Monday, January 18, 2016

Plan for 2016

After utilizing a portion of my warchest, it's time to wait for the kill for the remaining portion of my warchest. It's not easy to look at your portfolio and see it decimated week after week, but I think I took a depression and several years thereafter to get the lesson that the market is trying to teach me when I paid my tuition fees involuntarily. These are lessons that have to be taken eventually. Life has a habit of throwing you obstacles when you think that everything is going smoothly. Learning to take things in stride, especially when you can do nothing about it, is an essential skill.

Let's focus on the things we can do. I'm more worried about my job if the bear market becomes protracted. If we go by the rule of thumb of the market leading the actual economy by 6 months, then we might see a bad situation for SG51. Will my jobs be affected? Since that is my main source of income, that is also my main source of worry.

Here's my worry:

1. Harder to get new students
2. Bad debts for existing students
3. Reduction in fees chargeable

1. Harder to get new students

I think given the often toted resilient nature of the education industry, it might be a while before I can feel this effect. In the past few recessions, I did notice a slowdown in the intake towards the ending phase of the recession, not the start. I guess when people reduce their expenses, their child's educational needs are still considered needs and not wants. It still requires constant effort to keep on marketing and looking for new students year in year out, so I'll continue doing that. I think I'm better trained than most to do this, because every year I have to find new students anyway as my graduating students leave. I should be able to replicate whatever I've done in the past 12 years to do this.

2. Bad debts for existing students

I only have bad debts for the first 2 years of my career. After I implemented some measures to reduce my risk, this had come down to zero. Still, with a possible recession coming, then I will have to step up my measures. For new students, perhaps I will have to start my practice of giving less credit and asking for payments from monthly to bi-weekly. Also I'll collect fees in advance whenever possible, so as to reduce my risk of non-payments. I should be able to handle this aspect from past bad experiences.

3. Reduction in fees chargeable

I suspect that if the demand drops, I might have to reduce the fees somewhat to raise the demand level. That should be the last resort. The better way is to group students together, so that each student pays substantially lesser amount but I get to earn a higher fees per hour. Win-win for everyone. I remembered that a student had to ask for a reduction in fees because the father got retrenched in the last round of recession. I can't remembered whether I took a reduction (knowing myself, I think I did), but now with my own classes conducted at home, I can do a few tricks to protect myself. Grouping is one way. For students whom I am going over for lessons, asking them to come over for a fee reduction is also a great alternative. What I get in lesser fees can be translated to more time and less effort needed to get over there.

Having said all these, I also need to increase the range of services that I 'sell'. I have to upgrade my skillsets to increase the range of modules/subjects that I can teach. This is why I'm very glad to be able to teach new modules/subjects this year. I'm currently handling one IB student with very weird option topics. Usually the option topics will be statistics, which every A'lvl student are taking anyway. But this particular student is taking discrete mathematics, which I've never studied formerly before. Reading up intensely now (and neglecting my 52 books challenge for the time being) so as to prepare myself for possibly wider and more comprehensive range of modules to teach. This is on top of 2 university modules that I could be teaching to 2 students. One is one statistics, matrix algebra and differential equations and the other is math for econs and statistics again. Which means more reading and studying.

What am I doing all these for? To secure my income! I realise that for now, and likely for the next 15 yrs, it's going to have far more reaching consequences that my investments could ever do.

The underlying conditions for all these will be shattered if I do not have the health to support it. We think that health is always a given, until it is lost. If you've ever had a bad case of flu, whatever big plans you have for your career will have to take a backseat while you just really want to lie in bed and sleep. As such, the focus will never ever be off on health. This year, I'm trying to eat cleanly and also continuing my spiritual practice of meditation. Every alternate days on weekdays is going to be fruits for lunch. Halved my portion of rice too. Everyday except Sunday is a rest day for my body, while everyday I have to do some pullups or pushups. I'm trying to kickstart a jogging habit too and I hope to do so by end of this month.

Let's go.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


Now that's survival instincts!

I've had colleagues and interviewed those who had 10 to 20 years of working experiences. When delved deeper, I discovered it's little more than the 1st year of working experience multiplied by 10 or 20.

And they wondered why they were passed over for promotions or were retrenched...

You'll be surprised how many graduates stop their professional readings the moment they start working!

Some don't quite understand the difference between learning new skills and collecting paper qualifications like scout badges...

la papillion said...


Haha, I had my fair share of skepticism when pple tell me they have x years of experience. X years of experience doing the same thing is not as useful as x years of experience being exposed to all the different permutations you can have in your job. Still boils down to an individual's attitude to learn and unlearn things.

I've no choice, cannot smoke and hide behind bureaucracy. Can do means can do, cannot means cannot haha

Sillyinvestor said...

I think with the pace of changes in the national exam, those who can "connect" and access insider info of the new skills set available before the market have access to them, can charge a prenium for at least 2-3 years

Network. Research and Publisize ...

Too bad I no balls, only thinking what if, but never settjng out to to do the business

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

I think the good tutors don't focus on knowledge and premium info, though they are certainly the necessary but not sufficient conditions to be a good tutor. The good ones focus on delivery and customisation of that same knowledge to different learning styles of different students. That is something that a schools might not be able to do because of the class size, and that is also the greatest adv one can have if one is considering the path of a tutor.

I've friends who are ex-teachers but current tutors who are still teaching the classroom style, with lessons plans and standard worksheets. They went back after a few years. Sometimes I feel the standardised worksheets and the lesson plans hinders one from following the pace of the student.

These are stereotypes of course, not talking about all teachers, haha

Sillyinvestor said...


A highly skilled teacher will be able to customize into 3 Distinct learnjng levels within a class.

A dun think customized worksheets or lesson plans are the problem now.

I think "programme" is.

The more programme or extensive, the better. Why not work something into curriculum time. The program can the be the support of those where the curriculum cannot reach. But now, some has the cart in front of the horse

Resources should be pour into curriculum first then program

But such are not sexy anymore


Hey, what's taking your so long to reply now? Big business? Have a great year ahead?

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Haha, pai seh, it slipped my mind to reply! There's a lot of things I'm doing this week, and this week alone feels like 2 weeks!

Firstly, I started to wake up at 7am. Then I've started jogging (also for 10min for now) for twice a week. I'm teaching 3 students whom I have to read extensively, because 2 of them are university modules, and 1 involve math topic that I've never learnt in my whole education. That means I have to read up, cross reference materials and do the tutorials to prepare for lessons, and that alone is a full time job. On top of that, I've to read to fulfill my 52 books a year challenge, though that is on the back bench for now as the last thing I want to do to relax after reading so many textbooks and lectures is to read again. It doesn't help that I'm playing 2 games concurrently, fallout 4 and diablo 3, to take my mind off all the reading.

And because of the early wake up, I have to sleep earlier too. Still trying to find a good pace to fit all these new changes to my life. That's why my week feels like 2 weeks!

Sillyinvestor said...

Oh .. Ok.

Reply at own pace, just curious ! Wanted to jmgegt fallout 4 during the holiday initially ... Heard the options are very limited and u no longer can be good or evil, it is rather linear in story progression

Is it true ??


la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Oh, it's fine, I think you can be as evil as you want. I don't see any difference actually, but maybe because i'm playing the good side. Story isn't linear, you can still do pretty much what you want. i'm fine with linear progression actually, but it's the side quest that are the gem, if you ask me, haha

I like the settlement building thing you can do. A little like sims :)