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.