Friday, September 13, 2019

Sometimes, it's wise to be fearful when others are fearful

Recently, maybe because of the market downturn, I keep hearing people say that opportunities lie within crisis. Well, you know, the Chinese equivalent of it, weiji. It's either that, or it's Warren Buffett's be greedy when others are fearful.




Whoever taking these words of wisdom at face value is crazy. As with all other such aphorisms, the context matters. A lot. Applying these condensed advice to all context is insane. Usually I see people applying them to whatever situations they are in to justify, to rationalise and to convince.

I think if your only reason to buy a stock is because there is fear in the air or there is danger everywhere, you had better buck up. If anything, that is just a starting point to investigate, to probe, to find out. It cannot be the sole reason to buy. In trying to become a contrarian and go against the crowd, you merely react against the crowd instead of reacting with the crowd. Both are equally bad because there is no independent thought involved.

In my opinion, whenever a crisis is imminent, first survive, then thrive. In order to maximise the opportunities presented during a crisis, I must first guarantee my survival. I raise my cash level, I save hard and I make sure my standard of living of my family won't drop below a certain level. I do all these while the sun shines and the winter is not here yet. Then I wait. When 危机 (crisis) becomes 转机 (a turning point), presenting a 时机 (opportunity), I will be there in all my capacity to take advantage of this 良机 (excellent incipient moment).

Friday, August 09, 2019

National day as a parent

Normally, as a jaded adult in Singapore, you don't give two hoots about National day. I haven't been watching the parades since aeons ago, and I definitely do not wear red and white this day. Every time I hear the National day songs (except Home by Kit Chan), I cringe. I  might even escape the festivities by going for a short trip, especially this year when there is such a long weekend. Perfect for a short getaway to Bangkok or Phuket.


All that changed when my son was born. Who would have thought that I would play Mari Kita on YouTube just to watch him stand erect with hands straight down beside his body? Who would have thought that I would sing along the lyrics of our National song in order to inculcate some sense of patriotism and gratefulness for our homeland in him? Certainly not me 2.5 years ago.


But as I decked him in red and white, with his shirt showing the crescent moon and the stars, watching him wave his little hand-held Singapore flag excitedly whenever he spotted those big Singapore flags that dotted our neighbourhood, I can't help but feel a sense of belonging too. Before being a parent, I'm here but my heart is not here. I'm merely a participant but I'm not involved. After being a parent, I'm fully invested here.


It's a strange feeling. It's not the I ate the wrong thing and my stomach felt strange kind of strange. It's a warm fuzzy feeling that tingles down my spine kind of strange. I still don't wear red and white and I would rather die than be decked in those 2 colours to parade around the streets today. But I would teach my son to love his country religiously, to say the pledge, to sing the song and to be grateful for everything we have here. He might be a jaded old man in the future, aware of all the nationalistic brainwashing, cringe at all the national day songs he hears on the radio, but that can wait.


Who knows? Maybe his journey will be the same as mine, especially when he has his own kid who waves his little flags excitedly whenever he sees the bigger flags that dotted our neighbourhood.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

The Death of Cbox

For those who didn't know, my blog has been around for a very long time. And it had always been accompanied by the cbox. Remember that this is the time before any of the social media groups are up. The best groups to talk about investing comes from CNA forum. There are no WhatsApp, telegrams or facebook messenger. But my blog always has a cbox for the regulars to chat with each other.



From the cbox, I knew many people both offline and online. Some of them went on to become bloggers themselves. I can remember a few of them: Cory, AK, SMOL, Cookie, momoeagle... among others. The cbox community grew together with my blog, and I say that it is an integral part of the bullythebear experience. Some are just students when they first came in, graduated to become accountants and doctors. Some came in to find their apple trees, and from what I've heard, grew so many apple trees that they bought many more lands to grow many more trees. I'm glad to have shared the experience and their journey together with them.


I've written some articles about the cbox. Some of them are articles to raise funds to get the premium edition of cbox so that everyone has a better experience. Here's a few of them:

1) How do you know if you are addicted to the cbox?

This is interesting because I was addicted to it. Just click refreshing to see who posted anything new, so that I can respond. Some even choose a certain model of cbox so that the handphone can access it.

2) Circular to shareholders

This article gives me a kick. I've adapted a typical circular sent to shareholders to really just ask for funding for the premium edition of cbox instead of the free one. That is essentially crowd funding. Haha, I did crowd funding before it was even popular!

Brings back fond memories reading my past articles, isn't it?


I noticed that the cbox premium membership had expired. I think it had served its purpose in forming a community of like-minded people together to form a sort of support group. But the function of the cbox had been replaced by Whatsapp group and Facebook groups, to the extent that even I am no longer visiting it. A few years ago, I shifted it down to a less prominent position to the bottom of the blog. Now, I think it's time to bury it and remove it altogether. Some of the friendship I've made are real and had been transferred online to offline. Some of my best brothers and sisters I still keep in contact with, and they sprung from the tiny cbox.



Thanks for the fond memories. Goodbye.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

Half year audit 2019

It's nearly May and that means nearly half the year is gone. Is the time spent carelessly away in frivolous and meaningless activities, or invested to form deep-seated memories or experiences to be archived, savoured and re-visited again in the warm glow of memory? Let's try to make an account of the time spent in the last 6 months.




Family:

This year, we started sending our kid to a nearby childcare centre to expose him to different experiences. That means I have to wake up early to prep him for school. And in exchange, we'll have at least half the day free to catch a breath or catch a movie if we really want to. I choose to spend the time exercising before I start work in the afternoon. More about that later. We usually fetch him back home around early afternoon before I start work. I think this regularity is good for him, even though he might cry and fuss on days he didn't feel like going to school. My wife is also having more lessons as she begins her career as a tutor, so we have lots of experiences to share, including complaining about bad students haha

My son has some problems eating the food at the child care centre, preferring to eat at home. If he is more settled there, I can give a higher rating in this area. Maybe in the next half of the year, we will do better?

Rating: 3/5

Health:

Bought my Fitbit charge 3 after Chinese new year, and had been spending the morning time exercising. Could be a 3km run, run-and-walk, walk, interval, hill training or just walking leisurely at East Coast Park with my wife for an hour or so. It was very good, and I wished that I've done it sooner. Never feel fitter in my life, and it shows when I brought my son out for walks. That's all I wanted, to be able to keep up with him without feeling wasted. In a way, he is my motivation for good health.

Recently, all of us got the dreaded HFMD (hand, foot, mouth disease). Started from my kid (but of course), spread to my wife, and finally to me. I think my wife is the one who got the brunt of the disease, with painful sores and ulcers that made her unable to speak for close to a week. Mine is much milder, thankfully, so I can take on the bulk of the caretaking. Naturally, lessons had to be cancelled, and my son stopped going to the centre for 2 weeks, which is fine because the centre had to be closed because of the outbreak anyway. Had to go back and fro the clinics to check on the condition, get certified and he is fit for school again and so on. I am very glad that the whole episode is over.

After that, I had to restart my exercising regime again because I felt my stamina being drained. It's okay. Like the stock market, we have to be on the uptrend with occasional corrections along the way, in order to move up even higher!

Rating: 4/5

Brain food:

As of now, I've read as many books as I had in the past year 2018. Where did I find the time to read? I cut my gaming sessions to zero and starting reading on my phone using Google Play books. Whenever I wanted to open up my social media app to check on the latest insignificant notification, I'll open my Google Play books instead and start reading. Just these two changes open up a whole lot of time for me to nourish my mind with books. It also helps that I discovered a new genre of books to read: Chinese science fiction (translated to English, thank you very much).

Rating: 5/5

Finances:

This year has the making of a good financial year. As of now, I've saved $29k out of my default target of $50k. Should be able to surpass the goal comfortably since the second half of the year is where I have less annual financial commitments. As long as I have good health, I can do the necessary work to bring in the income. The recent bout of illness is a sore reminder of the importance of health.

Always wanted to boost up my insurance coverage after having a kid. Boosted my life coverage by 300k, CI by 250k and early CI by 100k. Also 'forced' my wife to boost up hers too to take into account our newly minted status as parents. Feels much safer after this.

As my mortgage interest rises, I also did a partial capital repayment of $14k from my CPF-OA account. I might pare it down further to reduce my debts, but have to weigh against the opportunity cost. I'll keep it flexible and gauge it year by year on whether I should pay down my debts.

Rating: 5/5

Personal:

I did a Marie-Kondo audit on my wardrobe. Kept all my threadless t-shirts away and bought some exercise t-shirts for about $10 each. Helps that there are only 2 colours - grey and black. That hugely simplifies the choice that I have to make each day regarding what to wear. My wardrobe is just cleaned out like that. I also bought sports shoes from Decathlon. Not so long ago, I would have baulked at the purchase. Now, it's affordable, replaceable and good enough for me. It's so comfortable and added to the fact that I'm immersing myself to concentrate on health and exercising, I started wearing it everywhere I go. I like the simplification of my life and the direction that I'm going.

Rating: 5/5

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