Saturday, March 14, 2020

War strategy in a bear market

The recent market meltdown prompted me to re-organise what I classify as emergency cash and war-chest and better fencing of cash and cash equivalents. This comes about as I increased my emergency cash from 3 months of expenses to 12 months. By doing so, I'll fence up more cash that I can't touch for investment, hence the exercise to really look into this.

I have various issues of Singapore savings bonds (SSB), as well as Frasers 3.65% bond and Azalea bond. I decided to classify those under emergency cash. The SSB can be redeemed at par value, and while the two bonds that I held had their prices falling from their highs (Frasers went below par even), I think they are still safe storage of emergency cash. Unlikely for them to do a Hyflux on me, again.

 After accounting for the switch in portfolio counters, I realised I've spent about 15% of my war-chest in a week or two of buying. In this kind of climate, you can buy something and have it fall 10% the following day or so. Crazy times. How does one cope with this? Just be 'delusional', in the sense that you keep thinking the market will return to its formal glory, that this will all pass eventually, that the enterprising human spirit will somehow get you over this and that a few years down the road you'll be wondering why you are even fussing over this minor hump on the road.

I think I've experienced a few crashes in my investing journey so this is not going to be any different. The first few I've 'wasted' it by not being emotionally steady, and/or didn't have enough cash, so I'm determined to make the best out of this. I've some support groups - people who share the same philosophy in money management - so they helped a lot to allay whatever fears in buying up while others are fleeing. Grateful for that. I've seen enough people who made it out of market crashes like this, emerging from the ashes of their portfolio with their net-worth doubled or tripled, to believe in it, so I'll try my best to emulate them.

That said, hope still has to be tempered with ground-level reality and practicality. I must survive all these in order to have a chance to thrive later when all these are over. The top 2 priorities are really health and job security. If that fails, all else fails.

How to spend the remaining war-chest? I think the problem can be split into how much and how long. STI has fallen about 27% from the last peak to the last close, while SP500 is down 20% and HSI about 28% down. Most often, crashes recover after about 30% down. Rarely does it do a 50 to 60% crash and then once in a lifetime, you might see a more than 85% crash. I think based on past history, we should spend the bulk of our war chest preparing for the 30% to 50% crash, rather than the world-changing 85% crash. I think when it comes to that, nobody is really prepared for that. If that comes, there will be more things to worry about survival than about thriving. That should settle the part about how much.

How long then? History shows that it can take 1 to 3 yrs for the bear market to play out from peak to trough. Counting the last peak for STI to be in May 2018, we're about slightly less than 2 yrs right now in Mar 2020. Perhaps it'll end by 2021, in about a year's time. That correlates to what PM Lee said about how long the coronavirus will play out. I wouldn't take it so literally to be exactly 1 year, but that should give a helicopter view of how fast to deploy.

Take care of your health, and prosper.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Am I prepared?

Back in 2003/2004, there is the SARS outbreak. Back then, I just started work and didn't think too much of the possibility of getting infected. That's stupid and reckless of me, but now I have too much to lose. I can see people are avoiding shopping malls and restaurants are mostly empty even during the weekend peak dinner crowd. You can practically walk into a restaurant and see that there are more staff than customers during peak hours. It's that bad.

In this post, I'll like to focus on the things I'm doing to protect myself. My chief concerns are:

1) My family's health
2) My work income
3) My financial status

1) Family's health

The current Wuhan corona virus is still largely unknown, but it seems from official statistics that it is highly infectious but with low mortality rate. Thank goodness for that. I'll rather take my chances with this than another strain with low infectious rates and extremely high mortality rate. Ultimately, mask or not, it just depends on our immunity system to survive.

As 2020 started, I did 3 things that helps a lot regarding health. Firstly, me and my wife had been going to the gym almost everyday. 30 mins of intense cardio really does help a lot, I feel. That should do for the exercise part of keeping healthy. Secondly, every gym day, we had almost carb free salad for lunch. That's the diet part of keeping healthy. Thirdly, I started doing cold showers. I read from Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss (Wim Hof/Tony Robbins section) that having cold showers can boost the immunity system and willpower, among other things. Been doing it for 3 weeks, not bad, will continue doing so.

Other than that, I didn't join the groceries store run, nor the mask buying queues to avoid crowds. I did go out to shopping malls now because it's largely empty. My mum prepares some herbal concoction for us to drink, and hopefully all these measures will help. Not necessarily in preventing us from getting infected, but to recover swiftly once infected.

2) My work income

I'm a private tutor. Students come over to my place for lessons, so I'm potentially exposed to a higher chance of infection that most people I guess. I accept that. From the start of the pandemic in China, I've already anticipated that parents will stop and cancel lessons. Just last week, I had two cancellations. I think primary school tutors will be hit more severely than me, not to mention those running group lessons. I think we just need one cluster to form in schools and that's it. Back in SARS period, primary school was stopped for about 3 weeks, secondary schools about 2 weeks and JC about 1 week. Why? JC students can die is it? It's about the immunity system - those who are elderly and very young have weaker immunity system, making them more susceptible to infections.

What happens if the situation gets worse and tuition stops? I have a plan B. I got a webcam from a good friend, got my wacom drawing tablet/digital pen and an online whiteboard with video conferencing/chat capabilities ready. I've also asked for permission from students and parents in case the situation warrants it. And so now we wait.

3) My financial status

What if I've no active income for a stretch of say 1 year? Can I take the hit?
Yes - my CPF has enough to last me 1 yr of mortgage payment, which is my biggest expense and greatest worry. I'll transfer more warchest to emergency cash too, so I can tide over more than 1 yr if needed.

What if I've no active income for 1 yr and I'm hospitalised? Can I take the hit?
Yes - hospitalisation plans are still in place and I've enough funds to cover any deductibles/co-insurance. Same for all my family members. Insurance plans also cover ICU should that need arises. If there are worse scenario I've not imagined, there's also a reserve battalion of Singapore savings bond, equivalent to 6 months of monthly expenses, waiting for me.

I took account of all my liquid cash, minus 1 year of monthly expenses, and the remaining is my war chest. It's still good enough to fire substantially, so that's good. My plan, as always, is to survive first, then thrive. And I'm determined to thrive.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Bought another insurance policy

Recently I bought another insurance policy - it's called a gym membership. I've been walking/running for nearly a year already, doing it quite consistently for 5 days a week, so I'm quite sure signing up for a gym membership will be a good insurance policy to guard against future health issues.

I signed up with the ActiveSG membership first, and following the instructions, I got a credit of $100. This was an initiative set up in 2014 to encourage Singaporeans to live a healthier lifestyle. I know I'm a bit late in claiming the credits, but better late than never. For off peak gym membership, the free credits will allow me to use the gym for more than a year for free. Anyway, it's not that important since it's one of the cheapest rates in town at $40 per 6 months. Hard to beat at this price range.

Even as my body is aching from all the physical exertions, I think this should be a great start in 2020 to boost up my health sphere even further. I'm not getting any younger, and I need to take responsibility to make sure I stay healthy for my kid. While an actual insurance policy is reactive in nature (it helps only after some health issues had happened), doing more exercise will certainly help in being preemptive (preventing or delaying some health issues from happening). Can't control what might happen in the future, but the least I can do is to build a good base when I am still able to.

Seems like I have a lot of things on my hands. Need to exercise, need to read, need to practice on piano, need to work, need to have family time, haha

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

DBS multiplier account NERFED

It's the first day of the 3rd decade of the 3rd millennium and I received some news that DBS is going to nerf their multiplier account. I first heard it from Kyith (here) and the new changes, which will take effect from 1st Feb 2020 is listed here.

The major changes are that instead of dividends being under the "Investment" category, it is now grouped under a new "Income" category, which combines both the salary credit component together with all dividends received. This sucks because now, most people will have one less category to fight for the highest interest of 3.8%. I really don't want to get into some long term commitment, like buying a regular savings plan or DCA into sti etf, for something that is short term and fickle like the terms and conditions for the DBS multiplier account. I guess I'll have to contend with less interest.

The other major change is that the higher interest for the salary credit + transactions in 1 category is now applied up to a new cap of 25k only, down from the current 50k. It's not clear what they meant by this.

I take the liberty to include two scenario. But first, this is what is like currently (click if it's too small to zoom in):

This is what I think it'll be like after the changes to the cap from 50k to 25k:

Scenario 1

This is what I think it could be if they are kinder:

Scenario 2
Scenario 1 will introduce 2 tiers, first tier of 25k, next tier of 25k, then final tier of 50k. For this scenario, if you hit 3 categories including the new income category, and you also hit the max transactions per month of 30k and above, you'll get a blended interest of 2.79% pa ([2.08*25 + 3.50*25]/50 = 2.79) for the first 50k.

Initially it's 3.50% for first 50k, so that's a drop of $145/mth to $116/mth after 1st Feb. Say bye bye to the next 50k unless you buy their insurance and investment, which I am very repulsed to do so.

I don't think they are going to be kind so screw scenario 2. Ironically, in my mind, I just wanted to do scenario 2, until I actually do out the jpg to realise that it's too nice to have scenario 1 where there is a first 25k tier, next 25k tier, and final 50k and above tier.

Maybe just bloody buy their stocks and get a dividend of more than 5% pa lol