Archives for category: Everything under the sun

It’s another birthday! And here’s what I wrote last year.

lighted happy birthday candles

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Last year, I wrote about having failed spectacularly on many counts. I failed to stick to a healthy lifestyle, failed to pick up a craft, and failed to get into coding in a more concrete way.

I’m happy to report that this year I managed to chalk up impressive gains on all those goals and I’m going to share how I did that.

 

Eating and living healthier

Last year, I was saying that my weight hit an all-time high. I was wrong. In fact, my weight inched up even more after I wrote that post and in December, I hit an all-time high of 70kg.

Now, that might not sound like a lot but for someone my height, it’s definitely overweight. Not obese but overweight. That was the wake-up call for me and I started to research into a variety of ways to cut back on the weight gain.

In my research, I learned about something fasting, and in particular, something called “intermittent fasting”. The main positive about fasting is that it doesn’t slow your metabolism down as opposed to people who cut back on consuming calories. This explains why people who go on traditional diets lose weight but then put it back on as quick or even more quickly. The experience of some of those that went on the TV show, “The Biggest Loser” is particularly instructive.

Anyway, long story short is that (roughly) sticking to a regime of going 16 hours without food and then eating within an 8-hour window helped me shed 10kgs. Restricting your eating to an 8-hour window automatically means cutting out one meal. You could eat as many calories as a normal person within the window but that would mean eating more meals or mega-sized meals. I just cut out breakfast.

I’ve also cut sugar from my coffee as all the government institutions now require that coffee is served, by default, without any sugar. You have to add sugar to your coffee if you choose to.

I didn’t know if this regime was doing me harm on the inside or not. So, a couple of months ago, I had a health checkup done. The good news is that my health checkup results came back good. Nothing out of the ordinary. For the first time in a long time, I’ve also managed to score a “gold” on the physical fitness test that we National Servicemen have to do every year despite putting in the same amount of training as I’ve done in previous years. It’s not rocket science. It’s easier to run faster if you’re 10 kilos lighter.

Furthermore, limiting my meals have made me become more aware of whether I’m eating because I need food or because I want food. As far as possible, I eat only when I need to and not when I want to.

Having a cat around the house also made me adopt a more regular meditation routine. Every morning, after feeding him, I’ll take up my spot on the floor and try to get in 15-20mins of just being aware of my breathing.

One breath in. One breath out. One at a time.

I’m not sure if I’m experiencing any physical effects (like increased grey matter) as reported in some medical experiments but I think meditating more regularly has helped me gain some clarity into when people are tapping into their emotions and how to deal with people who are clearly in a heightened emotional state.

 

Coding

While I’ve slacked off the bandwagon of late, I’m happy to report that I finally worked on a project and I made a website where I can track and share the data I’ve collected in the STI’s PE10. The code is amateur and the website definitely can have better features but I think I’m relatively happy with it.

At work, I also wrote two scripts in python that automated some of the administrative work that we have to do. It’s a hacky way around doing some things and I’m pretty sure it’s not that kosher but who cares, it saves me an hour of mindless clicking. The other script probably saves my colleague 15 minutes of mindless clicking as well.

 

Craft

Now, I’ve been slacking off on coding because I’ve finally decided to put more effort towards pursuing interests in this area. I’ve been writing some stories (featuring my cat) and I really enjoy that but I’ve always been more of a visual person.

Problem is, I pretty much suck at art. Right now, I’m probably as good as a kindergarten kid when it comes to drawing.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Youtube and I really, really like the style that comes with pen and ink drawing (in particular styles like this). For the rest of this year and next, I’m going to be making a conscious effort towards improving my drawing and my inking skills.

I also figure that in the next few decades, even if A.I. and automation can take over a multitude of jobs, the stuff that will be valued more will be the stuff that doesn’t seem impressive even if done by a machine.

For example, they may make machines that can cook food. However, a delicious meal cooked by a human being is always going to be more highly valued because it’s not something that anyone can do without some sort of training or experience.

Humans that can produce things with a degree of customisation or finesse to it will do well in the future. If your job is of a routine nature because you are producing things in huge quantities, then you probably need to worry about your future in the next 10 to 20 years. Owners of capital will prefer to own a machine that doesn’t ask more salary, take breaks, or fall sick.

 

Money matters

As for wealth, things are pretty much on auto-pilot. I know the markets have really sucked (especially outside the U.S.) which means that there are some bargains to be had but my approach now is really more of a systems-based approach.

My system right now is: save, invest broadly, rebalance as required. Rinse and repeat.

I’ll report on how things work out at the end of the year.

******

Lastly, it’s crazy how I didn’t remember what I wrote last year but so much of what I did last year was a continuation of what I wrote in last year’s birthday post. I managed to achieve certain things that I set out to do but I can assure you that when I wrote about it last year, I didn’t have a freaking clue how I was going to do it.

On hindsight and having read James Clear’s Atomic Habits, it seems that I got certain things right that allowed me to lose all the weight and keep it off as well as attain more regularity with meditation.

I’m not pretty convinced that we are limited by what we can imagine but getting to where we want to requires a paradigm shift in behaviour that can only be brought about by changing your environment to suit your goals. Will elaborate more on this in a future post.

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Who can resist those cute, kitty eyes?

 

Lately, when I feed my cat in the morning, he’s been displaying ‘hyperbolic discounting’.

Hyperbolic-what?

Hyperbolic discounting is what economists call the concept of valuing the present much more than the future.

It explains why people choose to light up a cigarette even if they know that it increases their chance of getting lung cancer or why some people choose to have that extra helping of butter pudding even though it could lead to all the costly downsides of obesity.

My Cat and his Food

So, when we feed our cat his breakfast which consists of one can of tinned food (usually chicken), we usually top up his timed feeder with dry food as well. Funny thing about him is that prefers his dry food to his tinned food. In my mind, it’s like preferring bread to meat.

It’s weird but hey, that’s our cat for you.

Anyway, lately, he’s begun to pause when I start to top up his feeder and to get him to eat, I add some dry food to his dish of tinned chicken.

What he should know is that the sprinkling of dry food that I add to his dish comes from the dry food that goes into the feeder. In order words, my cat is consuming some of his future food in the present.

But it all makes sense

Actually, if you were my cat, discounting the future heavily should make sense. After all, his timed feeder goes off a few hours after breakfast. In cat terms, that is probably an eternity.

More importantly, there’s no compounded interest from leaving the food for later. Five pieces of dry food now are still going to be five pieces of dry food later. So why bother waiting till later?

Of course, he also does it because unlike my wife, he knows he can bully me to do it.

 

ground group growth hands

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So lately, inequality has been given the spotlight here in Singapore.

It probably started when Dr. Tommy Koh brought it to the fore while moderating a dialogue with DPM Tharman during an Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) event. DPM Tharman, as well as other politicians, rightly pointed out that the Oxfam study that put Singapore near the bottom in tackling income inequality was not a very good study.

This also comes after Minister Janil Puthucheary hosted a video that (kind of) explored the issues surrounding “class” in Singapore. (You can read my take on that here)

And following Dr. Tommy Koh’s remarks on his own Facebook page about how a pump attendant he met was earning less than what Dr. Koh called a “living wage”, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) has come out with a paper that essentially defends its policies.

The latest is a feature by the Today newspaper that showcases four individuals that managed to make it to university despite the odds of coming from a low-income household.

 

And this is the big issue I have

I don’t doubt that we have very smart people in the government and civil service. The problem I have is that it seems that the way they’ve thought about and approached the issue of inequality is to assume that giving people unconditional help will always lead to bad outcomes.

Look through all the responses from the government or those who are part of it and you’ll notice that the message is consistent: we give targeted help, it works as you can see the GINI coefficient lower with the help, and education is the escape route.

Implicitly, the message is that we cannot give handouts as we have no idea whether people will take it and spend it on alcohol or drugs or what-not. We need to be prudent because these are taxpayers monies. Also, if we give unconditional handouts, it’ll encourage people to be lazy and not want to work.

Read any of the profiles of those featured in the Today piece and you’ll wonder whether it’s necessary to make their families jump through hoops in order to keep the lights on or put food on the table. For one of them, the lack of money meant that he couldn’t even collect his exam certificate.

We have to remember that doing means-testing, following up on their cases and what-not also has a cost. Administrative personnel and social workers have to be employed, paperwork has to be filled, and inevitably, lags will cause situations such as their electricity being cut.

 

A different paradigm

Now, I’m not saying that we should jump straight into giving away stuff for free to everyone or even the needy. What I’m saying is that we need to experiment instead of sticking to the same mantra that we’ve always stuck to.

Look at the debate the term “minimum wage” generated at the same IPS forum. Both MOS Josephine Teo and economist Walter Theseira fell back on standard theoretical formulations of what minimum wage could do to employment when there is economic literature that shows that minimum wage may not be all that bad.*

It’s pretty clear that some ideas are outdated or have even been proven false by the empirical data. In Singapore, the problem is that there is too much debate and not much collection and analysis of data when it comes to social services. There needs to be more experimentation in order to check our beliefs and see if studies overseas apply to our context as well.

Now without the data, I cannot conclude that unconditional help is universally superior to our current approach but I think we’ve come a long way from 1965. So, we can afford to do more for those that struggle to even meet basic needs like shelter, food, utilities, and education.

 

Notes:

*To be honest, I’m quite shocked that Kruger and Card’s study was from the 90s and so many people fall for the econ 101 analysis of how minimum wage will lead to lower unemployment.

 

Very long weekend if you took leave on Monday.

Happy Deepavali to those celebrating it.

books on bookshelves

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Junk Bond Bubble in Six Images (Mish Talk)

You know what they say: always follow the money.

If you want to look for where the seeds of the next crash are, you don’t have to look any further than where debt has been building up and therefore, is more likely to implode.

With interest rates going up at a quicker pace as compared to past years, debt serviceability will become an issue for more risky borrowers. If the proceeds from borrowing went into (a) saving a sinking ship, or (b) unproductive assets, that will also be a problem for those who borrowed thinking that rates are low.

Mish’s charts also show what all this could mean for the equity markets.

 

What Today’s Trend Following Sell Signal Implies For The Months Ahead (The Fat Pitch)

I’ve heard of Meb Faber’s signal before but it totally fell off the radar for some reason. I think it’s because I looked at how the signal would have applied to the STI and realised that the whipsaw from buying and selling wasn’t my cup of tea. The findings from the paper are impressive though.

Anyway, if this is triggered on the S&P…

As the post says, there’s a fair chance (about 50-50) that we’re about to see more pain in the markets.

 

The Road To Burnout Helped Me Find My Purpose (The Physician Philosopher)

I read this via Minimalist in the City and the post resonated with me because for those of us who have been working for a while, it’s no surprise that there are shitty aspects to our jobs. Some people may love what they do but even then, they cannot deny that some parts of the job suck. For example, I may love to teach because I get to share and discuss stories and ideas but I hate to deal with all the administrative tasks that come with the job.

I don’t think I have, or even will, hit the burnout stage in my current job but there’s no doubt that I wouldn’t want to be there all the way till I retire/die like some of the older colleagues.

Fortunately for me, and unlike the doctor in the post, I didn’t have to wait until I started working to figure out that I had to build some sort of money machine in addition to the income that I’m getting from my job. It’s still a work-in-progress but I can definitely see it coming together.

If you love your job but haven’t thought about not relying on it for income, I suggest you start today.

Creative Destruction (Humble Dollar)

With the recent emphasis in Singapore on lifelong learning, I thought that this post is quite timely. It goes to show that being adaptable is a necessary skill in life because it seems that a core feature of life is the constant change.

With all the advancements in A.I and robotics, I suspect that both white and blue-collar jobs that are fairly routine will be the first to go. The good news is that the change will happen quicker in countries where the infrastructure was never laid and therefore more open to new forms of organisation. For example, think about how China was so much quicker to adopt mobile payments than more developed countries like Singapore or Japan. In fact, a lot of transactions in Japan still rely on cash. At least in Singapore, we have that dastardly system called “NETS”.

 

Public Pensions for Sale (part 1 of 3) (The Intercept)

Amazing account of how the people running some of the public pension funds sold out to Wall Street. Very long read but this is what journalism is about. Classic examples of information asymmetry and agency problems at work.

books on bookshelves

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Commentary: You can still retire at 40, even with a longer life expectancy (Channel NewsAsia)

Independent financial advisor, Christopher Ng has written a post about retiring “early”. I suppose this was in response to the recent slew of articles suggesting that our official retirement age and withdrawal age of our CPF monies could be raised.

Notice that I put the words “early” in quotes because 40 may not actually be early for some in the FIRE community who have retired at 30 or 35. However, “retiring” at 40 in Singapore IS a big deal. Most people here expect to work all the way up to the official retirement which currently stands at 62 and is probably going to be raised to 67 in the near future. Why do I say this? Simply because the civil service is already extending contracts of staff all the way up till 67.

It’s nice that someone who has actually been there and done that has come out to write about retirement. Go read his commentary. It makes a lot of sense. Funny enough, a subreddit thread on his commentary have lots of cynical comments about how Ng must be some rich kid with support from his parents in order for him to be doing his Masters in his mid-20s. I don’t know Ng but I suspect Ng wasn’t some rich kid. At best, maybe he’s middle income like most of us.

I wish Ng did some of the math in his commentary to show how it’s possible for someone to retire early because the points that he makes about investing smarter (e.g. equally-weighting an investment in the STI vs. market-cap weighting) will be beyond most people and retiring early depends heavily on savings, not investment. Investment is important for sustaining the retirement, not getting there.

Plus, yes, I agree with one reddit comment about cherry-picking the STI returns because 10 years ago, we were in the depths of the GFC. Using a rolling 10/20-year period return would have made a better argument.

 

A Lost Decade of Dollar Cost Averaging (A Wealth of Common Sense)

I really like this article simply because of how so many so-called financial gurus in Singapore advocate DCA as a panacea to market timing. DCA might be going in taking our behavioural biases out of the game but let’s acknowledge that DCA has its downsides. This article shows that.

I rather prefer a valuation-based checklist for rebalancing (let’s face it, DCA is just rebalancing in its laziest form).

 

And now…a reality check (The Reformed Broker)

Josh Brown makes a good case against Trump’s policies. Brown’s case rests heavily on what the markets are saying and in fact, you see a huge rotation towards defensives and this probably reflects which stage of the market cycle we’re at.

 

In Praise of Simplicity (Matthieu Ricard)

If there’s one module that I found really useful in university, it’s this elective I took called “Introduction to World Religions”. The module explored the major world religions with respect to its historical origins and main beliefs and tenets.

From there, and in the course of writing my thesis about integrating happiness into Cost-Benefit Analysis, I learned about Matthieu Ricard, the happiest man in the world.

It may be that I’m not very smart but quite a few things in this world are unnecessarily complicated and at work, I find that some people find joy in making schemes and decisions as complex as possible.

In light of all this, I love this reminder to remain simple.

 

“Markets in Turmoil” – The Upside of Downside (Pension Partners)

Great post that shows how much of the markets around the world are in turmoil. Of course, with turmoil comes a rebound. This article makes the case that we could be seeing a near-term rebound very soon.

person reading the daily fake news newspaper sitting on gray couch

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So, I highlighted a documentary that Channel NewsAsia (CNA) ran and in my piece, I mentioned that the documentary had flaws. Ricemedia.co has a fantastic piece that features how the documentary came under some clever editing for the producers to paint the story that they wanted to.

I’m not sure if CNA has realised but the world has changed. In fact, this comes pretty much at the same as the resignation of a senior CNA staff due to the misrepresentation of certain facts in her interview. That one was a major boo-boo because Minister Teo Chee Hean used a point raised in the reporting of the interview as a defense of high ministerial salaries in parliament.

It’s also no secret that The Straits Times (ST) is hardly a paradigm of objective reporting. Otherwise, we would Singapore be ranked 154th in the 2016 edition of the World Press Freedom index?

The Current Environment

I can understand why the government would have wanted newspapers on their side in the early pre- and post-independence era. Getting the support of the populace behind your policies would make the government’s job easier and control over the newspapers would also stop the spread of misinformation.

Unfortunately, the years have come and gone but it seems that the mainstream media haven’t learned that they now face endless competition in terms of reporting and beyond the reporting of facts, the more heavily they lean towards any one group (for example, the government), the less objective and trustworthy they will seem to be. This leads to a double whammy of declining readership and a loss in revenue.

Is it any surprise that some of the most widely-shared articles on my Facebook feed tend to come from non-mainstream sources?

What CNA and ST need to do

In order to save themselves, I think CNA and the ST need to move away from being partisan to the government. It doesn’t matter if the reporting was directed from above or it was an act of self-censorship. CNA and the ST need to move away from being perceived as mouthpieces of the government.

In fact, proper reporting of facts and opinions on the ground will give the government a better idea of sentiment and facts on the ground, which will lead to better inputs for policy-making. I don’t believe for a moment that REACH serves as a portal for an accurate portrayal of things on the ground.

If CNA and ST need any direction on what needs to be done, I think mothership.sg* and ricemedia.co are some good examples of the direction they need to head in. In fact, former NMP Kuik Shiao-Yin is another example of the stance that our mainstream media should be taking.

CNA and ST should do it while completely one-sided platforms like TOC and The Independent still exist. Those are decidedly partial to the opposition and quite frankly, annoy the objective, rational crowd as much as the ST does.

 

Notes:

*Yes, yes. I know this one has the backing of one George Yeo. But you can’t deny that they’ve been quite objective in their reporting. Their efforts to produce mindless, entertaining viral pieces are quite terrible though. SGAG fares much better in that department.

I’m constantly reminded of how lucky I am to be where I am.

 

green club flower

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My grandfather recently celebrated his 90th birthday. 90 years of life seems an incredibly long time and it’s even more mind-boggling when you realise that he was born right at the start of the Great Depression, has lived through World War 2, multiple recessions including the Asian Financial Crisis, Dot-Com boom, and the Global Financial Crisis. He also came from nothing to eventually owning his own business, effectively bringing his family from lower-income to upper-middle class. This is all despite him only having completed primary 5.

In essence, the life I had growing up depended a lot on the fortunes of the family business as my dad was working for my grandfather and the business thrived in the 90s as Singapore experienced one of the fastest periods of economic growth in its relatively short history.

I’m also making way through Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works (aside: Bill Gates provides a good review and overview of the book) and in one of the early parts of the book, Studwell cites a figure that states how a Chinese person, born in a village in 1920s China only had a life expectancy of 25 years.

Jesus. Imagine the odds of me being alive or living the kind of life that I’m living now if my great-grandfather had not decided to move to Singapore to seek greener pastures. If they stayed in China and managed to live through World War 2, the Great Leap Forward might have killed them.

It’s no secret that being lucky isn’t enough to get ahead in life but I think sometimes, we also need to appreciate the fact that we are fairly lucky in life. I think this sense of appreciation then reminds me not to do anything stupid because so stars had to align for me to be where I am today — healthy, educated, good friends, earning a relatively decent income, married to a wonderful person, and with the good fortune to understand what is going on in the world.

The first week of October is over!

Weather has been crazy hot and Howard Marks’ new book is out. Funny enough, on the Kindle, it’s about a buck cheaper than the pre-order price. No perks for pre-ordering.

books on bookshelves

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Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father (New York Times)

Someone’s finally broke news about Trump’s finances and the origins of his wealth. It’s amazing that someone who’s been lying about how he obtained his wealth has managed to hoodwink people for so long.

What’s even more amazing is that this person has managed to become POTUS and there’s nothing that the citizens of the USA can do about having someone this dishonest represent their country.

By the way, Singapore has its fair share of ‘financial gurus’ that purport to teach you how to become wealthy like them. I’m willing to bet that 9 out of 10 of them are rubbish. If they can reproduce their investing returns over a 20-year period, you can believe them.

 

All the nightmares for stock investors start in the bond market (The Business Times)

 I used to think if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the president or the pope or a .400 baseball hitter. But now I want to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everybody.

– James Carville, advisor to former U.S. President Bill Clinton

The BT ran a piece (cross-syndicated from Bloomberg) that tries to find a cause for the drop in markets last week and namely, it’s about how yields in the 10-year treasury spiked last week.

The article also cites a number of money managers who are concerned about the high debt levels and the damage that higher yields will cause. What’s interesting to me is this quote from the article:

“Leverage is near all-time highs, and companies used tax reform proceeds for buybacks instead of paying down debt,” said Max Gokhman, head of asset allocation for Pacific Life Fund Advisors, which manages US$40 billion. “More than triple the debt that came due in 2018 will be due each year from ’19-’21. If yields go up, there’s real concern about companies’ ability to reissue and keep their leverage.”

If triple the debt IS coming due in the next 3 years, then there’s going be a fair portion of it refinanced at higher rates. The higher debt repayments can only be sustained if growth is sustained. That is something we won’t know until 2019-2021 comes around but what we can say for sure is that it increases the odds that things don’t turn out well.

In my own circles, I just heard from a friend about how his friends are feeling a bit more stretched now that mortgage rates are moving up*. The funny thing is he said that his friends are feeling stretched on their mortgage payments because the bank’s raised their rates by 50 basis points.

My first reaction was, “50?! Wait till they experience a 150 basis points increase.”

By the way, even a friend of mine who works in a bank doesn’t expect rates to increase to anywhere near 5%. But this is because we’ve seen interest rates remain so low for so long. Unfortunately, many people in Singapore who’ve overstretched themselves on housing are on 25 to 30-year loans. This increases the probability that they may see a day where interest rates are 3-5% instead of the 1-2% we’ve experienced over the last decade or so.

This, my friends, is why you shouldn’t pay too much for housing.

 

Why big companies squander brilliant ideas (The Undercover Economist)

A brilliant article for those who want to understand why organisations fail to change for the better. The article looks at companies and the military but you could extend the same logic for any large, incumbent organisation.

There’s a theory I read somewhere on why large organisations fail to use innovation to improve productivity and that’s because large organisations already have a structure in place that provides cashflow or profitability and the innovation while useful in the long-run is painful in the short-run. Most times, having the innovation means having to retool or start from ground zero. This explains why mobile payments caught on so fast in places like China (with a less developed existing payments system) while it hasn’t caught on so much in Japan or Singapore (with already established payments systems).

That’s basically also the gist of the article.

Now, applied to the local context, you can see why it’s so hard to expect political systems and other branches of government to change. For example, in education, there’s been a huge push towards skills and other forms of assessments other than exams for entry requirements. It’s been the same where I teach.

Unfortunately, while the admissions system was forced down our throats, they haven’t forced us to make changes at the assessments level. This means that we’re taking in students who are less academically-inclined and forcing them to go through a course that hasn’t moved away from exams and tests. Us teachers are still questioned about the results of the modules we teach so of course, that’s what our focus is going to be.

In short, no matter what you see about big changes in government policy, remember this article because you can’t change one part of the policy and expect it to be equally well received by other parts of the structure. And if the rest of the structure/organisation doesn’t accomodate, then the policy probably won’t be very effective.

 

 

Notes:

*The interest rates on mortgages in Singapore are typically floating rates tied to SIBOR or SOR. These rates are heavily influenced by interest rates around the world (particularly, U.S. interest rates) and since rates have been moving up, our mortgage rates have been moving up as well.

CNA ran a piece titled “Regardless of Class” which I think is going to stir up quite a bit of debate. It’s hosted by Minister Janil Puthucheary* and it’s a very good look at the income/wealth/class divide in Singapore despite some of the flaws in the questions asked and conclusions reached in the video.

I watched it mainly because I think wealth and income inequality is potentially the big destabiliser for society, and what’s bad for society isn’t really good for the economy as well. So, it’s kind of nice that this issue is getting so much attention lately (see here, here, and here).

I’m not going to comment on the video (you should go watch it. It’s really worth 50mins of your time). Instead, I’m going to share something I heard from a colleague of mine.

In the public service, we usually have some money budgeted for team bonding and what we usually do is go for a meal**. On one such occasion, the colleague that related the story went to a cheap buffet (you know, like those around $20 per person). Apparently, another colleague that was with her said something along these lines, “I don’t eat at these cheap buffets. I only go for those like ‘The Line’ at Shangri-la.”

 

The problem is the current Upper-Middle Class

The funny thing about the statement made by that colleague is that in my experience, it’s very typical of a statement made by those that made it to the upper-middle class. This is particularly so for those that grew up somewhere near the middle class and finally have some semblance of wealth.

I don’t really understand the thinking behind that kind of mindset but I think it must be something like this — when these people were younger, going to a buffet at a hotel was a treat. When they finally have some money, they get suckered into going for expensive stuff, thinking the price tag and environment justifies everything.

The public service pays well enough if you’re somewhat prudent but they can’t possibly have gotten wealthy enough to become a one-percenter on their public service income alone. It’s amazing to me that public servants who are well-off but not filthy rich think like this.

And this colleague’s not along. I’ve heard another colleague who said something similar and I know a relative who’s also like that. Funny enough, they’re all in the same age group, working background, and of the same gender.

What’s wrong with this

Unfortunately, they tend to think of the good life merely through consumption. And for these people, the more expensive the things they consume, the better it is. It’s ironic that they rely on a price tag to determine the value of something.

In the immortal words of some wise man,

A fool knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.

I don’t understand the thinking of those who look at the price tag of something in order to determine its worth (and it happens a lot with fashion because seriously, a belt is a belt. Why should one cost $30 and the other $300?) because when I eat something, whether it tastes good or not is determined by my taste buds and not the price.

In fact, if it’s expensive, I expect it to taste good.

When it’s cheap and it’s also good, I’m totally blown away.

 

Notes:
*I’m not his biggest fan (remember when he said that him being a doctor is equivalent to serving NS?) and I think him hosting this show is somewhat of a PR stunt.

**Unlike what some people may think, the money budgeted isn’t that much.

We’ve made it through another week!

September’s almost over which means we’ll be heading into 4Q soon.

books on bookshelves

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The Housing Bubble Burst All Over Reality TV (The New York Times)

This is interesting because what we see on television reflects what’s going on with the world. This article shows how HGTV’s programmes (which I happened to watch a lot of while it was still on Starhub) changed as the housing bubble inflated and then popped.

The same could be said of how many crypto-related seminars and talks were being promoted last year as compared to this year. Lately, what I’ve been seeing is a lot of ads on Stock Trading which is probably a reflection of the U.S markets doing so well since last year.

 

Growth and well-being: policy should not be based on GDP alone (Microeconomic Insights)

Very economics-heavy post on the relationship between GDP per capita and ‘Welfare’. ‘Welfare’, in the article, encompasses many factors such as inequality, leisure, and consumption.

Singapore gets a few mentions in the article. From the mentions, it seems that Singapore’s growth model has remained the same since the 90s — lots of growth through investment and this comes at the expenses of leisure and consumption.

 

Paul Krugman’s latest opinion piece spells out what everyone’s been feeling about the markets — most of us can’t see any particular sector blowing up to the point of crippling the world economy.

Krugman also shows us why it’s important to study history because the recession of the early 90s was one that didn’t have a proximate cause but rather, it had many small causes.

I also like how Krugman cites Minsky as a source for his hypothesis. Minksy was overlooked by almost everyone until the Global Financial Crisis hit. I tend to agree with Krugman’s views. The world today is awash in cash that is flowing towards moonshots and we know that most moonshots don’t work out.

In other words, much of the money going into all the fancy new ventures won’t pay off. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem that people are using borrowed money to bet on moonshots. Much of the moonshots are funded by people who have money to lose. The question right now is whether the money that they can lose is due to a booming stock market and economy? And if so, then what happens when the economy starts to slow down?

Hold on, hand tight, and stay around for the ride.

 

The Psychology of Playing the Lottery (A Wealth of Common Sense)

An excellent piece by Ben Carlson that explains why poor people make poor choices. From the Bloomberg piece cited in the article, it shows that poor people spend more on the lottery than rich people. Gambling is a big thing in Singapore but I’m not sure if there are statistics that show whether poorer people spend more on the lottery than the rich in Singapore.

The good news, cited in Carlson’s article, is that someone’s set up a lottery to help poor people save more. Saving money in the account leads to a participation in a lottery. Unfortunately, the return on savings in almost zero for those that don’t get the huge payoff but I suppose it’s better than having them spend money on something that is statistically going to return less than zero in the long-run.

Maybe this will be the new model for Singapore Pools?