so it won't quite matter what is the 'exact' proper way of playing. I look at my boss typing emails with 2 index fingers and he writes better than me who have learnt proper typing. Good to know which is the means and which the end.

You just enjoy your discovery of making music the way you like it. :)


la papillion said...

Hi EY,

Wah, Shaun my idol! Please tell him that for me :) He started way earlier than me, and I only bought my own weighted digital piano way way older lol

You're right, I know i'm not going to be a concert pianist, so learning music theory and taking exams is not my priority currently. Who knows if that might change? After jumping into the river, I'll let the current take me where it wants to take me :)

lateinvestor said...

Hi LP,
Like Ey has mentioned, it is possible to learn how to play the piano via non-traditional instructional channels such as youtube and Udemy. For me, playing the piano/making music is an artistic pursuit, not just a mechanical exercise. For example, I want to know how to project a lyrical well-phrased line by using the right finger/arm weight and right pedalling.

Still, different people have different goals when it comes to learning music ... so do whatever you deem best. :-) . Oh, btw, it's good to have your kid learn a musical instrument ... helps him to develop intellectually.

la papillion said...

Hi lateinvestor,

I'll definitely try to introduce him to it, but won't force him to do so. I've seen a lot of students who hate all the forced music lessons. They find it a chore, which defeats the purpose of it all haha

Actually I assumed you've learnt piano when you're much younger, perhaps in pri school. Do you hate it when you're learning back then? Or you've already enjoyed it from then till now?

lateinvestor said...

Yes, there are kids who dislike music. But I have several friends who regret not persevering with their music lessons when they had the chance while they were younger. Actually we tell our kids music is part of school. Sure they don't like Chinese but can they get away from it? No. So 'no' too for music. It's such an important part of 修養. Be smart, be sporty, but be refined too.

I love it! In fact, I got to the stage after finishing O levels to know what kind of teachers I want. I went to "famous" teachers such as (when he was still residing in SG)

I like what Mr Lee says:

We believe that every child could succeed if one puts in the hard work.
We believe that no student is unteachable but only teachers who do not know how to teach.
We believe that parental involvement is a strong element for the child’s success.
We believe that if there is a will, there is a way!
We believe in developing creativity and enjoy motivating and inspiring students with our charisma.

Choose the right teacher, and half the battle is already won. :-)

la papillion said...

Hi lateinvestor,

You really like music haha :) Even know where to find the right teacher to guide you. Admiration!

Thanks for the inspirational quote (i'm a tutor too lol)

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Rena said...

Hey, just wanted to say, I read your post years back. Years back. And you gave me an idea to make a piano course on Udemy. This thought kept lingering in my mind, and after so many years, I finally made completed it on Udemy.

Thanks for the inspiration! :P

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