Sunday, May 24, 2020

What I'm grateful about

The days just zoom past quickly during the lockdown. The hours are long but the days are fast. We're nearing the end of the official lockdown period but it seems that even after the official period, life is pretty much the same. We still can't go out to restaurants to eat, and still can't resume life in general before covid-19. And who knows how long this will last for?

It's good to have the right mindset when dealing with things beyond your control. But before that, we need to know what we can control. I'm still shoring up my reserves in case this last longer than next year, and that means holding more cash as emergency cash. Beyond that, with regards to the stability of future income, or even dividends income, we have to let go. Or rather, let it be

There are a few things that I'm grateful for, despite the circumstances:

1. There's still work that I can do online

I can understand that there are people whose work is affected. Even if they want to do it online, they also can't. My heart goes out to them. I think in these times, you will know if your work is just merely for paying the bills or does it serve other important purposes in life, like social needs and fulfilling some meaning in your life.

Stay at home can be fun too

2. Family and friends are well and healthy

There are no major health issues with important and significant people around me. Boredom perhaps, but it's a matter of perspectives. Beyond bread and butter issues, I think people do need to worry about their mental health. No point being well-fed, sheltered but mad. Maybe being an introvert helps a lot because I find that I'm perhaps more busy and productive than usual, as I do not have to be drained of energy by going out. I'm recharged by the things that drain other more outward-looking people (like my wife) haha! Introverts, the tide has turned!

3. Relationships are better

Let me explain. I see a lot of heartwarming things that I don't see often. Neighbours bringing some groceries to our household when they have extra. We, bringing some cooked food to others to help out. I'll source out jobs offerings to others who had lost their jobs, especially in the tourism/airport sector. Some of the parents of my students lost their jobs, so I also help out by offering lower rates for my tuition services. I mean, I do what I can within my capabilities, to see if I can make someone's life better during these hard times. I'm sure many others are doing the same too. There's something good out of this whole shitty situation, isn't it?

4. The important things distil out

Sometimes life is funny, in the sense that only when shit happens then you will realise what is most important to you. To find out what is most important, you just strip off things one by one and see how it feels like. This lockdown period is the best chance to do an accounting of what's important and what's good to have. 

I like to remember these strange times as being forced to be introspective. Will I worry about income? Sure, of course. But beyond a certain level of preparation, there's nothing much else I can do, and so I'll just concentrate on the things that I can do. 

Stay strong, stay united, Singapore.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Singlife accout or CIMB fastsaver

I recently signed up with the Singlife account. You can read about it from other blogger's reviews or from the actual site itself, but to me, it's essentially a savings account. Since I also have CIMB fast saver, I want to explore the decision tree to decide when to put extra funds into CIMB fastsaver or into Singlife account. In my analysis, I'm really going to ignore all the extras, like retrenchment benefits, insurance parts etc of the Singlife account. 

Here's the facts:

Singlife account:
First 10k - 2.5% pa
Next 90k - 1.0% pa
Thereafter - 0% pa

CIMB fast saver:
First 50k - 1.0% pa
Next 25k - 1.5% pa
Next 25k - 1.8% pa
Thereafter - 0.6% pa

Here's the calculations of the interest earned and interest % pa for both:

Singlife account:

CIMB fast saver:

I just did up the interest for the various banding. Straight away we can see that the interest we can get for CIMB is much more for greater amounts of principal put inside, but for smaller amount of principal, Singlife will be more worth it. There must be a point where if I put x amount in Singlife account and the same x amount in CIMB fastsave, the two interest will be the same. And I know x must be somewhere between 75k to 100k.

So, let x be an amount between 75k to 100k,

Amt of interest from Singlife acct: 10,000*0.025 + (x-10,000)*0.01 = 150 + 0.01x 

Amt of interest from CIMB fastsaver: 50,000*0.01 + 25,000*0.015 + (x-75,000)*0.018 = 0.018x - 475

Equating them:

150 + 0.01x = 0.018x - 475

So, x = $78,125

And thus my decision is clear:

To get the highest interest for the same amount of dollars:
I should put it in Singlife account if I have lesser than $78,125
I should put it in CIMB fast saver if I have more than $78,125

If I have exactly $78,125, then I should put it in Singlife account because of the little bit of insurance that I didn't take into account. Both have deposit insurance of up to $75k, so there should be some safety features built into this. 

Okay, now my decision flow is clearer.


How silly of me. In the pursuit of deciding either THIS or THAT is better, I forgot that the better solution is a blend of BOTH. Non-duality! Thanks to 15 hww and WGM for pointing this out to me. In light of that, the best solution is put money in both accounts, as shown:

First 10k - put in Singlife account for 2.5% pa - total interest: $250
Thereafter - put in CIMB fastsaver, preferably not more than 100k inside


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Changes in the post-covid Singapore

I wrote this piece in the early days of the virus. Back then, Singapore is still relatively unscathed. But about 1 month later, the infected cases keep shooting up and up. We're not in code red now, but effectively so. The whole of Singapore is under a controlled lockdown, termed euphemistically as a "circuit breaker". If I'm out in the streets, it feels like Chinese New year where all the stores are shuttered and there's not a lot of people walking around. Except we don't have that festive feel in the air. It's quite bad, and I've never experienced anything like this in my life. I thought I've lived through SARS but this is probably much worse than SARS. 

There are quite a few changes in my current lifestyle. First of all, all face to face work is halted for a month (I'm fully expecting it to be extended to 2 months actually) and I have to switch my work online. Most parents and students are fine, so in that sense, I'm lucky enough to still have my work income. My wife is not as lucky. She has quite a few cancellations in her work and being self-employed like me, she will have to bear through it all in stride. We can be down, but never out, so I recommended her to upgrade her skills and do what we can do survive through this period, and hopefully come out even stronger.

The second major change is my exercise routine. Since I can't go to the gym and I don't want to place my family at risk, I've kick-started my home exercise plan. I started to wake up like 6am and do some bodyweight training, like pullups, pushups, squats, situps and some biceps curls. I usually don't wake up so early, but since it's really hard to exercise with a young kid running around at home, I have to do what I have to do. So far it's been great, and I managed to throw in a 10 min meditation sit down too. I haven't really done sit down meditation for a long time, so it's been good. I hope these exercises will not just help to maintain my health but also, more importantly, to keep me sane. As an introvert, I can tank relatively long periods of time at home, but I still have to take care of my mental health. Both physical exercises and meditation should do the trick to ward off the generally negative outlook so ubiquitous nowadays. 

The third major change is my young son is not going to child-care for the time being because of the closure, so I have to spend a lot more time with him to entertain him. As a young kid, he has a lot of excess energy. Recently, I set up a shuttle run course for him so we just run along the hallway of my home, collecting soft toys at each end of the hallway to 'rescue' them from the 'fire'. It's tiring, but he is laughing his head off, so I think it's worth it. The big difference between SARS period back in 2003 is that I don't have as many responsibilities as I have right now. My family is not a potential liability to drag me down. Instead, they are my pillar of support to prop me up. It's all about the framing. 

Every year I try to do something a bit different to increase my productivity or to focus on the neglected areas in my life. Recently, I subscribed to a book summary site to distil the important points for easy digestion. To be honest, I used to look down on such sites because I find it is like cheating, so I'm a bit slow to adopt this. Now I wonder why I didn't sign up earlier. I am still reading books from cover to cover, but with the book summary site, I am getting a lot more pointers to increase my knowledge horizontally (but not so much in-depth or vertically). To make sure I get the best bang for my buck, I wrote down summaries of those summaries, including a short reflection on how those books can apply to my life. I think all these things I made allows more knowledge to be retained. Already, I applied some of the great stuff I've learnt from reading those book summaries, like waking up early (the book I read says 5am, but I think it's more realistic to wake up at 6am for me), non-violent way of communication, starting meditation again...  I look forward to seeing the changes in me by the end of the year.

I might add that I'm going to the gym since the start of the year 2020, but I think that path is kind of derailed for the time being. It's okay, we fall but we pick ourselves up again and continue moving forward.

Investment wise, I froze the accumulation of war chest from dividends and work income. This means that I stop contributing to my war chest from any income source, at least for the time being. The reason is so that I can channel the money towards emergency funds. I already increased the emergency funds from the pre-covid era of 3 months expenses to pre-"code orange" of 1 year, to the planned post-"circuit breaker" emergency funds of 1.5 yrs to 2 yrs expenses. This will be the defensive part of my strategy, to make sure that I survive this no matter what. No point trying to gun for an all-out offence when a blow to my base can cripple me. I will keep adjusting the emergency funds and war chest allocation as the situation evolves. 

At one point in the last month, my war chest was used up nearly 30 to 40%, but I changed the components of the portfolio and sold off some positions, adding in the profits back to the war chest, so now I'm about 95% replenished. My view is that there will be a downturn soon, hence I'm trading off the positions I bought previously as the market went down. If I'm wrong, I'll buy again when the uptrend is established. If I'm right, I'll buy the downturn with my replenished war chest. Either way is good for me. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020

War strategy in a bear market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care of your health, and prosper.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Am I prepared?

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

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

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

1) Family's health

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

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

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

2) My work income

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

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

3) My financial status

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Bought another insurance policy

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

DBS multiplier account NERFED

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

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

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

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

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

Scenario 1

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

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

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

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

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