Friday, December 31, 2010

Don't take things for granted

** "BIAS" is a special feature in my blog where I get to say whatever I want with scant regards for your feelings. I'm not politically correct in this feature, so go ahead, judge me."

A dear friend of mine just broke up with her long time girlfriend. When I asked him about his feelings regarding this unexpected event, he just advised me not to take things for granted in a relationship. I didn't probe him further but I promised to probe myself further on this subject matter. I think what he mentioned is true for any sort of relationship. Afterall, any relationship is ultimately built on a intricate reward system. The reward can come in terms of anything, be it financial, emotional, moral etc. If a person puts in the effort and over a long period of time, the reward still does not match up to his expectation of the effort he puts in, then he'll feel unsatisfied and taken for granted.

In order not to take people for granted, you have to be grateful for what they are, not what they can become. I'll come up with some points on what I'm grateful about my wife.

Not in any order of importance, I'm grateful for her:

1. Insane laughter - she'll laugh at the most silliest thing when she's in the mood for it

2. Kindness toward animals - she's the one who introduced me to saving snails on a rainy day to prevent pedestrians from crushing them alive. And cats..oh cats..

3. Effervescence - when she's in the mood for it, she can be quite infectious in her cheery, over-the-top attitude. I'm the complete opposite, usually emotionless. We're an odd pair, but I loved it. I'm getting a bit more like her and she more like me. Diffusion?

4. Playfulness - I'll sit down reading and she'll pop over and pluck off my glasses. Or I'll be eating my food and she'll put some on my nose. Or I'll be watching a show and she'll smudge my glasses with her fingerprints. So many more....

5. Compassion / empathy - she'll be the one who buys tissue from senior citizens doing their rounds in hawker centre because they are so pitiful. She'll be the one who would donate notes to students who are doing flag raising. She'll buy little trinkets from SPCA to raise funds for their activities.

Okay, whenever I'm upset about something, I'll think along these lines. It should make me feel better. It's important to treasure what you have now and count your blessings :)

Have a merry new year!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

5 tips from a senior undergrad of the stock market

It's funny when I recalled how I started doing technical analysis. It was after I was wondering why warrants are going up and down that I wanted to find out more about TA. Yes, I started on warrants even before I learn anything about techniques or money management. It's a surprise why I wasn't killed, especially so when I started on the more volatile HSI warrants instead of the more benign STI warrants.

You know, after reading a few books on TA, suddenly you felt all invincible. It felt like you know the 'trick' behind how to make money. The worst thing that can happen when you're starting on the stock market is that you win money. It'll be even worse if you win big money. Then you start to have fancy ideas about not working and doing this full time and all. Hey, been there done that.

But therein lies the pitfall. What the market lends you in your first winning, it'll take it back more with interest. I thought it's a good time to warn all the undergraduates of stock market taking the BSM (read bro8888's post if you don't know what I meant) degree. Here's 5 tips from a senior undergraduate of the stock market. No way am I an expert, just sharing my viewpoints.

1. TA is part art and part science. Do your science first before you venture into the arty part of TA. What I mean is that you should know the basics and fundamentals well, before you start to mess around with the grey areas. What grey areas am I talking about? Grey areas include details about the fundamentals like:

a. When drawing trendline, do we use candlesticks to draw or closing price?

b. When drawing support lines, which points do we use? Can the support line cut through the price in between?

c. Volume must be low or high. What volume? Daily volume or average volume? Average over how many days?

d. Rising wedge pattern is bearish. Which point does it become bearish? Which point does it become bullish?

and so on and on...

2. There's more to TA than just looking at MA crossover or RSI is high or low. I mean indicators is one thing but unless you test out your system over several charts and verifying for yourself what works and what don't, you can't just rely on something that some guru mentioned in his book. You've got to try it out for yourself, in order to gain the confidence that your system or your rule works. Don't take it for granted that because so and so said so, it's the rule. If I don't anything about investing/trading, there's not hard and fast rule. 'Fluid' rules rule the market.

3. I think testing system is not so easy also. If you try out this method, it succeeds, could it be because of your luck or your skill? Similarly, if you fail in this method, is it because you're unlucky or because the method just sucks in general. You've got to keep a thorough record in order to sort out all the randomness that is everywhere in the market and the part that works for you. A good record is a must.

4. Stick to one system that works for you. If using just support/resistance works for you, fine, stick to it and become a master in it. The worst you can do is to learn a bit from everywhere and end up being master of none. A fine system is one that gives you few trades but have good risk reward. A lousy system is one that churns out trades but has lousy good risk reward. You don't have to win by quantity. You win by quality.

5. What's more important than the system is money management. You hear that from all the old timers here, but what is that really? Basically, it's how you handle money when you're winning and when you're losing. What's your position sizing for your capital? Do you have a cut loss system and which % do you cut at? What do you do if you lose a few trades in a row? When do you use a larger capital? Again, it's all about tracking how you handle your money when you're losing and when you're winning.

TA needs as much hard work as FA, to be good in it. I think, so is everything else.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Psyching myself for 2011

One of the good point about being a self employed tutor is that you can control the amount of work that you do in order to control the amount of income that you earn. This in turns affects the amount of savings you can feasibly achieve, especially after you've kept track of your expenses and know approximately your savings ratio. I can imagine being an employed worker who wants to increase his saving ratio but will be hard pressed to squeeze more out of the available pay or the available time to make more active income. I mean you can't control the amount of bonus or promotion that your superiors will grant you, and working hard/smart doesn't necessary translate into tangible financial rewards.

The bad thing about being a self employed tutor is the amount of planning that had to be done in order to maintain status quo pay. While an employed can enjoy the carry-over pay from last year, I will have to work hard to maintain status quo pay, harder in order to increase my pay, yet even harder to have bonus. What I earned last year need not necessarily be what I will earn in 2011 because basically I start over again at the beginning of the new year. It's like the doomed Greek dude, Sisyphus, who is cursed to roll a boulder up a hill but before it can reach the peak, the boulder will come rolling down hill again. The poor Greek dude will have to repeat this for all of eternity.

Hey, try getting retrenched every end of the year and get hired back at $0 pay at the beginning, then prove your worth and repeat this again and again. It's not funny and imaginably so, it's quite stressful for me towards this part of the year.

I like the caption: Realizing the impossible. Can we change it to improbable? Hmm...

But don't get me wrong, I'm not whining about the advantages and disadvantages of being self employed. Me getting worried about my pay check is the same as me clearing up the clutter to prepare for the new year. And oh my, this new year is something of a mixed bag of feelings. On one hand, I'm feeling the pressures of paying off a huge amount of my savings on my home. On the other, it's a little exciting to think about all the different renovation ideas and furniture that I can buy to do up my nest. Oh, and to live a life together with my wife and the potential to stay at home to work. This, on top of the yearly pressures of matching up 2011's salary to 2011's salary, is perhaps robbing me some nights of good restful sleep. I don't spend my waking hours thinking about it but I guess subconsciously I still do. I can't control my subconscious, can you?

Another huge part of the stress is the amount of uncertainty overshadowing the next two years. I'm really going to step over my comfort zone and move into a new era of my life intermingling with stay-at-home work. I don't like coping with new things and I need time to adjust. But suddenly a lot of things in my life are turning around, for better or for worse, and this makes me uncomfortable. It's not that I don't understand being uncomfortable is actually a good thing but as the saying goes, it's easier said than done. I wish I could just say it rather than do it. Every fiber in me is screaming at me to go back to the comfort zone and not to take up any risk but I'll still go on ahead ignoring all of them. It's like the head has a plan, the heart is willing to do it, but the body is weak. So the head starts to doubt and the heart wills the body further and the body pushes on. Don't know if I'm making sense here.

It certainly doesn't help that every person I met is thinking that I'm overpaying for my flat. Geez, even my mother in law is saying that and asking my wife if we can keep up the payments. In days when my mental strength is stronger, I can repel it off but these few days are my 'down days'. Little things like these, when taken frequently, just wears off my armor.

Hey, but I got to turn this around and make it to my advantage. It's like when I was doing my third and fourth year in university and I was striving to get a first class honours. By taking the usual buffet of required modules and getting all As, I could not hit the requirements. There just isn't enough points to hit the requirement, even with all the modules in 3rd and 4th year getting As. So I came up with a plan to take extra modules (I think I took around 4 in total). If I managed to get an A for all of the extra modules and an A for all the required modules, I'll be able to hit the points requirement for first class honours. The naysayers said I'm wasting my time and it can't be done. Impossible. Nobody wanted to do it together with me. In the end, it was a lonely road up to accomplish a goal on a plan that nobody thinks is possible. On hindsight, I could have given up and proven all the naysayers right. 

But I didn't.

And I'm going to do an 'impossible' task again. Impossible? Let's add an apostrophe and a spacing to impossible. I'm possible.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Growing bigger than your problems

I've just renewed my subscriptions for my infamous cbox. There's a holiday offer running now. Usually it's 20USD for 12 months of premium subscriptions to the cbox, but for this offer, they are giving another 12 months worth of subscription, totalling 2 yrs for 20 USD. Since it's such an important feature in my blog, and it doesn't cost much per month ($1.10 SGD/mth?), I just renewed my subscription immediately.

Looking back at my older post regarding the subscription, I was tickled by the 'deep' analysis on whether to subscribe to the service. I was even analysing the traffic flow and the amount of messages that comes in, in order to justify the cost of paying for a premium version of the cbox. The indifferent attitude that I took this time when renewing my subscriptions shows how far I've changed since. Basically, it's a matter of growing bigger than your current problems.

What do I mean by that? I've done a rather cute post on this before, titled Of Dragons and Men. I know, it doesn't say a thing what the article says, but rather it's a pun (do you call it a pun?) on Steinback's novel, Of Mice and Men. In the article, I've mentioned about T.Harv's book - Secret of the millionaire mind. The words still ring resonantly within me:

"Rich men grows bigger than their problems. Poor men tries to solve their problems".

Whatever problems you have now that are bugging you, you can try solving them, but it'll come back again to haunt you. The only way to eradicate the problem is to make the problem smaller, by growing bigger. When  you're so much bigger than the problem, it doesn't hurt you anymore than a scratch, then it's not a problem anymore. I think it's an important point to reflect upon.

No problemo?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The three bombs in life

I've heard a lot of people telling me that there are three 'bombs' in your life that can take away huge chunks of your money. These three bombs are wedding, housing and kids. I'm mentally prepared for them as I've heard them straight from the mouths of those who had been there and done that. But when two of the big bombs dropped on me this year, I was still shell shocked from the huge amount of money that I have to cough out. Let's take a close look at the three bombs:

1. Wedding

Wedding is expensive but marriage is not, haha! I mentioned some time ago that my purpose of savings is to build up my cash reserves in order to pay for a few things. I had budgeted 35k for my wedding, inclusive of everything and had managed to do so well within the budget. Inclusive of everything, my whole wedding expenses turn out to be around 26k. From what I understand, this is kind of low for a hotel wedding. Maybe it's because I don't have designer gowns, engagement rings, videographer and I've only a table size of about 12 tables.

I had fully expected to bear the cost of the 26k expenses without any returns from the banquet, which is ultra conservative for planning purposes. However, I had a pleasant surprise. Inclusive of the takings from the ang bao, I'd only spent around 13k for everything, which is very well below my intended budget. Many thanks to the well wishes from my guests! I must count my blessings and thank all the guests who had graced the occasion. I must say this money is very well spent because I had so much fun, especially during the dinner itself :)

I'll say that I handled the first bomb pretty well. It is much better than what I had anticipated :)

2) Housing

By housing, I mean the property that you're going to live in, not the one used for investment purposes. In my most recent budget to check on the situation, I'd mentioned that I needed 110k cash for HDB. It turns out that I need to put in around 70k cash for the down payment and COV plus all the miscellaneous fees for my 5 room resale flat, which is a huge relief for me. 110k represents a little more than 2 yrs of hard savings, so it's good that the amount of cash I have to put out is much lesser than that. 

I need to ensure that I have 60k to settle the renovation plus furniture for my home. The good thing is that I do not need the money now but sometime around May/June in 2011. This means that I have more time to save up the required amount and possibly to build up some cash reserves for the third bomb. I should be able to handle the 60k easily, especially with the combined help of my wife, so this shouldn't be too stressful for me. Things are looking good now :)

All in all, I think I handled the second bomb pretty okay. The high COV of 40k is quite a dampener. I don't know if the COV will continue to slide down in next year (it seems highly likely) but I don't want to miss the opportunity to get the ideal unit that I wanted. My thoughts on paying such a huge sum is this: how much can the valuation of the flat and COV drop in 1 yr? COV is more flexible and can drop a lot more, so perhaps 30k? Valuation of the flat is much more resilient and might take a few years before it can drop appreciably, say 30k again? Weighing the cost of the potential savings (let's put it at 60k) and the potential income and time lost on not securing the flat sooner, I think I'll take my chances of getting it right now.

Since the decision had been made, I'll concentrate my effort on what I can do best and what I can control - which is my job and how to get to the next higher level.

I've three of these ticking initially. Disarmed one, disarming one now and still have one more ticking...

3) Kids

This one is potentially the greatest money drainer, but one that also offers potentially the greatest reward. There's a very interesting post in valuebuddies regarding the cost of raising a child in Singapore, without including things like enrichment classes and tuition. I think in all, 700k to 800k per kid, spread over 20 years is likely to be the sum we're looking at now. I'll worry over the money when the situation becomes clearer. As for now, I think a very good amount to spend on the first kid is 15k, which includes hospitalization and confinement nanny and all the peripheral equipment needed.

Should be very do-able.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Findings about trading behaviour in Singapore

I did a survey recently by Investment trends. Okay, maybe not recently but I remembered I was lured by some prizes if I took part in it. Since I've got time to spare, I took part in the online survey. I can't even remember what prize that is but they did promise to send me a report on the trading behaviour in Singapore. I thought It'll be quite interesting to list out the summary of the findings. After each point mentioned below, the comments following the points are from me, not from the report.

1. There are 290,000 active share traders in Singapore.

That is based on their model, presumably from the sample of survey participants. Active, in their definition, is someone who had put in a minimum of one trade in the past 12 months and have the intention to carry on trading.

2. Out of 290,000 individuals, they hold at least 450,000 trading accounts.

This means that each one is holding 1.55 accounts on average. Haha, I think I'm holding 4, though I really only use 2. Why have so many accounts? It comes from bad experience in my warrants trading days. I used to rely on solely one account, but it always lagged due to the high volume of trading (it's in the final hours of the bull). Don't try it, it get give you a heart attack! After some bad experiences, I had several backup accounts just in case I need to get through my orders. It's also to overcome the buy/sell limit when I first started. No longer a problem these days though.

3. The top 3 brokerage firms are Phillip securities, UOB Kay Hian and DBS vickers, in descending order of primary market share based on the survey

Interested to know the rest? After the three, it's followed by OCBC, Lim & Tan, CIMB-GK, Kim Eng and finally Saxo bank. I wonder where is Citi bank. I thought they have a real advantage over others - they allow orders that are good up to 1 week! It's very useful for deep sea fishermen like me, haha :)

4. 77% of participants trade local blue chips, 69% trade other local shares, 22% trade IPOs, 20% trade US shares, 20% trade indices, 15% ETF.

I only list out the few interesting statistics. 22% trade IPO...I think we're not near the end of the bull yet. It must be higher before we're nearing the final hours of the bull. As can be seen, not a lot of liquidity in ETF.

5. The average age of a share trader is 40 yrs old. Mode is 35-39 (20% of participants). Second highest age range is 30-34 (19% of participants). The age range is a skewed normal distribution, with peak at 35-39, a short left tail and a tapering longer right tail.

I think with more money, you tend to become more active in trading, so it's not surprising to see the peak at the 30-45 yrs old range. More than half comes within that range. What about retirees from age 55 and above? It took up 9% of the participants.

6. There are 29,000 FX traders in Singapore, defined as having placed at least 1 trade in the past 12 months and have intention to carry on trading. FX market is characterised by high frequency trading, with half having traded 30 times or more per month and closing their position within 4 hours. Only 9% of fx traders leave their positions over a week. Two thirds of most recent trades are conducted over EUR/US, USD/JPY or GBP/USD.

I think the data are interesting to know. The three most popular currency pair are listed above. EUR/USD is the most popular one, with 40% having trade this pair. I've not done FX before and probably will not try. I've seen how fast it moves (when it moves) and because it's near 24 hours trading, almost every day of the week, you can't really go anywhere but get stuck with the screen. I'm sure people like this kind of market, it's just not my thing.

7. For FX and CFD traders, 37% use the internet to do research. 33% uses newspaper, 33% uses other newspaper, 32% uses SGX site and 31% uses forums and blogs. 42% uses analyst research/recommendations.

Radio shows, TV shows are ranked rather poorly for those doing research in fx and cfd trades. I wonder how true this is for local shares trading/investing, haha :) Of interest is the almost similar % of influence in forums/blogs as compared to other more conventional sources of information.

8. There are 10,000 CFD traders locally, defined as having placed at least 1 trade in the past 12 months and have intention to continue trading. Local shares are the most traded instrument among those who traded less than 30 times per month. For those trading more than 30 times per month, only 44% trade local shares. Average returns of frequent traders (more than 30 times/mth) is 7% over their initial deposit in the last 12 months. For less frequent traders (less than 30 times/mth), the average return is 1%.

Among the frequent traders, there are two peaks. 12% made 6-10% pa and and almost equal percentage of them lost 21-30% pa.'s like cha cha. Move ahead two steps, move back 2 steps.

9. 27% of CFD traders went short in their last trade. More than 75% of CFD traders use TA to decide which trade to make. 38% uses analyst research, 35% uses business news and 33% uses FA.

I think this is one of the main advantage of CFD - the ability to go short on counters without the borrowing and having access to leverage. More CFD traders use TA than FA - obviously? Those who are into longer term positions might want to hold actual shares rather than using CFD. The most interesting thing is that there are those who use instinct/gut feeling, and that makes up 18% of the participants. Haha, instinct and gut feel are for those who have a substantial amount of experience doing this - for all others, they have no right to gut feel. Especially newbies.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thoughts after my Batam trip

** "BIAS" is a special feature in my blog where I get to say whatever I want with scant regards for your feelings. I'm not politically correct in this feature, so go ahead, judge me."

I just went to Batam and returned today. Making the trip made me realise how fortunate we are in Singapore. You know, as a typical Singaporean, I have my own share of complaining and whining. Eventually, it's only when you're out of home that you'll find how comfortable your home is. Do realise that I'm not making a comparison between the two countries, it's not fair. It's just that I realised that being too long in a nice place makes you forget that it's nice and you'll take it for granted. It's like eating your favourite wanton noodles everyday. You like it in the first week, but after eating it for 1 month, will you still feel that it's good? That's why it's important to leave home to find home again.

Some of the things I took for granted in Singapore:

1. There are pavements for pedestrians to walk safely. This is like a given. It makes walking along the road very safe.

2. Clean and green urban environment. I think one of the first thing that I miss when I'm overseas are the nice planted trees and flowers along the roadside. The drains are also flowing freely and are covered up so that it doesn't smell at all. The amount of dustbins in Singapore are just staggering...perhaps you'll see a rubbish bin every 200m or so? Amazingly clean and green in Singapore.

3. Efficiency. Somehow, I feel that in Batam, things are of a slower and more relaxing pace. I may whine and complain about how slow Singapore's bureaucracy can be, but I believe things are of a different magnitude altogether in other countries. I must learn to appreciate how fast people are already serving us in Singapore, rather than how slow they are doing so. I'm not saying in Batam, people there are slower. They are just more leisurely, which is a refreshing change of pace. I actually go there to have a change of pace.

That's the hotel I'm staying this time round - ihotel. Very value for money.

Having a different tempo is exactly my kind of a holiday. I'm way past cheonging with the guides and waking up early to visit point A and point B and follow the list to point Z. Take a picture of a famous attraction to say that I've been there. It feels too much like work. I want to feel totally irresponsible and not having to have anything on my to-do list. I want to be disorganized and messy and let someone else take care of me.  I want to wake up each morning without setting an alarm and to sleep during the day whenever I am tired and have a drink towards the evening to wash down a good meal with good company. That's my kind of holiday.

Not too much to ask for after I've slogged hard and saved hard for the months that lead up to this month.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Interview with LP part II

This is continued from the Part I posted earlier. The interview comes because a fellow blogger wanted to publish a book detailing the real life examples of people who had combined their passions and hobbies and live a life that is both fun and rewarding financially. Not so sure why I'm in though.


Share with me some of the feelings you have while giving tuition? Like were you ever frustrated, felt very Sian? Where there periods of triumph etc?

Most of the feelings are felt in the earlier days because you tend to associate their triumphs and failures as personally as your own. I realized that there are so many students I had each year and I can't possibly handle all the emotional roller-coaster rides that comes with the job, so I'm more zen like these days. Zen doesn't mean that you don't care, it just means that you realized you are only human and can only do so much.

I think most of the feelings associated with tutoring can be classified under frustration. Either the student, after the umpteen times you've repeated yourself, still doesn't seem to grasp it, or that the student forgot whatever you've said in the last lesson. Sometimes after a week of pent up frustration, I forgot what I was there for and started showing signs of anger and venomous words of sarcasm will spring out from my mouth. As soon as I realized that the negative emotional state I was in, I'll try my best to rein it in. I never leave a lesson feeling bitter because there's no point. I guess there's a lot of emotional labor involved, as for all jobs that deal with humans.

But for every few cases where you feel extreme frustration, there are 1 or 2 cases that more than make it up for your effort. There's a sense of satisfaction in a job well done, and you know you've made a difference to a person's life in a milestone examination. The students and their parents will be very grateful and give personal thanks. I remembered a particular parent who texted me that it is easy to find a tutor but not easy to find a good tutor. This little moments that shows you've contribute positively to a person will more than make up for the frustrating ones.

Being a tutor is hardwork, especially during the peak examination season. Imagine saying the same thing for the hundredth time for that week and you've worked for 6 straight hours in a go with only 15 mins lunch break, and you still have another 4 more hours to go you finish work so that you can have a later dinner at 1030pm? This kind of hectic schedule can carry on for weeks before ending. It's not about the money anymore - you just can't say no to someone who needed your help and have exams creeping so close to them. I know I don't have the heart to refuse them.

Have you encountered difficult parents or students? Specially, why were they difficult and what lessons did you learn from these situations?

I think difficult students and parents are part of the job - it's just statistics that sooner or later, you'll meet one of them. I'll try to restrict it to just one such case per year. I'll usually cut my losses, meaning that I'll drop that student off since we have disagreements on how best to help the student.

Some parents have very strong ideas on what and how to teach their child. They will sit in with me during the lessons and tell me that in today's lesson, I'll have to teach the child this and that. I don't know why they needed my help since they do not trust me in teaching the way I do it. There are others who wanted me to write a report after each lesson to summarize what I've done for the kid and to explain if their child is not doing as well as they should even after tutoring. I think they wanted a sort of guarantee for the money they had 'invested' that I cannot and refuse to give. Since I'm not taking the examinations myself, I can only guarantee that I would do whatever I can to help the child but I cannot guarantee results. If they cannot agree on this, then they would have to find another tutor that can give them what they want.

There is one particular difficult student that I remembered. He is a pathological liar and is totally disinterested in helping himself in his studies. He already had several tutors before me but all of them had dropped him because of the troubles he made during lesson time. How do you motivate someone who do not want to help himself? I don't have a consistently good answer to that question. Ironically, I think I became much more zen after meeting this particular student because I realized that there's only so much you can do to bring the horse to the river. If the horse does not wish to drink it, there's nothing you can do about it.

What I learnt is that there must be communication with the parents as to the kind of expectations they want from the tuition and what I can do to help. From what I observed, a lot of difficult parents and students can be reduced by charging a higher fee. Strange as it may sound, I found that by charging a premium fee, you can reduce most of the unmotivated students and difficult parents. I have many reasons but I would leave it to the readers to think why this might be so.

What are some ways to market yourself as a creditable super tutor?

Nothing works better than word of mouth. I've started this career by using tuition agencies but I've had bad experiences with them and after the first year, I no longer use their services. A huge number of my students come from referrals from existing students or their parents. I guess there are many tutors in the market, so only through the referrals of someone who had been under a particular tutor would you know if he/she is good at teaching. I think the results (after the tuition) speak for itself, so I don't have to do much to market myself as a 'incredible' tutor.

I've placed ads in the internet in my first year and it had been generating enquiries for a few years until now, even though I didn't bother about it for many years. The one by Nextlevel tutor network is the most successful ad referrals for me and arguably one of the best decisions I've made when I started on this career.

What are some essential tools or skills or logistics or capital to get start? (If applicable)

Being a tutor has very small start up cost, unless you're starting a tuition centre with classroom facilities. In terms of financial capital, I'll say it's negligible if you're starting out small. I think personality helps a lot. I'll be very good if you keep an open mind, have patience and love interacting with young people.

Can you share with me one very interesting experience as a tutor? Something shocking, funny, etc.

I had a student once who was always very tired and sleepy when I first started tutoring him when he was in secondary 3. Let's just call him M, who was from St. Patrick. I guess after a whole day of school and then after that, the hot sun and the parades (he joined St. John's uniformed group), he is often very sleepy during my lesson. Usually when I see M's eye lids are drooping, I'll ask him to wash his face or eat something to keep awake. There was this time when he was sitting diagonally to me and he was writing some things for the work that I've assigned him. His head was bent down, so I cannot really see his face but I can see his hands writing away. He was scribbling away but after a while, he stopped. He must be deep in thoughts, so I thought. But after a sufficient long time, there's still no movement. I put my head nearer to the table so that I can peep on his face and found that he's actually asleep! This is not the most incredible thing yet. I didn't wake him up, but after some time, the hand starts scribbling away again as if nothing had happened. I think he must have fallen asleep while writing without him knowing at all!

He had a very happy ending though. He got a very good score for O'levels and went to polytechnic to do the course that he had always wanted.

Are there anymore advice you would like to give to someone who wants to start out just like yourself?

Don't do this for the money, the pain and frustration is not worth it. You can try it out first, taking a few assignments while being employed and see if you like what you're doing before deciding to switch to full time tutoring. You've got to handle all the paper trails a self-employed got to handle that a HR department can do easily for an employee. There's no year end bonus, no paid leave, no MC, no company dinner, no colleagues, no boss staring down at you, no office politics, no promotion, no demotion, no retrenchment, unstable pay, unlimited pay.... make sure you know what you're getting into. But if you like what this sounds, it's the best job that anybody can ever ask for. I don't even call it a job, it's a hobby.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Interview with LP part I

A fellow blogger wanted to do a new book and I was invited to be one of the diverse people interviewed for the book. I thought it'll be a good read for those who follows my blog to know more about me. The whole interview is pretty long, so I'll split up into two installments. Here goes:


Specifically what subjects do you teach?

I started off teaching secondary school subjects like e.maths, a.maths and science (physics and chemistry). That's because I'm much more confident of the subject content in secondary school than other levels, so it's easier for me to pick it up. However, I'm always out to gain new experience in teaching new subjects and new contents, so I taught primary school science for a few years just to get a feel of it. Then, because of my student's request, I started doing A'lvl chemistry and maths. On and off, there'll be request from my students who needed help in university and polytechnic modules, so I'll pick it up and teach too. I've done business statistics at university level and electronic engineering and engineering maths at diploma level too. The non-academic 'subjects' I've taught included elementary guitar whom I've taught to a select few students just for the fun of it and sort of a consultancy work for hands-on projects at different levels. Lastly, I've even shared whatever knowledge of technical analysis in the financial field to a few willing audience for free, just so that they can start learning on their own.

In your opinion what are the key factors that differentiate a super tutor from a regular one?

I think the term super tutor comes after our local newspaper started naming a few tutors who earn a very high five figure sum per month, so to them, super tutors are those who earn super income. In my opinion, there's one really important factor that differentiates a super tutor from the crowd - passion. You've got to love what you're doing to continually add value. You not only got to impart knowledge, you've got to breath life into the textbooks. Anybody can read from the textbooks but to make the words come alive as you teach, well, not everyone can do that. The passion level of students will at most be as high as your own, so if you do not exude an aura that learning is fun, then it will not be fun. As I learn more about this job, I also realized that building rapport with students is also a hallmark of super tutors. I think this comes from not treating students as students but as someone who has as much to teach you as you have to teach them - a sort of mutual respect not based on authority but as equals. I feel that only when the students are comfortable with you, then there will be a conducive environment to begin real learning.

Are there special ways or methods that super tutors use, to help students with their learning? Do share with me in detail.

There isn't any particular way that works for all students, as all of them learn in their diverse ways. I think before you start teaching anything, it's a good idea to find out more about the student. I'll usually start by asking some very general background information about them and find out what they like and dislike. These are important information because if you cater your examples to things that they like or dislike, the intensity of the emotions can help them to remember the examples much longer and thus the concepts that the examples are supposed to illustrate can easily be grasped. Talking about things that students like can also serve as a useful distraction when the attention span starts to dwindle. As tutors, you can't expect the students to come into your lesson feeling all hyped up and motivated to learn. That's the ideal situation but it almost never happens in reality. To make them learn better, you just have to put them in a state when they are most alert so that you can teach them before they start to lose their energy and attention, and you'll have to distract them and rev them up before starting the whole cycle again. It'll be extremely helpful if you can read body language and have interesting conversation topics that can connect with the students.

Where did you get this idea of being a tutor from?

After my graduation from civil engineering in National University of Singapore (NUS), I had applied for an accelerated masters to phD programme offered to me. I was accepted but I rejected it subsequently because I had wanted to apply for an overseas phD so that I can teach back in NUS (somehow NUS does not allow local phD holders to teach back in NUS again). My girlfriend was taking her masters in NUS too, so I wanted to wait for a year before applying together for overseas study. I started taking private tuition as a way to save up for the expenses needed for the trip in the event that I cannot get any scholarship there. However, as I get more into the tutoring, I realized that I never really like engineering at all and my interest in teaching is kindled. I never looked back again since I started this 7-8 years ago.

Where did you learn to become a super tutor? Who did you learn from? Share with me some learning sources which you think it’s helpful for others to follow your footsteps.

It was kind of difficult for me because I never had any tuition in my schooling years at all, so I had no idea what a typical tutor is supposed to do. Most of what I learnt comes from the examples and methods that my teachers had taught me in school and how I actually learn from them. I adapted some of these into my own method and found out through trial and error what works and what don't. I've no mentors who guided me when I first started nor any particular teachers that are my role models, so I pretty much picked up my skills on the job. However, along the way, I met some other fellow tutors and we shared our experiences with each other. Hui Huang is most instrumental in sharing her ideas on teaching with me and I had picked up a few things from her. I remembered I was reading voraciously on any books that deal with education in my early days into this career, and that doesn't include the textbooks for the content. I guess anybody can pick it up if they really find tutoring interesting enough.

To be continued in part ii....

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Seeing value in an otherwise overpriced resale flat

I think for every Singaporean, the biggest purchase for him/her would be property. As I'm about to start getting mine, I just realize just how big that commitment can be. I'm getting a resale flat in a matured estate, so the valuation of the flat itself is 568k. Of course there'll be a COV, and that is 40k on top of the valuation of the flat. 600+k for a roof above my head and a debt of 30 yrs, with monthly installment of 2k+ per month - that is just how big that purchase would be.

I've been working for 7-8 yrs and had only started saving up seriously for the past 2 year. It's not like I've been idling around. But imagine that my entire cash is wiped out after this and I'll have to start from scratch again. The road ahead would be tougher, because I can imagine it'll be harder to save the same amount as I always do if I had earned the same amount after purchasing the flat. If I'm employed, I think I'll start getting cold feet because if I lose my job, then it'll be hell trying to pay off the monthly installments. I don't know, is this how other Singaporeans feel too? Being indebted for a long period of time and being fearful of being retrenched? At the current rate that the prices of HDB goes, I think it'll be more prevalent. I'm just waiting to hear news of the first HDB going past the 1 million mark.

I think whining about the high property price is one thing, eventually one still have to make it work out fine in the end, in whatever ways you can. There are  3 things that I promise myself that I would do once I get the flat and do it up nicely:

1. Earn a lot more than my current income. I guess I would never be able to reduce my expenses much since there's really nothing much else to cut without feeling shortchanged for the hardwork I put in. Going forward, earning more is the best choice for me. It can hit both my savings target and have the life that I wanted.

2. Save a lot more. 50k/yr? Probably that would have to be raised to 100k/yr eventually. How can that be done? It's crazy but that's what dreams are for! I have a plan, but that would take some time to make it work. Will it work? I guess I won't know until I try it out.

3. Enjoy my home. I love to host gatherings but unfortunately, I do not have a place of my own to host it. I think there's no point getting a great property without sharing it with your buddies/family. Great property + Excellent company = Fantastic home. I intend to have fabulous parties that people will look forward to every year.

My house isn't this, but it looks something like this, haha

The funny thing about spending big amount is that suddenly, you get another perspective in life. After spending 40k on the COV, what's another 6k for the commission? After spending 600k on the flat, what's another 60k for the renovation? Is that a dangerous thought to have? I don't think it is for me, because I tend to keep my wallets closed most of the time. Loosening up is going to be good for me. The epiphany is that cash sitting in the bank is not going to bring anyone any happiness at all, until you spend it. When you spend the money, you are exchanging the value of the cash for something of a higher or equal value (I'm treating the word 'value' loosely, it can mean both intrinsic and extrinsic value). I don't think anyone would part of his cash for something he thinks is of lower value. So, by exchanging my cash for the flat, I'll end up with something of higher value to me.

Just what is that value? Can I quantify it?

Let me try. Firstly, personal space and a home to call my own. Secondly, an investment to propel my business way beyond what I am doing now. Thirdly, as my flat is very close to my sibling and parents (it's just right below them), the permutations for family bonding is endless. Now, is it worth all my life's savings to get it?

A definite and resounding YES.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Death by shark bite or piranha bites?

** "BIAS" is a special feature in my blog where I get to say whatever I want with scant regards for your feelings. I'm not politically correct in this feature, so go ahead, judge me."

Piranha attack in swarms. Each bite is small and if there's really only one piranha, it's not going to be fatal. But as nature goes, piranha are deadly when they attack in a massive group, each taking a small bite. On the other hand, shark bites are likely to be one massive chunk of flesh bitten off your body. Very deadly even if there's just one shark.

This concept can be applied variously and here are some examples:

1. In trading, multiple piranha bites is when you have a strict stop loss discipline. Let's say you will stop loss whenever the stock goes against your direction by 6%. In this way, you keep the losses of individual trades very small and manageable. However, if you've made 20 trades in that month and all of them requires you to cut loss at 6%, the small manageable losses of each individual trade will add up to bleed you to death. Hence,  you 'die' by piranha bites.

There are those who do not have strict stop loss discipline too. They might lose massively on one single trade, maybe 60% losses before the pain is too much and they cut loss. After that, they either refine their technique or run away swearing never to touch this counter again. Thus, you 'die' by shark bite.

Which do you belong to? I think I'm more of the latter, where I have massive losses on a few counters, rather than small losses on many counters.

2. In spending, I feel that girls generally buy many cheap items that chalk up their expenses monthly, whereas guys spend one or two expensive items in one shot. So while the females tend to die by piranha bites, the males tend to die by shark bites. I think knowing how your spending pattern work is important so that you can recognise when you're overspending.

The typical excuse for females for buying yet another item that they don't need is, "But it doesn't cost much and I can afford it". Yes, one item is cheap but many cheap items can be quite expensive. For guys, the typical excuse is, "I don't buy a lot of items, and this is just one off". Yes, but one expensive items can be equivalent to many cheap items too.

For me, I tend to spend in a few expensive items rather than many cheap items. My kindle costs like $600 bucks but my wife's many potions just cost $15-20 bucks each, even though I don't buy a kindle every week and she buys one of these potions almost every other outing, hee hee :)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Models of thinking Part II

In my last post, I shared about the different models of thinking that transcends the content of the discipline that we're studying. It is this way of perceiving the world, this different lens that gave you a different view of the world that stays with you long after the content had fled. In this post, I'm going to share with you how mathematics and science form the dominant way in which I perceive the world.


1. Discipline and perseverance - What has mathematics got to do with discipline and perseverance? When doing maths, I often try a particular problem multiple times just so that I can get the answer. Most of the 'weaker' students often give up after the very first attempt. Those who are even more mentally weak will give up after looking at the length of the problem (they do not even go into the first step of reading through the problem and they gave up already). I think what is most important about doing maths is that you learn how to steel yourself and just have the mentality that you will try and try until you get the answers. These days when I teach maths, I will treat some of the harder questions as an ice-cream. How do you lick an ice-cream cone? You lick one side, you turn and you lick another side. For me, I'll try one solution to see if it works, and try another solution to see if it's more efficient.

2. Recognize familiar patterns in unfamiliar situations - Maths problems are a varied sort. There are multiple ways of asking the same concept. However, if you recognize the different types of problems that they can ever ask, and learn how to solve all these different types, no matter how varied the problem is, it can still be broken down into patterns that you recognize and thus able to solve. I think this is the hallmark of creativity. Essentially creativity involves putting familiar ideas into unfamiliar situations. That is always going to be useful in real life, after you've long forgotten how to differentiate polynomials and integrate exponentials.

3. Working within the boundary of established rules - Maths always involve established rules. There are rules in algebra and indices, rules in trigonometry and calculus. You can do anything you want as long as the established rules are applied in the right conditions. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because that's what our society needs. Good law-abiding, obedient citizens that follows whoever establish the rules. Bad because you don't tend to question the rules after they had been established. It seems that point 2 and point 3 are anti-thesis of each other, but not really. Creativity without boundaries (any sort of boundary like legal, moral, ethical, financial etc) will lead to disaster. It is important to be creative within a domain and not give creativity a free rein where anything goes.


1. Trial and error - You know the usual cycle of hypothesis, experimental design, execution of experiment, analysis etc to test the scientific hypothesis. I think that's one of the key takeaways of science for me. It's not that I'm going to conduct any experiments in the conventional sense of the word, but I think using this scientific way of trial and error works very well in a lot of situations.

For example, when solving computer bugs. Your computer wouldn't start. You think about all the possible cases on the situations leading to this technical glitch. Perhaps you just installed a new software and it's incompatible. So you test the hypothesis. You un-install the software and you try again. If it doesn't work you try another scenario. If it works, you try installing it again to see if it'll lead you to the same situation. If it does, then it's quite sure that it's the software.

This works well in all situations where the response will correspond to an action. It doesn't work perfectly in social experiments though. For example, you just met a new guy. You talk him about your jokes. He laughs heartily and you conclude that your joke is funny (the correct conclusion is that he likes your joke). You meet the same person some time later and tell the same joke but it falls flat. What I'm trying to say in so many words is that in social occasions, it's fuzzy. Things can not so clear cut and if you apply the scientific theory strictly, you might be very wrong.

2. Faith and trust determines, not facts - The world world works like that, so don't  be shocked. For example, why are leaves green? The answer is that the leaves absorb all the 7 colours of white light except green, hence the green part of white light reflect off the leaves and it appears green to us. Sounds very logical and correct, until you ask why does it only reflect green and not other colours. Or why if it reflects green light then it'll appear green to us. Or how do you know if your 'green' is what my 'green' is, because for all I know, I might be seeing your 'blue' and call it green.

Understanding that there is a point after many 'whys' had been asked and it still doesn't answer much of anything is important. First of all you will begin to realise that facts are not that important. Secondly, you'll realise that the ultimate question is whether you believe or you trust it. There is a point where you have to take a leap of faith and all the facts are just so that you can leap off that faith.

You can discuss at length about the fundamentals of the company but where do you draw the data from? If you believe that that data is correct, then you will work out the details and draw your conclusions. If you think the data might be wrong, then it doesn't matter. I'm saying that if you ask enough whys, there will be a point where you can't answer anymore and you just have to take it as a 'law of nature' or 'that's the way things are' or 'that's a good person you're talking about', which are essentially statement based on faith.

If you understand this, then cut to the chase and get to the problem. If you're a buyer, ask yourself if you believe in this person, if you do, the battle is nearly over.  If you're the seller, ask yourself if you believe in this person too. Basically, just work on relationship and the facts will fill up by itself so that you will make a decision.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Models of thinking Part I

I think it's a good thing to be multi-disciplinary. Besides adding flavour to your life, you can actually engage in meaningful discussions with many diverse people. I think the dabbling in a bit of this and that can expose you to different models of thinking. Models of thinking is the way you perceive things when doing certain disciplines, like psychology, science, maths, accountings etc. A lot of students ask me why they have to learn trigonometry and integration and differentiation, and that in real life you won't want to find the height of a tree or the rate of change of this and the area under a curve right? My reply is always the same. Most of the contents you learn in school are not important in real life. However, there are a lot of things that you learn while learning the contents that helps you tremendously in real life.

What are these 'shadow curriculum' that helps me in my daily life? Let me start by talking a bit more on engineering.

Since I'm a graduate from civil engineering, there's only one thing I remembered after all the years of not doing engineering related work. It's called factor of safety. For example, if a bridge is designed to hold a weight of 500N/m², you have to include a factor of safety into your working design, say 1.3. The main idea here is to overdesign the bridge just in case it is not used within the normal capabilities that the bridge is designed for. In other words, the bridge would be built to hold 650 N/m² even though the design capacity is 500 N/m².

Does this sound familiar? Benjamin Graham, father of value investing, actually make use of this idea in this margin of safety concept. Basically, the value investing means that you buy lower than the valuation of a company, thus providing a buffer zone to protect your capital against market forces.

It's important to know the cost of providing such a margin of safety though. In building bridges, if you overdesign too much, it will add extra cost to your project. So safety in construction comes at the cost of overpaying for something that might not even be utilised. In investing, if you provide too much margin of safety, you might miss the opportunity to buy into it. Thus safety in investing comes at the cost of missed opportunities. Engineering is not just all science, the art of deciding when to do what is necessary often requires much wisdom and experience.

As an engineer graduate, I tend to include in a safety factor in my daily life too. This happens pretty subconsciously and I don't really have to spend a lot of time thinking it through. I guess 4 years of training as an engineer really brainwashed me. Here's some examples on how I apply this in my daily life:

1. When I'm having an appointment that I can't afford to be late, I will overestimate the time taken to travel and the waiting time for the transportation to come. On top of that, I will add in an extra 10-15 mins to include obstacles that might just come along to trip me up. I do this especially for my daily trips to student's home. My time for travelling is usually very tight and if I cannot reach place A on time, then my schedule downstream will be messed up too.

2. For budgeting purpose, I tend to overestimate the expenses and underestimate my ability to save for them. In this way, in the event that it really happens I won't be caught off guard and unable to meet the commitments. In my wedding budget, I set aside 30k for everything, but in reality I really just have to fork out 25k and below for it. The thing is that I'll rather have a surprise on the upside than a shock on the downside. Therefore, the initial part of any tasks that I take will be stressful for me but as the project starts, it'll become gradually less and less stressful.

Confidence will radiate outwards and infect people around you. Same thing goes for lack of confidence.

The other thing about how engineering helps me in real life is the confidence that I can handle complicated mathematical equations with ease. In my course of work, I had to deal with pages of incomprehensible symbols. I remembered that I had a module called fluid mechanics (I really hate this) and the lecture notes are just pages upon pages of symbols that I had to take 1 hour to fully comprehend each page. But hey, after going through this, reading words takes on a different meaning for me. Thus, the confidence of being able to handle complicated stuff will always be in me although the contents of the modules had already fled a long time ago. In my line of work, I ever had to learn business statistics (even though I had never done such things before) and electronics engineering (with all the logic gates, capacitors and even complex number plus phasor diagrams thrown in) in diploma and university level so that I can teach my students who are struggling. How can I do that? It simply comes from the confidence that given sufficient time, ample examples and a killer's attitude, no matter how complicated a subject matter is, it can be done.

The final thing that the engineering discipline helped me is the fact that a lot of things can be calculated or estimated. The idea that things can be quantified is both a blessing and a curse. If you say you save a lot, I'll ask how much? If you say you exercise a lot, I'll ask how many calories did you burn? If you say you eat a lot of vegetables per day, I'll ask how many grams or how many cups does it fill? In the past, I see it more of a blessing but as I older, I find it more of a curse. I find that this can lead to over reliance on the illusion of safety and certainty that quantitative values give. It's simply boils down to an attitude that is something like this - if you see numbers, you can trust it but if you don't, you can't trust it. I think this can lead to a black or white kind of worldview, where there's no gray in between. This is both dangerous and unrealistic in reality.

I'll talk more about other disciplines and how it creates a mental model of thought for me in subsequent post.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Month end accounting

I had just finished my month end accounting. Every end of the month for the past 2-3 yrs, I had been tallying up numbers to fill in 4 excel spreadsheets. The first is my stock holdings, the second my balance sheet, the third my income statement and the last my cash flow. I started doing that when I wanted to know exactly how much I had in order to plan ahead. Personally, I find it hard to plan ahead when I do not know how much resources I had in the first place, so the first step before even my savings plan is to take stock of what I had.

So, what's the use of each of the spreadsheet that I update it so religiously every month?

1. Stock holdings - This spreadsheet records all my transactions since I started dabbling in the stock market. I used to update it daily but recently, I've been getting lazier. Seriously, I also don't think there's any point in updating it daily as it serves no purpose other than to inflate or deflate your ego. I used this for planning purpose too, like when I want to know how much I would make (inclusive of brokerage) by selling XYZ at this price.

2. Balance sheet - This records all my bank accounts, cpf, cash under my bed, MMF, cash holdings held in brokerage account, insurance surrender value and CPF. Currently I don't have any debts, so my assets will be my networth. Soon there'll be one more column added to include debts from housing and what other liabilities that comes with more assets. I track my net worth in a chart but I did not set a goal for it, so it's purely for tracking purpose. I find it useful to know how much liquid / illiquid assets I have, again for planning purpose.

3. Income statement - My job necessarily means that my work done is different from the cash that I have in my pocket. It could be up to a month before I get paid for the work that I do, hence it's important to have a separate statement for the amount of work done in each month and another one for the amount of cash received for each month. Currently, I'm giving credit (usually 4 weeks) so my cashflow is delayed by roughly a month. I think in the near future, the whole situation will be reversed as I plan to collect fees ahead of actual work done. I've been tracking this since I started working 7 yrs ago, so I know how my income varies over the month. It's important for a self employed like me to track such things zealously, otherwise I can really be in a fix because of cash flow problems.

4. Cash flow - This is tied up with my expenditure and is the only spreadsheet that I update it daily. What I would do is that I would key in every transactions made daily into my handphone, and I would transfer it every week to my spreadsheet. At the end of the month, I would have a breakdown of the things and the amount spent. Every drop of cash that I received would also be keyed in as it comes along, so that by comparing my cash inflow against my cash outflow, I know how much I had saved for the month. This sheet is important because it lets me know how much I can save in different months. Unlike employees with a fixed paycheck at a fixed date (which makes saving a fixed sum a matter of mechanical discipline), I would have to adjust the amount of savings I can save in any particular month by considering how much I can possibly earn in that month. All is fluid and all is flux.

Very recently, I started to include any 'appendix' attached to my cashflow spreadhseet. This is named 'credit card expenditure'. As I started to have more than 1 card, expenditure charged to my credit card gets more messy. I seriously do not know how people can have more than 10 cards, unless they do not track and pay as the bills come along. It should be a good habit to track down the usage of each card so that you can check the bills in case of misuse (either personally or by unauthorized usage) of the cards itself.

As I wrapped up the current month end accounting, I had a epiphany. It seems like the very well to do and the not very well to do are the people who do not track their money so closely. It would make sense because the rich have too much to take stock so it's a waste of time to track down to the cents (or even the thousands). As for the poor, there's nothing much to begin with so it's demoralizing to count what you have. That leaves the group that wishes to climb up further and do not want to fall down lower. I should belong to this group, in conclusion.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

STI chart analysis

Let's do some analysis on the charts for STI for practice. As usual, I'll look at both time frames - the weekly and the daily. Weekly should play a more important role as compared to daily. With the analogy of a man walking his dog, the weekly will be the direction that the man is heading to, while the daily is the movement that the dog is moving with reference to the man. Sometimes the dog will dash forward to inspect some interesting things and the man will pull on the leash to rein it back, other times it will linger on behind the man and he will have to pull the leash to hurry it forward. However the dog moves, it is moving generally in the direction that the man is moving.


The weekly chart for STI shows a rather bleak picture. I identified 2 support lines, one at around 3100, the other at 3000 (I only give to 2 significant figures), which also coincides with the fibo retracement lines of 50% and 23.6% respectively. I think 3100 is strong because it's sitting on the value zone. Historically, the ema 22w had been a strong moving support line for STI, so it's good to see if STI breaks below that moving support. MACD lines looks bleak with an impending cross-over on the downside, but it could mean nothing. If this breaks, another strong support line will be at 3000. Since it's the resistance at the previous 2 peaks, it should be a rather strong support. That better don't break, if not we going to hurdle down towards sub 3000 levels. Not pretty at all.


Daily chart shows pretty much the same picture as the weekly - bleak. There's a bearish pattern called head and shoulders that can be seen, with the neckline at 3114 level. If the pattern works out, the price objective of the heads and shoulders pattern could go around 2900. The moving average lines should now act as the moving resistance line that prevents the price from going above it, until the trend is broken that is. Is this a good time to enter? I think not. Most BB should have take break for the rest of the year already, so volume should be dwindling towards the end of the year. I think at best the market should be going sideways, at worst a downright gentle slide down.


Do nothing when there's nothing to do. I'll look out for signs of reversal (break trendline + divergence) before doing any trades. As for keeps, I'll wait for a suitable price based on individual charts to decide if I want to enter more on whatever I'm holding. Suitable price is based on both charts and the yield at buy price.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lessons to learn from Warcraft III

Recently I started re-playing war craft III. I had played that game since I was in university, so it had been around for quite a long time already. For those who had been living underground for the past 10 years, war craft III is a real time strategy game (RTS for short), meaning that you get your minions to gather resources, while building up a force to deal with the mission objectives. There are several mission to form a campaign and the campaign will follow certain story lines.

I found that I'm actually better at playing this game than in the past. Perhaps maturity and years of multi-tasking in the routines of life itself had trained me well. As such, I think this game is quite educational because beyond the sheer fun of the game itself, the skills needed to excel in the game can also be applied to life in general.

This is what I learnt from the game:

1. Multi-task. Can't really get through life without multi-tasking these days. It'll be quite a luxury if you can work through things sequentially, but unfortunately, there's just too much things that need your attention simultaneously. As such, you have to handle them in parallel, rather than in series (I'm using jargons found in electrical circuit arrangement). What the game really forces you to do is to learn how to handle multiple tasks all at the same time, which is truly educational.

2. Prioritize. Multi-tasking can only take up so far because there's a physical limit to how much a human can do things all at the same time. Hence, when there's just too many things to handle, you must be able to prioritize and do the things that are most urgent and most important first. Urgent tasks imply that there is a time constraint to complete the task, beyond which there is no point in doing it anymore or is simply too late. Important tasks are those that help you accomplish your goals or your mission. Therefore, important AND urgent task are to be the top priority. Personally, I'll do urgent tasks first before doing the important tasks, so I tend to classify things to do according to this system. In the game, while advancing towards your mission objectives (important), you should also focus on immediate (urgent) things that can seriously impact your well being.

My favorite faction: The Scourge. I like them because they are extremely efficient and are not 'wasteful'

3. Leverage. In the game, there are scenarios where you are up against a bigger enemy force and before you can build up a sizable force to counter attack, they would have trampled you several times. In such cases, the trick is to look for the correct terrain, the chokepoints where the enemy forces are coming. With a few guard towers and a much smaller defensive force, the right terrain can force the enemy into such a position that their bigger size is of no use to them at all. Thus, a smaller force can repel a bigger force. It's like the legendary last stand by the 300 odd Spartans against the much bigger Persian forces at the Battle of Thermopylae. With the right leverage, a smaller amount of force can also be multiplied to accomplish a bigger amount of work.

4. Use the right solution for the right problem. In the game, there are several types of enemy forces - some are aerial, some are land, some are building destroyers, some are spellcasters etc. To build a fighting force that can repel/attack all the different kinds of possible enemy forces, you need to build an army that can cater to aerial attacks, good at fighting land enemy forces and good at destroying buildings etc. The key is to prepare yourself for the different possibilities that life throws at you from time to time. The interesting thing is that with a very large force, any person can defeat any army. However, there are always time and resource constrains to make it very difficult to get a very large force. As such, the right kind of force can do wonders if you do not have a huge force. The lesson here is to apply the right solution for the right problem instead of using just brute force all the time. This way, you'll maximize the results while minimizing the effort.

There are often more than one way to do the same thing.

 So there you go. Playing games isn't as bad as people think it is - wasting money and wasting time, anti-social, ah beng ah seng hideout etc. Of course, too much of any thing is bad, so moderation is the key. I've seen students who are so addicted to world of warcraft (WOW) that they spend almost the entire night playing it, thus becoming listless and sleepy during the day in class. These kind of students will require cold turkey treatment to get rid of their gaming addiction. But to blame computer games for this is to treat anyone with a gun as a murderer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Changes in HK trading hours

I read with amusement the news that HK stock exchange is lengthening its hours from the usual 10 am (singapore time) to 12 noon, then 230pm to 4pm, to the final 930am to 12, then 1pm to 4pm. The point of doing this is to ensure the HKSE remains competitive and have more turnover. I think the stock broker must have been cursing and swearing because their working hours changes from the current 3.5 hrs to the final 5.5 hrs. They should have come to SGX because the hours here are from 9am to 1230pm, then 2pm to 5pm, a total of 6.5hrs!

They mentioned that the shorter lunch hour will reduce volatility and make the transition from morning session to afternoon session smoother. Okay, perhaps so. But as far as I can tell, the afternoon session in HK is more affected by how the european market opens.

I think the HK brokers will have to do this because of the shortened lunch break

Anyway, since I do the HK market too, it's important to keep up to date with the changes in the HK trading hours. They are going to do it in stages, to ease the pain I suppose. Here's the summary:

Current: 10am to 1230pm, 230pm to 4pm
7th March 2011 to 31 December 2011: 930am to 12pm, 130pm to 4pm
1st Jan 2012 onwards: 930am to 12pm, 1pm to 4pm

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Singpost chart

For self reference. Next dividend on Feb. 1.14 - 1.16, 1.20, >5.4


Price touching value zone. Long term FI divergence.


Macd divergence, macd lines divergence, downtrend broken & retested

Rights exercise for ICBC bank

ICBC, a china bank listed in HK (, is going to have a rights issue. The reason for the rights issue is to meet the new basel III requirement for banks. ICBC is already well capitalised, so they do not require much of a capital injection. Hence, the rights of the H shares (that is, HK listed one) is on the basis of 0.45 shares at HK$3.49 for every 10 existing H shares held before XR.

The announcement is made here.

Having rights for HK listed companies is a little different from those in Singapore. I had experienced it before for my HSBC counter. Basically the shares are held in a custodian account held by whichever broker you had bought the H shares from. Hence, they will do the necessary paper work for you (don't be happy, you have to pay them for such things known as company action). They will send you a letter to ask you to tick your choice and you'll have to send it back, together with the payment for the rights.

I've no intention of subscribing to the rights at all, hence I've already disposed of ICBC long before this announcement. Last close was at 6.04. Based on this price, the price after the rights should go down to 5.93. ( {6.04*10 + 0.45*3.49}/10.45 ) It had been dropping after China announced more controls to raise the capital adequacy ratio of the state bank (which ICBC proudly belongs to) and hinting of more controls over its fight on inflation and the bubbling property market.

It'll be interesting to see how it reacts after the rights issue, by mid December this year.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kindle dx review

Someone asked me to show some pictures of the kindle, and how it rendered pdf files. Took me some time to get hold of a camera and snap the pictures, so I'll do it shortly in this post. I'd been using the kindle for quite a few months and I am in the right position to comment about it.

Good things I liked about the kindle dx:

1. Large display - which makes reading easy and rendering pdf files easier, as it will fit nicely on the screen and it'll still be large enough to read comfortably

2. Very long battery life - since it uses the e-ink technology instead of a back lit display, power is used up only when you press a button. I use it everyday for up to 3 hours and the battery can last me up to 1.5 to 2 months in a single charge.

3. Firmware updates - it makes it better with upgraded software. The recent update I made makes life a little easier for me when using the kindle. I think amazon will continue to upgrade their firmware to improve on the functionality of the product.

4. Accompanied dictionary - okay, this is found in most other e-readers as well but I must still say it. Usually I'm lazy to check out the meaning of new words encountered during my reading, but the kindle makes it so easy to check the meanings. You just have to move the cursor to the word and the meaning will just roll out at the bottom of the screen. It's not essential but I think it makes reading a real pleasure.

Things I don't like about the kindle:

1. You can access the kindle store in singapore, nor the internet. I have the older version, so I'm not sure if the cheaper and more advanced version of the kindle dx will allow users locally to access the internet (free). It'll be cool to access wikipedia and google about stuff while reading. It makes it easier to explore certain keywords encountered during reading.

2. It doesn't have colour. Affordable colour e-ink technology is still some years away, so until then, if you need colour you should get back lit tablets instead of kindle dx. I guess it really depends on how you want to treat the kindle as - a multi functional gadget or just a good ol' e-book reader.

3. Needs a light source - okay, this is both the good and bad thing about the kindle dx. Since it does not have an internal light source, you really do need an external light. Treat it like a conventional paper book, if you need to read, you'll need a light source. Those with back lit is more like reading off a computer monitor, so the light source is within the monitor itself. I personally find it much more comfortable reading on the kindle (I've tried both) - it's less strenuous on the eye.

Okay, here's some pictures of the kindle dx as promised:

This is how it renders pdf file. Notice that it fits nicely onto the screen and it's still highly readable. That's because of the larger screen size.

You can check out the actual pdf file and compare against this same one rendered on kindle dx

A zoomed up view of the words. Background is a little grayish, and the contrast is pretty sharp.
You can rotate the screen if you want to have a landscape view
This is how a chart looks like on the kindle. Basically there's no difference between a actual pdf file and the one read on the kindle.

It renders comics very very well too, though I prefer my comics to be coloured rather than shades of gray.

This is the copy of the strait times. Look at how it shows the picture clearly and sharply. The contrast is really good.

This is the screen where you can select the font size, the words per line and the screen rotation. Did I mention it can read out the words for you (there's a speaker in the kindle)?

I bought mine at $605 sgd but now it's much cheaper. You get a newer version, 3G (free), 9.7 inch screen one for around 500 sgd exclusive of shipping (originally it costs 700-800 sgd). If you're like me who don't mind second hand goods, you can get it from ebay perhaps at 350 to 400 sgd inclusive of shipping. Just shop around and make use of the strong SGD and cheap USD :)

Sabana Shari'ah Compliant REIT part II

The Sabana Shari'ah compliant reit got its offer price of the IPO finalised at $1.05, which is in the middle of the indicative range of 1.00 to 1.10. This raises a few questions on why the institutions are not snapping up this high yield and largest shari'ah compliant reit in the world. I can't answer that, of course. I've written at length about this new reit on another post sometime ago, so I'm not going to repeat again.

This IPO is supposed to start last Fri until this coming Wed on 24th Nov 2010. Trading begins on Fri on 26th Nov.  At 1.05, the yield for 2011 and 2012 will be 8.05% and 8.08% respectively. NAV value is 0.94, so it will debut at a premium of 11.7% above the NAV.

Based on my plan, I intend to sell out on the first day at around 15% to 20% above IPO price. That means a target of 1.21 to 1.26. The price increase will bring the yield down to 7% to 6.7% (for 2011). That's for the first day. If I have more than 5 lots, then I'll hold another portion of it until some of the Shari'ah compliant indexes in the world starts to include this newly listed reit into their portfolio, then I'll dispose of it. I doubt I'll get more than 5 lots anyway.