Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The roaming treasure trove

Ever talked to taxi drivers?

I found myself in that exact position when me and gf took a cab back home. The cab driver is around 60 yrs old. He didn't look like that age at all, but perhaps the dim lighting hid his age well. My gf started to talk to him while I was basically slumping in the seats, having had a hard day of work. It was late, I just wanted to get back home and rest, so the last thing I would do is to talk to a stranger who had no interest in your life at all except for that half an hour or so that it took for the cab to go to your desired destination.

Still, on that very night, my gf started to make small talk with him. It's amazing how much information you can gleam from others, if only you ask the right questions and sound sincere enough. It's like a rusty tap - give it the right twist and all the water that had been in the pipes will flow out. I'm a good listener, especially so when I'm tired, so I just sat that with all the water flooding around me.

I started off hearing, then began listening as the information gets more and more interesting. That cab driver had been retrenched, fallen into debts and got nearly bankrupt (I like the word implies that you are looking at one scenario that could have happened but didn't...but i digress). However, he managed to stem the bleeding and recovered in 8 months. He had 2 kids - one daughter and one son - both of them had already graduated and started working. Having no need to work anymore but wanting to get some more money, he still treats his job very seriously. He lamented about other cab drivers who are not there to make a living, preferring to drink kopi with other drivers instead of doing their rounds. He proudly mentioned that from the moment he started his shift, he'll be in the taxi until he first recovered his $90 rental, then plus some more.

That cab driver is a very knowledgeable person with a very open mind. He shared with us his philosophy in life freely and I learnt a few tricks to cultivating kids so that they will grow up to be someone who can stand on their own. His immense sense of responsibility and duty dawned upon me when he mentioned that even though he is in debts, it is his problem to resolve it and he never pass on the problem to his family. He truly displays the characteristics worthy of being called the man of the house!

Gf mentioned to me before that everyone has a story to tell, if you would only listen to it. I think just sitting on the cab for the journey made me gain XX years of life experience. He had so much to say and we had so much more to learn that we kept talking for 30 more mins even after we'd reached our destination.

Had his phone number already... we'll be meeting this guy for some very long chats.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Market happiness theory

There is a disparity between what I see and what the people in power are saying to us. It seems like we're in the midst of a major recession not seen since the great depression. The major economies are in trouble, banks had collapsed, inflation and worse - stagflation is looming, GDP is contracting, unemployment is rising, wage freeze wage cut...these are headlines of what I read in the newspaper. However, the reality seems to be far from the picture.

I see people queuing up for property so as not to miss the opportunity to invest during 'recessionary' times. I see many people buying cars. I see penny stocks occupying the top volume of sgx charts and those ultra pennies are in fashion once again. I see people who are not interested in stocks suddenly becoming interested in it and scolding others for being 'old-fashioned' by putting money in savings accounts.

What do I make of this? I don't know.

As usual, I'm skeptical of the whole cheery outlook. It's just a few months ago that we seem to be at the brink of global recession and all of a sudden, the clouds had cleared and the sun shines again. If I'm sure of anything, it's just that humans in general have extremely short term memory. I think it's a good thing that we are wired this way, otherwise life might be too unbearable to live through.

I think in uncertain times, it is best that we have a plan in mind. Basically, there are two opposing realities playing out right now - one is that we're out of the gloom and the other is that we're heading from the top to another one. So, I think it's reasonable to think of two scenarios:

1. What if the market rises high, then sinks deeper

I'll be happy because there are certain counters that I need to buy and haven't got enough or any yet. It'll be a good opportunity to scoup up some more bargains when and if that happens. I'm afraid if the bad times do not come earlier, the temptation might be too strong to just join the crowd and raise my buying price.

It's one thing not to make money. It's totally another when one do not make money yet sees others making money. It'll wreck havoc on one's pysche.

2. What if the market moves up further, punctuated by shallow corrections

I'll be happy because I'm already invested along the way. It's actually less stressful because thinking about how much profit to take is better than to think about whether to cut loss or ride it out. Bullish times is good to sit back and relax because everyone is happy.

Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory - Albert Schweitzer