Archives for category: Singapore

I really hate doing posts on politics but there are a few things I needed to share my thoughts on. I’m not particularly for or against the government or for any of these issues (except the cats. I have a cat).

I guess Cynical Investor (CI) may be right when he says “Double confirm, ground not sweet for PAP” and that there may be some truth to the rumours online that the General Elections may not be held this year after all.

However, CI’s point was based on the property market. The points I make here are going to a highlight reel of some of the latest self-inflicted wounds PAP members have made.

Lee Bee Wah losing the cat lovers’ vote

MP for Nee Soon GRC, Lee Bee Wah basically singled out cat feeders as the cause of rat problems in certain HDB estates. This didn’t go down well with cat lovers across the country and it didn’t help that Lee Bee Wah, perhaps because of her background as an engineer or perhaps because she was trying to present the case as if it were to a layperson, explained things as if it were a simple matter of cause-and-effect.

Basically, her explanation came across as:
There are rats in the neighbourhood. Rats are attracted to food left in common areas. Cat feeders leave food in common areas. Therefore, cat feeders are the problem.

To be fair, I agree that there are irresponsible or ignorant cat feeders who leave food out for community cats and that the food may attract insects and rats. However, her narrative means that other probable causes aren’t highlighted.

For example, People who leave offerings on the ground after prayers during certain times of the month; Kids that carelessly drops scraps of their snacks that they buy; People who spills their drinks at the common rest areas at the void decks.

In short, there’s plenty of other people who drop food on the floor in the common areas all the time. So why is it just the fault of the cat feeders?

Lee Bee Wah again

And if losing the cat lovers’ vote wasn’t enough, LBW* helped the PAP lose even more votes by calling out a large proportion of Singaporeans who wished the government did more during the most recent budget announcement.

You can read the details yourself but her little made-up folk tale where she portrayed the government as a thrifty, kind grandfather who gave his grandson (read: citizens) some money for all the important stages of his life is flawed.

For one, I would be grateful to my grandfather for giving me ANY amount of money because it is a gift. In other words, if my grandfather gave me money, it was something that HE earned, saved, didn’t spend on himself, in order to give it to me.

You can’t compare the government to a kind, thrifty grandfather because the money raised by the government comes from taxpayers in the first place. Even the money earned from the investment returns of GIC and Temasek is built on the capital provided by the taxes collected from citizens, other members of the labour force, and corporations.

I guess we could thank the government for giving you back some of what you paid them instead of siphoning it all away but I think they lost that right when they argued that they should be well-paid in order to attract the best and brightest to do the job.

In order words, we can thank the government for doing their job but we shouldn’t compare any handouts from the budget as a ‘gift’. You can’t really take something from me, then give some part of it back and call that a gift.

The Watain farce

And if LBW’s gaffes weren’t enough, the anchor minister in her GRC** who is also the Minister for Home Affairs decided to weigh in after some conservative Christians complained about a Death Metal band being allowed to play a concert in Singapore. Their complaint was that the band’s song had satanic and anti-christian elements and influences and were therefore, offensive to Christians.

The concert was only supposed to be attended by some 200 people and funnily enough, had been given prior approval by the appropriate licensing bodies. Then somehow, hours before the concert, they were told they couldn’t perform.

The official explanation is that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) asked IMDA (the licensing body) to consider cancelling the performance due to “new and serious concerns about public order, and ground reactions relating to social and religious harmony”.

If I read that right, it basically means that just because a select group of people made some noise which somehow got the attention of the powers that be, MHA was asked to advise IMDA to overturn a decision that was based on the execution of prior rules and regulations.

Now, I’m not sure about you but that’s worrying to me. It means that if I somehow had access to the powers that be, and that if I could justify how offended I might feel about certain people or groups of people on the grounds of public order, then what was once permissible could suddenly become not permissible.

Anyway, the irony is that easily-offended Christians lost this one because now almost everyone in Singapore knows who or what Watain is and for a moment in history, more people in Singapore were listening to their music on Spotify than anywhere else in the world.

The Minister might have been legally right (after all, he’s law trained) on all counts for this one but I think it’s a worrying sign for those concerned about potential abuses of the system.

Final Thoughts

It’s not just an Yishun thing***. There are lots of other things to say about some of the other PAP MPs but the saving grace for the PAP is that the majority of the opposition isn’t much more impressive.

Notes:
*Abbreviating her name because I don’t really want to keep typing it out.

**Voting for MPs in Singapore can be quite funny in some constituencies because you have to vote for a whole team of them rather than just one of them.

***Inside joke for Singaporeans. LBW and the MHA minister are from the GRC that oversees Yishun.

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How to Wreck a Pension Plan in 3 Easy Steps (A Wealth of Common Sense)

No, not about CPF. This is about how the Omaha Public Schools’ (OPS) pension fund screwed up badly by going into “diversifying” into alternative investments.

The irony is that, rather than being diversified, they concentrated their assets into alternative assets in order not to be subject to the fluctuations that come with the stock markets.

If I were them, I might have just asked their Omaha native, Warren Buffett what to do with the money. But speaking about CPF…

CPFLife: PAP govt cares for u, really they do (Thoughts of a Cynical Investor)

Cynical Investor shares an article from The Star which talks about how Malaysians who have withdrawn their EPF ran out of money within 3-5 years. A fair amount who withdrew 70% of their monies spent it all within 30 days.

People just suck at managing their finances.

One Big Thing (Of Dollars and Data)

Various stories about how being able to identify the one variable that matters will get you most of the results you need. Nothing new in terms of insight but a good reminder that if you want to meet your goals, you have to identify the one thing that will help you get most of the way there. Once you have that, the rest of the journey is merely a series of tweaks to optimise the journey.

The Proper Geoarbitrage Strategy: First Your City, Then Your Country, Then The World (Financial Samurai)

The idea isn’t something new. I must have heard of this at least 2-3 years ago from those people who call themselves “Digital Nomads”. Basically, the idea is to take advantage of the fact that some jobs can be done remotely and that some places are far cheaper to live in than others.

What many of these people end up doing is living in a place like Chiang Mai while doing remote, freelance digital skills-based jobs that allow them to charge US dollars for.

In short, arbitrage by earning USD and having expenses in THB. I like Financial Samurai, Sam Dogen’s idea of doing the same arbitrage in your own city.

I certainly think this is doable in Singapore, certain neighbourhoods are much cheaper to live in than others. Housing is much cheaper in estates like Woodlands and food costs tend to be cheaper in older estates with a large proportion of older folks.

Unfortunately, Singaporeans are a snobbish bunch. They sneer when they hear you live in Yishun. Also, some think the sky of going to brand-name primary schools and therefore try to live within 1km of those schools to gain priority for entry.

If Self-Discipline Feels Difficult, Then You’re Doing It Wrong (Mark Manson)

Totally agree with this. I used to think that people who achieved great feats must have great self-discipline to put in the practice. Then I read James Clears’ Atomic Habits and I learned that it’s far easier to go on auto-pilot.

Simple vs. Complex (A Wealth of Common Sense)

Not posting this for the gist of the post but because of some points made in the post. One, money managers also fall for the Fallacy of Composition and Two, yeah, I totally agree that some portfolios ought to be 90/10 (equity/bond). Having an infinitely long time horizon means that you should not have to worry about drawdowns so much.

The Idea that EC Condo Sure Makes Money. We Explore a Case Study (Investment Moats)

I saw the original rant too and wanted to give my take on it but I think Kyith’s post suffices. Just wanted to add that the property market also moves in cycles and this fella (even though he was buying an EC) was buying at the top of a particularly exuberant cycle.

So, what did he expect?

Her World, a local women’s magazine, ran a story about a couple that earns $30,000 per month and yet, is in debt. You can go and read the story (here) but the gist of it is that the writer and her husband works in sales. More specifically, they sell services and products to high net-worth clients and therefore, in the course of their work, end up spending tons of money to entertain clients as well as keep up an appearance of success. In doing so, the couple has taken on debt and have no savings to speak of.

I’m highly skeptical of the stories that appear in women’s magazines but I’m pretty sure that there’s some truth to this one or at least, it’s not an impossible scenario and there are some lessons to be learned from this.

Why I (kind of) believe that this story is true

I believe this story because, in the course of my life, I’ve seen how jealousy can get the better of people. I’ve witnessed relatives buy bigger houses because they believe that a bigger house represents success when the truth is that the house was not (solely) paid for by their own efforts or results. It was a product of sponging off the hard work of others.

The other category of people who buy houses that they can’t afford is a little more sinister. They only manage to do so thanks to a mortgage that runs for 25-30 years as well as the ability to draw down from their forced retirement savings (i.e. their CPF Ordinary Accounts). Of course, this is at the expense of their future selves.

I’ve also seen friends buy bigger (read, more luxurious) cars because they can afford to. I’ve actually had a friend trade up to a Merc because a potential client once remarked that he went to see the client in a car of Korean make.

Car prices in Singapore are the most expensive in the world thanks to our tax policies on private transportation but yet it’s not unusual to spot a Mercedes, BMW, or Porsche on the road. The reason, particularly for the salaried class that owns a Merc or BMW, is that taking a loan to buy cars is fairly common in Singapore. Therefore, a $150,000 Merc can be bought by someone who can afford the downpayment (which is probably between $15,000-20,000) and the servicing of the loan.

Once again, the issue for those who take on loans to buy cars they can’t afford is that they do so at the expense of their future selves.

You have a choice

I sincerely believe that for all those complaining about the high cost of living in Singapore, maybe half of them have a genuine case of not being able to afford the basics.

The other half is bitching about how it’s expensive to live the high life in Singapore. Which is most interesting to me because if you cannot afford to live like a millionaire, then it’s perhaps because you need to be one first before you start living like one.

Make your choice.

I have no idea why some old idea* from more than a year ago showed up on my Google news feed but it turns out that there’s this guy, Loo Cheng Chuan, who’s a big fan of CPF and has accumulated a combined $1m in both his and his wife’s CPF accounts by the age of 45.

I’m sure that accumulating $1m across two CPF accounts by the age of 45 is a big deal for most people but the reason why I’m writing this is because, I want to address a point that all the articles featuring this guy have failed to do.

The magic behind his $1m in CPF by 45

I googled his name and all the articles that feature his idea of accumulating $1m in his CPF accounts seem to emphasise Mr. Loo’s idea that transferring money to the SA to earn an extra 1.5+ % is the magic solution.

That’s nonsense.

The big reason why this guy has $1m across two CPF accounts is because he saved a lot of money in the first place.

Financial Calculator Magic

Using my trusty Financial Calculator, a starting amount of $100,000 with annual contributions of $37,740 (the annual limit on contributions to your CPF) will get your CPF account to $500,000 in 8.27 years at an interest rate of 4%.

At 2.5%, which is the lower interest rate earned in the Ordinary Account (OA)? A mere 8.99 years will get you there. That’s barely a difference in terms of how quick you get to $1m.

In other words, the reason why Mr. Loo and spouse hit a combined $1m by the age of 45 is not because he transferred cash to the SA to earn that extra 1.5 or so percentage points.

It’s because he maxed out his contributions.

When does the extra interest rate make a difference?

I have to admit that there may be two reasons why putting more money in the SA makes sense.

(1) Over a longer timeframe
(2) To commit yourself from making stupid decisions

Over a longer timeframe, the extra percentage points of interest add up thanks to compounding. Using the same interest rates of 2.5% and 4% but over a time period of 35 years, the future sum comes out to $2,310,311.07 and $3,174,24.87 respectively.**

From a behavioural economics point of view, it may make sense that you transfer money to your SA to prevent yourself from doing something stupid like buying a bigger house*** since you can’t take money out of your SA to spending on housing or your children’s education.

Notes:
*Ok, turns out it was because some website ran this 2 days ago.

**Note that these numbers are nominal. In other words, being a $2m or $3m-aire 35 years later may not as wonderful as you think it may be.

***Bigger house doesn’t always mean better. In fact, you may end up accumulating more junk and there’s more cleaning to do.

I mopped the floor, made a pretty decent instant noodle dish, cleared tons of stuff with wife, dropped a load of books off at the library for them to find new owners, and of course, I had to clean my cat’s litter box.

It’s so domestic, so routine and yet, there’s something blissfully peaceful about it.

Oddly satisfied with how this turned out

Juxtaposed against the story told in the Fyre Festival documentary on Netflix and it’s crazy to me how some people keep chasing the novel and the new, unaware that the promise of excitement could be the peak of the experience. When the actual experience arrives, it may just let you down, and more.

The documentary is a fantastic insight into how people buy into all sorts of hype and how some people can spin something from nothing. It’s also an instructive lesson on fraud as well as a cautionary tale on investing in pipe dreams.

The Fyre Festival

I’m a little slow on these things so when all the bad press surrounding the Frye Festival hit the news in May 2017, I didn’t really pay much attention to it except that it was some hyped-up party that never happened.

The Frye Festival was supposed to be some luxury music festival that many celebrities and (cringe word alert) influencers were supposed to attend. Of course, the celebrity and hype around that made it THE party to go to and people were actually shelling out hundreds to thousands of dollars for tickets and tens of thousands for a “VIP package”.

What eventually happened was that due to the inexperience of the main people in charge, the festival never really happened and was cancelled on the first night itself, having disappointed guests with subpar food, inadequate housing arrangements and barely any music.

Investing in pipe dreams

In the Fyre story, what’s really interesting to me is how the CEO, Billy McFarland managed to convince people to invest millions of dollars into his ideas which, from the footage, seemed to be just that – ideas.

At the end of the documentary, it also turns out that he had defrauded investors by inflating revenue numbers to convince investors to invest more and more money. And it was also this lack of cash that forced the company to cancel the festival.

The funny this is, Frye was supposed to be an app. It had nothing to do with organising music festivals until the founders thought it would be good publicity for the app since the app was supposed to be about allowing users to book artistes directly without having to go through any middlemen.

In the end, I guess the founders got too caught up trying to live the high life and be popular rather than concentrate on actually building an actual business that earns money.

And the investors? I guess it was a sign of the times. 2017 was the year that the markets were doing well. This was especially so in the U.S. Investors were probably flushed with cash that they could invest in what was essentially a hyped-up party with little projection of realistic returns.

Young People Just Want it Fast

Which brings me to the sad conclusion that the world today just wants things fast. Very few people below the age of 30 play the long game.

Maybe it’s seeing how people around them can raise money to fund pipe dreams. Maybe it’s seeing how some of their peers seem to afford the good things so easily. Maybe, just like the Frye Festival, social media has helped put blinders on kids that they think if so many people are able to live the good life, then they must be able to do so too. Otherwise, it’s a sign of weakness or being inept.

I’m saying this because I’ve seen too many students, former and current, behave this way. I see some of it in my younger brother too. Heck, I even see some of it in my friends, and we’re in our 30s.

Maybe I was lucky in that I got my way too often when I was younger. Now that I’m older, I’ve gone past the stage of reacting like Pavlov’s dogs when something new and novel comes about. I also find it silly when people talk about how good something is without regards to cost.

Am I one of the rare few? Is the continuous chase of the new and novel a human condition or it is more a manifestation of how the world works nowadays?

Yes…technically it hasn’t but isn’t that what the intent of the default payout age is signalling?

Recently, there’s been some hoo-ha about when CPF starts paying out one’s retirement money. Apparently, it started when someone posted a picture of a letter from CPF informing an account holder that if they wished to have their payout start at 65 (the earliest possible age), they need to inform the CPF Board of this. Otherwise, the default payout age would be 70.

This naturally led to some people saying that the CPF payout age had been raised to 70 from 65 and this led to the CPF Board issuing a statement to debunk this “myth”.

Can you blame the people?

I mean, if CPF had set the default payout age to 65 instead of 70, there wouldn’t be this issue in the first place. And if the default is set at age 70, then we can assume that the intent of the CPF board is to have people draw down monies from their Retirement Account only starting from age 70.

It’s been quite well established in the behavioural economics community that defaults are a way of nudging people into certain behaviour. The best and most often cited example is how an opt-out programme results in a higher proportion of people donating their organs after death as compared to an opt-in programme. In other words, default options matter because as humans we are lazy and tend to stick with the default.

What I think the CPF Board should do

Instead of coming out and saying the technical and legally accurate thing, the CPF Board should have come out and explained why the default payout age is set to 70. Their argument will probably be a combination of extra years of compounding (5 years) which is result in an extra X number of dollars paid out each year.

People may or may not agree with the CPF Board’s argument on having a default at 70 but at it least it would be a reasonable explanation of their choice of default payout age.

Right now, it just seems like they are nitpicking on the facts but skirting around the issue of their intent.

Financial literacy (FinLit) in Singapore is going to be a thing. After all, sometime late last year, it was announced that all Polytechnic and ITE students would be made to undergo some FinLit module.

I really hope that this programme pays off because there are too many old folks who are quite clueless about basic finance concepts and there are too many wannabe financial bloggers out there who offer shitty advice and they really don’t know any better.

Old Folks Getting Scammed

I read this in the news the other day about how an elderly petrol station attendant got conned of almost $130,000 over a period of 10 years. Now, this elderly man may be an extreme example because of how he fell for such an obviously fake story but how many folks do you know of that trust every single word their financial advisor tells them?

I find that among older folks, it’s only those that have been running their own businesses for some time that are more savvy of when the professional advice they get is dodgy. So, for the majority of folks that fall in the average, they wouldn’t question the advice from a financial advisor regarding what kind of financial products are suitable for them, and which are not.

The oft-used analogy is that if you’re sick, you would get professional advice from a doctor. Similarly, if you have problems with your finances, you should get advice from a financial advisor. To a certain extent, this is true. However, also consider the fact that the barriers to becoming a financial advisor in Singapore are much lower than that for doctors. Even more importantly, is the fact that most of them work for commissions. In other words, the more money you put into their products, the more they earn. To me, that’s why you can’t compare financial advisors to doctors.

And it’s not just older folks

Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe Google’s algorithm is getting too good. But lately, I’ve noticed a proliferation of blogs (and this is just Singapore-based ones!) that start off as personal finance blogs but have now ventured into the space of giving advice on stock-picking.

Now, it’s one thing to give advice on how to save money but when you give advice to people on investing, that’s a whole different ball game. There are some basic principles to investing but giving advice on whether to buy or sell a certain counter is treading into a murky swamp that even professionals fail to do very well.

Take the following for example:

Not going to put a link to this and forgive my amateur attempt to mask their identities. You can go search for the post if you want to but I suggest you spare yourself the agony.

I saw this featured on my feed that Google’s curated and it looks like this blog’s trying to sell some course that teaches you how to invest so that you can spend your time travelling and experiencing the fun stuff in life.

But I read the post and realise that it’s as vapid as the title.

There is NO SUCH THING as a safe return. Dividends can get cut, Bond prices can go down and assuming you get 6% in one year, then what? What are your chances of finding another “safe” 6% yield for another year and another and another?

The worst part about this blog is that they were even featured in a local newspaper which goes to show how FinLit inept our local journos are as well.

In Short

I really do hope that people out there beginning to take an interest in investing find the right sources to start with. In the Singapore Financial Blogger Universe, there are way too many bad sources and few good ones.

In the vein of supporting FinLit, I suggest starting with the following places:

Personal Finance/ Investing with a Singaporean flavour
Investment Moats
Financial Horse
Dr Wealth
The Fifth Person

US-based
Anyone from the Riholtz Team (Ben Carlson, Michael Batnick, Josh Brown, Barry Ritholtz)
Early Retirement Now
Mr Money Moustache

There are definitely other good ones out there but this list is not a bad place to start to or even get by with.


Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

– Bruce Lee

2018 hasn’t been a very good year for me – the stock market hasn’t helped with building my net worth, I fell had to take sick leave from work twice in the last quarter alone when I usually go a whole year without taking sick leave. At times, I haven’t felt like doing much either because of this sense of boredom and jadedness with life and work.

Within the family, there have also been some health scares. Earlier in the year, our cat had a little bit of tummy troubles following his visit to the groomers. Then, the older family members faced some health problems.

Thankfully, 2018’s about to be over. And we should recognise and celebrate the things that made the year great. These are my “Best of 2018” and I hope you find yours too.

Market Calls and Cryptocurrencies

One of the few things I identified right was how overhyped crypto was at the beginning of the year. Of course, by then, cryptos had already fallen quite a bit from the peak reached at the end of 2017 but let me pat myself on the back for calling the bullshit on the investment that is crypto.

3 Feb – More tales from the crypt(ocurrency)
14 June – So, who still wants to buy bitcoin?

But even more prescient than Crypto which I was largely skeptical of as an investment in 2017 was recognising the flow of easy money into the tech space.

10 July – State of the (U.S.) markets
11 Aug – State of the Markets (1 August 2018)

Now, before I get too swell-headed, I must confess that it’s not like I made profits from my views. I just got lucky that the tide against tech turned so much in such a short period of time.

Easy credit could have continued and I’d just as easily be labelled as someone who made a prediction and got it wrong. That’s the danger when shorting markets and unless you’re as experienced as someone like Jim Chanos, you shouldn’t do it.

This isn’t a how my portfolio did in 2018 post so I’ll leave it here. Look out for that when the year actually ends.

Learning New Skills

2018 was the year that I finally put whatever programming I picked up to good use. I wrote a script to automate some super bothersome tasks at work and if I had the time, I probably could write more scripts. I also messed around with some webscraping for stock data (shhh! Don’t tell anyone.) and I guess the next step would be having that data on a site for everyone to view. More importantly, I created a page to document the STI’s PE10. It went live at the end of July and I update it every first day of the month.

You can check it out here.

I’m hoping that in the not-too-far future I’ll have the chance to learn programming with a little more guidance and that I’ll actually have a chance to create sites that are useful. Best part is that I’m going to have my job give me time off (with pay!) to go do that. That’ll probably happen end 2019 or in 2020.

New Knowledge – habit formation

If I didn’t learn anything new all year, then that year would be a certain disaster.

James Clear’s Atomic Habits is easily one of the best things I’ve read this year. He gives really sound strategies on how you can form new habits and ditch bad ones. In fact, I didn’t know it then but I was using some of the same strategies to lose weight and practice mindfulness meditation.

This led me to cut sugar from coffee and I’ve lost even more weight than before and am at the same weight that I was in high school. Once again, the message is instructive – you have to make it a paradigm shift/lifestyle change rather than use willpower to make the change.

To drive the point home, let me give you another example.

I also developed the habit of writing roughly 3 blog posts a week this year and while it isn’t much, that’s helped boost traffic to my blog this year.

My blog stats across the years…pathetic but hey, this is a personal blog after all. I’m writing for personal amusement and not to bring in some dough.

You can see that this year is the year where, apart from April when I was on holiday for a week, the views each month were consistently above 2,000 (coloured blue). So what gives?

Well, the main things that happened was (1) that I finally got my new device, and more importantly (2) my wife started going to gym every weekend.

What has that got to do with anything? Well, every weekend, while she at the gym, I pumped out blog posts over coffee while waiting for her to be done.

This is precisely what Clear was talking about in his book. New habits need to have some place in your routine in order to become part of your life. This might be particularly instructive for some people as the new year is coming around and new year usually means new resolutions. If you really want to achieve something in the new year, you need to change your habits and not just hit some targets for a couple of weeks through sheer willpower.

Personal Front

On the personal front, this year marks the 6th year that my wife and I have been married and I couldn’t be happier. I’ll be lying if I said that we are happy 100% of the time but I’m pretty sure that on average, we’re happier together than we are apart.

I need to work on communicating with my wife more. Maybe it’s a guy thing or it could be just me but I’m not very good at communication (that’s why I have this blog!).

Our cat is also just the best thing that’s ever happened to us. He’s the one thing that makes me wake up at 6:45 am every single day and he really bosses me around until he gets his food. Then, he’s just the sweetest thing who will do whatever he wants: chilling under the bed, on his cat tree, cat window or on the sofa because he wants some attention from us.

This is his first full year with us and I know he’ll be with us forever. If you love cats, check him out on Instagram (@kingteddy_thetabbycat). Also, please donate to the Cat Welfare Society if you can. If you want a cat, adopt. Don’t shop.

2019, please be nice to me

I hope 2019 will be good for you and if anything, I’ll be working on the things I can control – my emotions, my temper, my actions, my reaction to events that are out of my control.

Goodbye 2018.

It’s been a crazy week for the U.S. markets this week. I keep expecting Asia to follow suit but each morning after a bloodbath on Wall Street, Asia remains subdued. I guess that’s what happens when everyone’s away for the holidays.

It’s the weekend before X’mas but somehow I feel like X’mas has already passed. I’m not a X’mas person anyway and I’m really looking forward to next year. This one has been nothing short of bad for the markets but I’ll leave it more for a “end of year” post.

Happy week ahead!

How Cheap Is The Singapore Stock Market Currently? (Motley Fool Singapore)

Regular readers will know that I usually use the PE10 but there are many ways to skin a cat. I’m not usually the Motley Fool Singapore’s biggest fan but this is interesting because I’ve seen James Montier do a similar study on international markets and it is a feature that when markets are beaten down, “Net-Nets” must appear.

“Net-Nets” were popularised/invented(?) by Benjamin Graham to find stocks that are trading for less than Net Current Assets. In theory, buying these companies and immediately liquidating them will earn you a positive return. The nub of course is that the value of their current assets may not be realised in reality. However, the theory is still valid and therefore, is an indication of how pessimistic investors are about a company.

In any given market, you tend to find companies that aren’t doing well and so you would expect a certain number of “Net-Nets” to exist at any given point in time. However. the number of “Net-Nets” in a bear market would be exceptionally high as pessimism of general prospects are dim.

In short, an exceptionally high number of “Net-Nets” in a market would be a fantastic indicator of when investors are too pessimistic about the future and hence, would be useful as an indicator of how cheap a market is.

Right not, the Motley Fool data seem to indicate that we’re cheap but not dirt-cheap.

Nov 2018 – Monthly Updates (Minimalist in the City)

Putting this one here because of the interesting statistic cited in the post:

Interestingly so, a study also mentioned that a child typically only plays an average of 12 toys out of 238 toys they own. This is about 5% of the toys which is quite an astonishing figure that should bring attention to the adults that a child does not really need that much toys at all.


5% is a ridiculously low number but I’m not surprised. The funny thing is that I think it’s not confined to kids. I’m pretty sure it applies to clothing, shoes, bags etc. Heck, it might even apply to our cat because he doesn’t play with most of the toys that were bought for him.

It’s sobering and a timely reminder that we should really think hard about what we need before we spend money on things that’s just going to take up space and gather dust.

Don’t Be Your Worst Enemy: Self-Inflicted Wounds Are Terribly Unnecessary (Financial Samurai)

A fantastic post listing some of the ways we sabotage ourselves.

I’ve done it many times in my life as well.

When I was younger, I drank way too much. That was a complete waste of time and money. I should have spent my time picking up some more practical skill.

There are many more examples I can give you and while each of them seems like a waste of either time or money or both, I learned important lessons from each case. It’s as if each misstep increased my self-awareness – the things that I’m good at, how to play to my personality, the areas that I’m not so good at that I could and should increase my competence in.

There’s nothing I can do to get the time that has passed so what matters most is how I spend my time, money and energy on from here on out.