So I turn a year older once more.

With each year that passes, it’s a good time to stop and reflect. Reflect and ponder on the lessons that I’ve learnt or could learn and then do better for the years ahead. I guess my preoccupations can mainly be summed into a few categories- financial, personal and career.

Career preoccupations are simple. I work for a big organisation and like any big organisation, things don’t move very fast. The way we do many things are a thing of legacy (which can be inefficient) and if you ask me, there are too many additional task which then become minor distractions. It’s not difficult and mind blowing but it’s very irritating and can easily throw you off track when you are trying to work on another task that is, in all honesty, more important and could make life easier for everyone in the long run. However, an overhaul of certain systems will mean lots of work in the short run and no one seems to be able to couple that with the day to day operations. In sum, things continue to work as they were. I have no aspirations to go higher in such a place. Why would I? Climbing higher will only mean that you acknowledge the constraints that you currently work with, that the system is fine- occasional minor tweaks are warranted of course but life should continue as it more or less has. No thank you. In my view, some of the senior staff who, in management’s eyes, have fallen by the wayside have made the smarter choice.

I love teaching. There’s no greater satisfaction to me (yet!) when a student tells me they got the idea or the concept. When we discuss issues and stories and I can see that a student has managed to use the concepts taught to link to ideas present in everyday life, I smile in my heart knowing that at least, they’ve taken away something useful from school.

What I would really love to do is to teach people about financial matters. Financial literacy in Singapore is shockingly bad. As a test, just ask someone if they would prefer to buy term and invest the rest or buy a life policy. Too many young people (think Han Hui Hui or Roy Ngerng) also bitch and moan about how tough their lives are going to be without actually having even tried earning a living yet. Even if they don’t bitch and moan, they tend to be pessimistic about the future. I don’t think it has to be this way. I’m drawing a at-the-median salary for someone of my educational level and age group and yet I’ve managed to secure a place of my own (done up pretty nicely too, if I may add) and I don’t thinking retirement will be a problem if my wealth keeps compounding at this rate.

Of course, there are people struggling in Singapore- struggling to pay the bills, not being able to take a day off or they dread the day a major illness happens in the family. These people need help and should be helped but too many young people are bitching about not being able to afford a house or car and these same people have no qualms going on a few trips a year or blowing a few hundred dollars on a pair of shoes or jeans. These are the same people who will meet friends at hip cafes for $5-7 coffees and $15-20 mains. Of course, you would worry for your future self if your current self keeps spending all that cash.

Personally, I take expensive holidays and love my Onitsuka tigers too. At the same time, I love my Uniqlo tees and jeans, cooking at home and reading (library provides free books!) But at least when I blow some cash, I know I’m doing it within my comfort zone that doesn’t endanger my future self. My future self might chide me a little because I could otherwise, perhaps work a few years less in the heavily constrained environment but hey, my current self is important too.

Financial preoccupations are a different matter. I think about this almost every waking hour of every day. My income is comfortable and my wealth is probably more than 6 or 7 out of every 10 people my age but yet, I haven’t reached the stage where I’m confident and ready enough to mold my life in the way that I want (see career aspirations above) but with each passing year, I’m getting there. By the end of this year, I think the portfolio should hit a new milestone. I’m not saying exactly what but with reference to the “100K before 30” post, let’s just say I’m just over 30 but I’ve passed that amount by a large margin. Oh yes, and I haven’t used any leverage unlike some property buyers (not the experts of course. These guys know it but rarely highlight it in case it sends the wrong kind of message out) who refuse to acknowledge that property as an investment in Singapore is attractive mainly because of the leverage rather than the gross yield.

Stocks in Singapore are unloved. Retail participation is low and seems to getting lower despite (or maybe in spite of?) what SGX is trying to do but that doesn’t really concern me. Unloved means that stocks will be cheap and at my age, I should be a net buyer rather than a net seller. Gross yields (at the moment) there are so much better than most other asset classes.

On the personal side, I don’t know what more can I wish for. I have a lovely and loving wife who splits the chores with me. We enjoy the occasional treat now and then but otherwise, we live a quiet and simple existence. Both my families (in laws and my own) are healthy and supportive of each other and although I may not say it, I really appreciate all the little things like having a cake to cut and having nice (note: nice doesn’t always have to mean expensive), simple dinners.

I really couldn’t ask for more.

Aside from that, I really NEED to pass the CFA. It’s been way too long since I started. Time to finish it. I attemped level 3 for the first time this year but I was seriously unprepared, especially for the essay portion. I had a decent understanding of the material but I really need to get more practice in for the questions and that should make all the difference.

So that’s my thoughts for the year. Next year should be better. It always gets better.

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