Having children & Sandwich Generation

I am a father of 3 kids, and I am also part of the sandwich generation*.

*A generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible both for bringing up their own children and for the financial care of their ageing parents.

This post is inspired by the multiple CNA articles touching on married couple remaining childless recently, and other house-husband articles and facebook posts along the way.

First of all, my stand if it is important to the readers, i believe in respecting others decision and being non judgmental. To the people who do not wish to get married, it is their choice. To the people who do not wish to have children, it is their choice. I do not think that we need to change them, to impose the burden of the whole society on a certain group of individuals. We should be helping those who wish to get married, who wish to have children, who face certain hurdles to get there.

Childcare/Infant care is the 21st century solution to maintaining a local strong workforce, in increasing dual income families, for people who need that dual income, or for people who wish to have children and have career ambitions & advancement.

The cost of Childcare/ Infant care has decreased drastically for low to middle income family who stick to ECDA ANCHOR OPERATOR SCHEME (AOP)​​, i blogged about my experience previously. It is mainly the combination of CDA $1 to $1 matching and enhanced Kifas introduced last year. My expenses per child went from a low 3 digit figures to 2 digit figures, this is partially also due to my family size of 5 which allow my family income to be calculated on per capita income (PCI) basis, and also my very low income. Childcare under the Anchor Operator Scheme (AOP) is capped at $720, with CDA 1 for 1 and working mother subsidy, this can go to a middle/low 3 digit figure for low to middle income families.

I have heard stories previously of mother going out to work, and using most of their income, if not all of their income to pay for the infant care and childcare fees, that was few years back. If you do the basic calculation, the number stands true for low income working mother. And when your expenses is so high, you will go into a vicious cycle if anything happens along the way. Now with all the subsidies, it is much more possible to earn and save along the way, without compromising the kids education. This is one big aspect which the government has done well, balancing a strong workforce which is vital for Singapore survival, yet reducing one of the biggest expenses in the early years of family creation. This is beneficial for parents, who has no issues with putting their children in school, and has more ambitious career aspirations.

I think the signal is strong, if you want to work, the government will help you as a whole. But having children is a very personal decision. It is one big responsibility, lifetime. Is the environment cohesive? Is our housing suitable to raise big families?

No individual should bear the whole burden of the society, as it is too heavy to bear. As politician, aging and shrinking population will always be the bread and butter issue, they will encourage more couples to have children and if possible at optimum child bearing years too.

As a father of 3, i think it is tough having children, you will be sacrificing a lot of your personal time, aspirations, freedom and sanity. You can throw alone time out of the window if you are the stay home one. And as you experience the terrible 2, horrible 3 and incorrigible 4, you start to question yourself, am I a bad parent etc.

I do not think one can ever be prepared enough to be parent or good parent. If i consolidate all my bad parenting behavior, i think i can publish a book called “How not to raise your child.” At my best, i advocate good and positive parenting, and tell my children how much i love them everyday, words that i never heard from my parents, as they belongs to the traditional era of parents, which i deemed it the freestyle parenting – 放养式. We just present parental love differently. My parents was not really involved in my education, as they are not well versed in english, they were the forsaken generation when Singapore govt changed the education system from mother tongue to english, it was for the greater good, but suddenly one whole generation find themselves suddenly not good enough for many jobs. They did not have lower IQ than we do, but with that environment, they did not have much choices, as majority of them too experienced the freestyle parenting. Every generation will have their limitations.

I grew up in a Chinese speaking environment, most of the chinese in neighbourhood school spoke mother tongue when interacting with each other. As you can see/read, my english is really bad. If you take away 1 or half a mark for every grammatical mistake that i made in my blogging, all of my articles would be below the passing marks. Yet the content that I wish to bring across is still there, it does not mean that my knowledge is in anyway inferior to people with really good english grades, but yet my english results continue to pull me back in life, i wish that Singapore english would be graded differently from Cambridge or Oxford, as we are a bilingual country, would a person who is talented in a field that require higher grades of english be held back, just because of the balancing between 2 languages. Yet like the mandatory 2 years National Service, the males are held back in their life, career and family planning for those that wish to. It is for the greater good of the society, understandable, but full of sorrow at the same time. Sorry i digress again, it happened for all my posts. Too much ranting.

Sandwich Generation
You cannot choose whether you want to be part of the sandwich generation or not. Your parents will be making the decision, unless you choose not to have children to avoid being the sandwich generation, with the sheer determination to let it end with you. But i do not encourage that thought, if you wish to have children, please do not let the sandwich generation burden be in the way.

I am lucky to have siblings to share the financial liability, what i have contributed so far, is quite minimal at the moment, so i cannot comment much on it yet.

But I am determined to stop it at my generation, to be financially responsible for my own life, my retirement and my healthcare costs. What is the point of being educated, if you cannot use all the knowledge gained to take control of your lie, many of our uneducated parents did not have the choice, but we do. If you can afford a car and choose not to, save the money and invest logically, you will have quite a sum of money for your retirement, get that hospitalisation insurance if you have not, it is the single most important insurance ever. Have dependant? Get a term/life insurance, do not commit too much. Read up, ask around, visit as many financial blogs as you can, get the whole feel of the financial blogsphere.

I do it, so my children will not need to be the sandwich generation. They can have their own aspirations, their own life plans, they will not be held back financially. When i am old and frail, their company will be all I need to know that I have lived well.

My greatest forte is creating value, unlocking value. I earn very little, yet I learn how to invest, I produce reasonable and sustainable returns, and plow them back to the portfolio, I ensure that the family finance is well taken care of. Even if I am not working, I continue to generate income for the family, a strong financial safety net is the most basic foundation block to a family, you cannot really prepare yourself to be good parents, but you can start creating a strong financial position, so when life throw you lemons, your savings will be the flask, your investment returns will be the sugar, the actions the you do to build wealth will be the shaking, insurance will be the mat, in case you drop it, it might spill but it will not crack. There you have it, lemonade. It is sweet, sour and slightly bitter at the same time, just like life. Only when you acknowledge that it will be sour, it will be bitter, then can you really taste the sweetness of life.

Last but not least, I do not think that anyone is qualified to advise you whether you should have children or not, it is very personal, between you and your spouse or you alone. All I can do is to share my experiences and you see if it makes sense to you and your life planning. If you are thinking of having more than you can cope, then maybe you can discuss with your wallet, or the people who will be helping you, if they are ok with helping, is their health still going strong. It really takes a village to raise a child nowadays. Home based learning coupled with Work from home has further strengthen this thinking, for lower primary home based learning, the parent became the teacher, while the teacher became the facilitator. The nation is stretching itself to deal with the pandemic, the parents are stretching themselves balancing their rice bowl, the children’s well being, and whatever sanity there is left at the end of the day. Every generation has their own problems.

If you are planning to have a child soon, i wish you the very best. Godspeed.

Blogging

As my blog becomes a deserted island, I wonder why did I, again and again want to blog.

It always start with an urge to communicate my thoughts through words on any topic that interested me. Most topics are linked to finance anyway, from the money that flows through each and every one of us, investing that allows many people an alternative to life other than working till death do us apart. To the working culture, the politics around the world, to our everyday purchases, the house that we live in, the future of our ourselves, our children, our family, its linked to finance, it always has.

I take a long time for one post, often deleting and typing, deleting and typing, doing some research online for figures and references. And time is something that i can never have enough of, with 3 kids in the family. I have cut back on my career and income, to manage the kids schedule, and i prefer not to have a helper, i have always been a diy person, but big thanks to my in law, the children’s grandma, who played a big part in helping us to mange during the weekdays. It is what i called the divisive tactics, so there wont be middle child syndrome, or any other bad childhood upbringing associated with big family, but as the years passed, the health and energy level takes a big drain, often hitting new lows, and never recovering to the previous highs.

As a self-employed, i am blessed with the flexibility to cut down on work, while for employees, it is not as simple as changing from full time to part time, all I have to accept is the lower income range, i mean really low, lower than what I am earning from investments.

So i am extremely thankful to the younger me, for having a passion in investing, for willing to read a lot of books, for my career i self learned after NS, for investing i self learned from the library. Post tertiary education has not really played a big part in my career or in my life, late bloomer it must be.

I am more of a logical person, that’s why i chose value investing, there must be a value that i can count on, be it NCAV, NAV or PE, PSR.

To a logical person, it’s hard to see directly at the current state of world with eyes wide open.

You see leaders of the world that people used to look up to, bickering worse than children, bullying tactics, killing under the pretense for the greater good of mankind . If someone of the lowest integrity can become the great leaders of the world, it’s hard to teach your children to be kind, to be nice, to be good citizen and good people. When they are going to be working under the people whom you have worked hard your whole life to teach your children not to be. But yet we all persevere to teach our children to be kind, to do the right things, while it is always the innocent that get hurts, the world still need the majority to be kind, even if it is the silent majority.

No matter how many times i go round and round all these problems, the answer is always to be in charge of your life, to have enough money, so you can have more options in life, you can choose to walk away from deals that require you to kowtow, from jobs that go against what you stand for, and all the problems that can be solved by money.

As you can see from what I mentioned about my career and income, i am in the journey of “Coast FIRE”, with 3 young kids, it can be quite unimaginable for most of you. But i need very little, and i spend very little, and i always plan ahead.

Achieving FIRE too young, does not lead to happiness, it create a void in your life, then you start asking what is the meaning of life? Why am I still not happy despite living the dream life that most wanted? In life, you need to have a purpose, it can be love, it can be doing something for the greater good. It is ok if the purpose is temporary and you switch from one to the other, as one day you will realise that there is no purpose that is so strong that can last you a lifetime everyday 24/7, not even marriage or children. You can try to con yourself if it helps.

Right now the family portfolio is getting bigger, which is a good sign, we are able to draw out more to cover more of everyday expenditure if we want, but we are still quite young and able, so every year we take out money to cover the big items, while the bills, loan, etc are from our income, and if we have extra savings for the year, we will put it in too. We are on track for early retirement if possible, or FIRE, or (just do not want to work) whatever you call it. Positive cashflow, savings and investing has given us a good chance in life to pursue a different path from our parents and people who are in the rat race.

2020

It’s the start of the new year 2021, and most financial bloggers are putting up their report card for the year 2020, as the CFO of the family, it is my duty too, to consolidate and conclude for the year.

Let’s look at how the portfolio has grown over the years.

This year the portfolio grew by 9.53%, while STI ETF dropped 8.46% including dividends. The CAGR of the portfolio stands at 6.73% over 6 years.

2018 was a bad year for the portfolio, with a -14% performance, and the portfolio’s NAV has not recovered to End 2017 value of 1.59 yet. If i am a fund manger whose performance fees is based on a high water mark, i would have worked for free for 3 years by now, if i do not have new clients coming in, in the year of 2019 and 2020. Nevertheless, we inject new capital each year, so the portfolio absolute value is still growing steadily.

This year will be a milestone year, as the portfolio officially enters its 7th year, by the rule of 72, at 10% targeted returns, i will be doubling my starting capital at the end of 2021, or to be precise at 7.2 years. I will need to grow the portfolio at 30% this year to have an NAV of $2.00, however i won’t be doing anything different, value investing is still a very bottom up approach, on an individual company basic.

I am still invested in Singapore market only, while there are many opportunities outside Singapore, very exciting too, my target of 10% can be achieved in Singapore given the portfolio size. It’s me who is the problem, not the market.

A few thoughts i would like to share my views on:

  1. Conviction
  2. Stock Market
  3. Gold

Conviction

This year was a very important year for my investing conviction, a lot of the theories was put into use, and i have failed in one that i felt was very important.

” … to be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”

Warren Buffet

If the conviction was strong, and the discipline to follow your conviction was high, this year would be a good year to buy more and sell less, anyone who had done so, would be looking at sizeable gains this year. I did the opposite of selling more and only buying after i realised that it was not a good time to be selling, i also tried to time the market, as it swings steadily up and down in a tight range on a weekly basic, or so i thought, clocking in small gains and missing out on long term gains.

I was caught with my pants down, which reemphasize the important of cash level in the portfolio, i was a little lazy in the screening of stocks in the year of 2018 and 2019, so i told myself i wanted to work hard in 2020, i did much more screening, and was looking at financial reports of interested companies that fulfilled my criteria, so there were a few good companies that i wished to buy at the start of 2020, when the news of covid got serious, the cash portion of the portfolio was close to 0%, so while it was a good time to buy stocks from March onwards, i was selling stocks to raise cash, which was quite silly, if my conviction is strong, i would have injected more money into the portfolio. As a value investor, our cash holdings can be high at times, which will pull down the overall performance of the whole portfolio, sometimes this cash portion can also save the portfolio from dropping too much, if i was fully invested in 2018, it would not had been just -14%, it will be much worse.

Stock Market

It has been said many times that the stock market is forward looking, and the price is very seldom a true representation of the current economy or company value, most often, the price of the stock market/ companies swing to and fro, briefly touching its intrinsic value every now and then. A trader trade short term based on the flow, the trend, the graph line, RSI, moving average etc. The quant invest based on it’s algorithm. The dividend investor relies heavily on the dividends yield, while the growth investor looks for how much the companies can grow than its current value, the macro investor more on the whole wide economy trends and what is the next new innovation and disruption, while the value investor more on the asset values of the company. These investors make up the stock market, along side many others type of investors and big fund management corporation. The stock market is often a tussle between many groups at one time, depending on the monetary powers on each side, and the liquidity present in the whole market & economy.

On hindsight, the US market new highs is pushed by the extremely low interest rates, and flush liquidity in the market right now. It is almost as if covid has not happened, and the world is in a very good shape, which i think even people on the main street can see that it is not so. The greed level seems to be high right now, with many earning good money from the stock market, and many others who have missed the rise, following right in the footsteps, so 2021 will continue to rise?

If everyone want to continue dancing, the music has to go on, but as people start getting tired, and wish to go home, there will be lesser people in the ballroom, and at a certain point, the music will stop.

There will be displeasure from people who want to dance a little more, but has a hunch that the music will soon stop.

There will be disbelief from the people who heard from all the fantastic reviews from people around them, that there is a 24/7 ballroom which plays good music, they sold some stuffs for money, they set aside budget to make this long trip, and truth beholds, the music was great, the people are great, but suddenly after 3 songs, the ballroom electricity was shut down, no music, no ventilation, no lights.

The people living around the ballroom, knows something was brewing, there were noise issues, traffics issues, legal issues, this situation can’t go on forever, but yet people are still flocking into town, creating good income for the people in town who offer services, food and accomodation for the visitors.

Soon, people start moving into this town, where job opportunities are abundant. A new eco system was created, with the ballroom in the center of the new economy.

What happened when the ballroom closed? What happened before the ballroom closed, with a few privileged people knowing the news before it closed? What happened to the people that came last?

I have no doubt, that there will always be another ballroom to replace the previous one, there are people whose livelihood depends on the existence of the ballroom, but if you do not, it is always prudent to wait. Opportunities lost do not results in losses.

Gold

I do not have much interest in investing gold, as much as i do not have much interest in investing properties. But i think they are one of the best way to fight inflation with very minimum effort needed in the research/ reading phase. Many older folks got their fingers burnt in the stock market, following the hot stocks, or that mentality that government linked stocks will never failed. But the gold jewelry they purchased many years back, even taking into account the jewelry design fees, they are still looking at a very good profit.

For properties, you get good returns, because of leverage, the value does not fluctuate as much as the stock market, and inflation include properties prices too.

Gold has been compared with bitcoins as alternative investment, however gold has practical usage in the world, but bitcoins does not have any practical usage yet, at best an ideology. You will find some gold in most families, but rarely bitcoins, so it is still a bit far fetched comparing bitcoins to gold. Long term wise, it can be very good at fighting against inflation, especially in country which is very unstable, whose fiat currency are at a big risk.

It is getting easier to invest in gold, whether it is physical gold, or gold etf etc. There are still some hurdles, and more expensive fees as compared to the stock market.

I think gold is more of an insurance rather than an investment, you do not need to claim from insurance most of the time, but just that few crucial claims can benefit you for life. I have strong faith in the SGD, much more than USD, although if USD fails, most currencies will go down with it. In my generation, it is quite hard to fathom SGD and the Singapore Govt failing in its monetary role.

The Singapore government is like a value investor, very cautious and stingy at times. This is very important to a small country with no natural resources, the covid year was one of the rare times, that the government is giving a lot of money to the citizens, USA is like someone with high income power, top 1% income tier, with high spending habits with no savings, a spendthrift, spending all the income and getting into debt to fund that lavish lifestyle. We wouldn’t teach our children to spend all their monthly income, and wait for next month to come, so why should a country do so, unless it is to stay in power, and who benefit most from it?

I got a hole in my backyard, the hole gets bigger as the months passed by, i got some stuffs to fill up the hole, but the hole gets even bigger from all the weight of the stuff. Should i get the hole check, instead of dumping stuffs to cover the hole, if the hole requires extensive repair works and quite a long timeframe, which will affects me, my house and all my neigbours, are we willing to bear with it? Or we would just cover it as the experts has said, in my lifetime it shouldnt be a problem. You can move house if you want to, as the repair cost can be quite high. Luckily i still have a choice to move, but what if i do not have a choice?

Perhaps the most important book i have ever read in my financial journey.

The Richest Man In Babylon.

I have read a lot of books when I was starting my investment journey, big big thanks to the neighborhood library, where wisdom of all sorts, in different genre can be found in written form.

From REITS investing in the local section, value investing, growth investing, trading, reading annual reports, financial reports, how to look for fraud, books that focus specifically on ROE, PSR, P/B, P/E etc and many many more. I cannot emphasize enough that reading is a very big part of investing, in all stages, and even if you are already a veteran in investing, you still have to keep on reading, the annual reports, financial reports of companies that you have invested in.

But first of all, before we start on our investing journey, we have to learn how to manage our money.

We do know that we need to save our money from a very young age, the rich will teach their offspring the importance of money and how to preserve their wealth, while the poor will also teach their offspring the importance of money through their own experience and plight. Parents will teach their children to save money for a rainy day, regardless of their own education level, their own savings rates, or their uncontrollable expenses.

The question is how much, how early, and what differences will it make?

Does saving 10% your whole life from all the money you have collected make a big difference and allow you to pursue the life you want at an earlier stage?

No, a person who have not saved a single cent in his youth, but 50% in his prime earning years, and invest his money wisely and steadily will have a lot more towards the end.

So does it mean we do not have to save since young?

No again, if you do not learn how to mange small amount of money and manage it well, how do you think you will cope with big amount of money?

Some good example which I always like to bring up, are the NBA players and the big lottery winners. The NBA players are extremely talent in their own crafts, and the sports are well liked across many countries, many basketball players around the world have given their whole life to basketball and their achievements can’t even match up to the second tier standard in America , and the lottery winners are some of the luckiest people in the world, until the money started to control them.

Starting young and starting small, might not play a very big part in terms of the amount of money, but never underestimate, the amount of understanding you will amassed along the way in understanding yourself and the investing environment which you wish to be in. You can go into trading, and learn about the importance of stop loss, or your character can be more suitable for a balanced portfolio, which you dabble in bonds, precious metals and stocks. You could perhaps be more interest in emerging markets than your local market, or in the US market, where the P/E ratio can go into the thousands for companies that the whole world has high hope in. Or the dividends focused/ REITS group which is more interested in the amount of money they are getting out from their portfolio each year, or every month. Perhaps a contrarian, a value investors, or solely property investor.

It is always about understanding yourself, your temperament, starting with small amount of money, making mistakes along the way, and slowly picking yourself up, and finally finding a steady path to your investment journey, there are many roads that leads to Rome, some faster but riskier, some slower but steadier.

In the end, it is about reaching your destination, regardless of how far or near, how slow of fast, if you take into consideration, the amount of people not reaching the end destination. To reach, you would have already won over the mass majority.

Lets bring us back to money mangement, the important rules we can take a leaf from The Richest Man In Babylon.

7 golden rules.

1. Start thy purse to fattening – For each ten coins i put in my lean purse, to spend but nine.

In today context – Pay yourself first. Do not save what you have left, but save first then spend. Normally in your prime earning years, the expenses are often the greatest too, as it coincides with getting married and having a child or children. For the singles, some of the biggest expenses in life like getting that car, or investment property, being filial piety and contributing more to your parents allowance, going for your yearly holidays. There will always be something to buy, which bring us to our next rules, but before that, pay yourself first.

2. Control thy expenditures – Budget then thy necessary expenses. Touch not the one- tenth that is fattening thy purse. Let this be thy great desire that is being fulfilled. Keep working with thy budget, keep adjusting it to help thee.

There are many good points in the second rule, and for anyone that is interested, you can purchase the e-book online, or visit your local library.
In today context, this is perhaps one of the hardest rule in all the seven rules, yet we do have to be responsible to our money, to tell ourselves that we should control the money, and not let the money control us. For most if not all job, we are trading time for money, for top athletes, soccer players, basketballers, most retire in their 30s, while they are past their prime for that particular sports, their life have just entered into their prime. With reducing income, can they reduce their expenses proportionally too? Or their expenses will increase with higher upkeep to their image, and ego?

3. Make thy gold multiply – Behold, from my humble earnings I had begotten a hoard of golden slaves, each laboring and earning more gold. As they labored for me, so their children also labored and their children’s children until great was the income from their combined efforts.

Some people are better at managing money, some are better at investing, while some are better at earnings, and some lucky few who are good at multiple aspects if not all. No matter what, there is a common goal, to multiply our savings(idle money) Before we start to invest, please set aside an emergency fund, as it is hard to predict the short term fluctuation of any investing environment, or to predict that black swam event like covid19, that seems to be happening more frequently ,a black swam event is not that uncommon after all.

Investing is a personal journey, you can seek help, go to classes, or stand on the shoulders of giants, but ultimately you are solely responsible for the rise and fall of your investment values, not the someone who told you about one particular stock that is sure bound to rise, or that hot hot stock where all the people you know have put in some money and are enjoying the first wave of a rising tide brought on by the rising liquidity that is flooding the market.

Before you invest, what is the definition of the stock market to you? How do investors earn money from the market, and what do business owners have to gain from listing in the stock market, understanding these fundamental issues will make you understand your path, whether you are more attracted into dividends investing; one of the best way to partake in the business profits, or that cash rich, yearly increasing book value company that refuse to return back any money in the company to shareholders, waiting for years for other shareholders to push up its price, and only after you have sold your holdings after losing all hope in the company to realise its value, then it’s stock price rises dramatically after that. There are many reasons why a stock price will rise or fall, many reasons worse than the others, and on hindsight, the vision is often perfect, but not when you are prodding forward.

We have come to the end of this lengthy and wordiness post, there are 4 more rules to this series, which I think are slightly less important to the first 3 rules but if you wish I highly recommend you to borrow or purchase the book for a good old reading, you will not be disappointed.

If you mastered the first 3 rules, I think you are set for a relatively successful investing journey, yet the first 3 rules are often the hardest due to individual temperament. For money management and that a-ha book, the financial camp are often divided into two major camps, one of which is The Richest Man In Babylon & Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, with most preferring the latter, both are great books, which will set a strong foundation in your financial literacy journey.

Last but not least, i would like to add in some personal words which I feel strongly for.

Savings is more of within, while spending is more shown externally. In life, almost everywhere we are more judged by our spending powers, countries are listed by their spending powers. And it is true, by how spending and powers comes together naturally to form a phrase, spending do give us powers, and make us feel in power, it is a very very fine and delicate process, one misstep and we are lured into this false sense of power, which vanish into the thin air when our money are gone. The whole world is chasing after money not you. Take good care of your money, and be in control of it. It is easier for others to judge you by the clothes you wear, the car you drive, and the house you stay in, and very seldom will people know how much you have in savings unless you wish to reveal so. Spending is essential to the economy and savings is essential to your personal well being, it is a delicate balance with no right or wrong. Remember there are many paths that lead to Rome, and it is not how fast you reach it, but whether you will reach it. In the meantime, do enjoy the journey and not be penny wise and pound foolish. It is perfectly fine to buy the things that you fancy from time to time, but always spend within your means.

Stock portfolio finally back in the green amidst the year of Covid

Previously, i had to manually remember dates for the release of company financial reports, and most of the time i do missed it, but with the SGX mobile app, after adding stocks into my favourite list, and pressing the alarm button on the top right, i am able to get very timely notifications and it has been hassle free since then.

This week, many companies which i have invested, have released their financial results, i would say it is a mixture of good and bad results.

The commentary section at the last of the financial report is one of the most important aspect that every investors should look out for other than the figures. And covid19 is mentioned in most if not all of the listed companies.

This is a very important period for investors, as we are able to see firsthand how the covid 19 has financially impacted the listed companies.

Before the covid striked, the portfolio at it’s best this year was about +5% in Jan/feb, and at it’s worst about -18% in April/May.

This is my first time experiencing a black swam event, and i think as a value investor, i made some bad decisions, by selling some of my stocks at the lowest.

Here are some of my thoughts back then, the stock market was getting more and more expensive, there were very minimal good value stocks, and thus i was looking at some of the more conservative growth stocks, for value stocks, most companies are the kind where they are largely unheard of, at least for me, while the big names very seldom appeared in the value stocks screening, so at the first quarter of this year, i purchased some big names whose price was beaten down, like Great Eastern, brought at about $22 and sold at $17.70, hong leong finance brought at $2.65 and sold at $2.2, terrible timing to sell back then when everyone was very pessimistic.

And i have since constantly reminded myself to be greedy when most people are fearful and fearful when most are greedy. It was a good opportunity to know myself better, and the kind of conviction which i had, or believe i had.

As a value investor, i am skeptical of many things, and the stock market always seems like it is overly optimistic, or a wild swing into overly pessimistic mood, the rapid sell down and the rapid rise back of the US markets is a strange sight to behold.

As a value investor, buying is the easier part, while selling is the hardest, the portfolio reached an all time high NAV of $1.585 in end of 2017, since inception in start of 2015, with a CAGR of 16.72%, Sunright exploded that year, and contributed to most of the portfolio gains, then Sunright slumped down back to the recent low of $0.375, i did’t sell anything when it was on it’s way up, and also not on it’s way down, it contributed greatly again to 2018 portfolio returns this time negatively, the worst results of all time at -14% for that whole year. Sunright continued to be the third largest holding of the portfolio, after cash portion and Multi-chem. i have sold off a little bit this year to re balance the portfolio.

Next on to Multi-chem, the whole portfolio is in green at 0.87% gain despite of all the mistakes that i made this year, after it rises an amazing 75% since the start of 2020 including dividends given. I purchased it in 2016 in the range of $0.475 to $0.555, and it is the largest holding of my portfolio.

There were a lot of mistakes made in the selling part this year, and a little bit of trading in and out of the market when the prices rise or fall drastically in a short period of time, and it did not ended up well, selling stocks for a small profit and watching it rise and rise. All in all, the selling made in this year has been bad, but the buying was good, a lot of stocks purchased this year in the first/second quarter has risen well.

There is still 4 more months to go before 2020 ends, and a lot of things can happened in a short period of time, the portfolio will most likely go back to the red again, i am aiming for a 5% to -5% range, and the whole stock market can tank again, though Singapore stock market has not recovered yet and is now around -17.5%. It is a good time to invest in the STI ETF at $2.594 with a timeframe of 5 years and beyond.

The stock market is a voting machine in the short term, but it will always revert back to a weighting machine in the long term, company by company. It can be kind of silly trying to justify and interpreting everyday market movement, why this stock went up, why this stock went down, there will always be a reason for it, if you cast your net as wide as possible, and getting people to speak the reason that you want, for recognition, fame or fortune.

“But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance.” Especially so when your job and income depend on the daily movement of the stock market.

But for the retail investor, we are reminded by the sage of Omaha. “The stock market is a no-called-strike game. You don’t have to swing at everything – you can wait for your pitch.”

Avoid things that you do not know, avoid the hype, understand yourself, find out what kind of investor you are and stick to your circle of competence.

Stay safe, and hope everyone avoid over leveraging, and also do not put your eggs in one basket.

“A rising tide floats all boats….. only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

Socash 1.5% rebate July 2020 promotion

Earned a total of $41.35 for the month of July, and an additional $15 for the month of August, total $56.35


Free cash with minimal hassle, except for the many trips. A total of 7 trips, averaging $8.05 per trip.

Requirements:
1. Smartphone to download Socash app
2. DBS/POSB bank account
3. Nearby Sheng Siong Outlet with $tm machine.

Pros
I enjoyed this kind of free cash rebates promo with no spending needed.
I happened to have Sheng Siong near my house which is almost hassle free with it’s $tm machine, very few people used it.

Cons
There is not much information from Socash side, everything that i know comes from the other websites and hwz forum where people tested personally and shared how much they are able to withdraw, socash kept changing the monthly limit from $2500 to $2000 then to $1500, probably due to overwhelming reponses, however will be good if some announcement is make transparently.
If you need to queue together with people paying for their purchases, i feel that the effort might not be worth it. Feedback has been given by other users that, socash withdrawal are not really welcome at some stores, especially during peak hours, as it adds to the cashier workload, and increase the queue duration for everybody.

Singapore has a very good and plentiful ATM network, you can find ATM almost anywhere, so i can’t really see Socash as an essential app, or a game changing app.
The $tm machine has a specific icon for Socash, so it was pretty simple, though the Qr code scanner was not that prominent, it is that mirror looking like box below the screen, put your phone screen with the Qr code near it to scan.
Sheng Siong is the clear winner here, as i am already there, might as well do some late night groceries shopping, with some non-essential items here and there.

All in all, i feel that this is a good promo, and highly recommend people who meet the requirements to give it a try. The cash rebates are just in time for the durian season peak in August, for me to enjoy a pack of MSW durians which is getting crazily expensive, when has durians become a luxury item?

15/08/2020 – Seems like they extended the 1.5% cashback promo for another 3 more Fridays, well it was announced on 14th 5:55pm the first friday which i already missed, but i will try for the next 2 Fridays, i tried finding more infomation about the T&C and how much i can withdraw, but there was no information anywhere again.

Socash, you got to do better!

2020 online expenses



I paid: $33.92, NTUC: $41.85, Shopee normal price: $41,50 , i saved $7.58.
I paid: $30.48 for 12 tubes, $2.54 per tube, NTUC at $8.50 per tube, Shopee Colgate at $18.50 for 3 tubes, i saved $43.52!
I paid: $54.10, NTUC per carton at $40.65, Shopee at $59 for 2 after discount, i saved $4.90
I paid $12.75, I saved $2.25
I paid: $33.21, NTUC: $41.85, Shopee $41.50, i saved $8.29.
I paid: $155.05, NTUC: $257.40, Shopee $177.50, i saved $22.45.
I saved about $20 due to free 1L.
I paid: $56.23, NTUC: $76, Shopee: $68.90, i saved $12.67.
I paid: $26.04, NTUC: $53.70, i saved about $27.66.
I paid $56.53, NTUC per carton at $40.65, Shopee at $59 for 2 after discount, i saved $2.47
I saved about $12.45 and more from the promo used and bundle deals.
I saved $13 from promo used.
I used voucher to sort of waived off the delivery, and $10 saved from flash deals.
I saved $14.53.

I saved a total of $201.77 as compared to normal shopee prices, the 12% cashback in shopee coins for selected listings will further reduce the savings gap.

However if we compared to NTUC prices, the savings are huge, at about $360, just for the above expenses.

The above expenses are just a part of the family online expenses on my side, there are more on my lazada account especially formula milk, and also on my spouse side. I reckon we saved at least $1 to $2k each year.

We can really feel the difference, when we switched from NTUC to online e-commerce, as during the time of our first born, there was no shopee/lazada. While we always wait for the promotions in NTUC, the savings cannot be compared to online shopping, where the brands sell direct on the platform without adhering to the retail price they set in the supermarts.

Points to note:
1. The 12% cashback in the form of shopee coins, is one of the biggest reasons behind most of the savings nowadays as credit card promos are notoriously finished up before the morning with people buying right after 12am. The in-store vouchers/promotions plus some flash deals are attractive from time to time.
The cashback will end one day, just like Grab crazy promotion, during their fight with Uber for market share. We could saved a lot of money back then for Grab, with some of the trips costing next to nothing. We moved on after the promo ended. Enjoy while it lasts.

2. Planning for your purchases and delaying them for further discounts will always help you to save money, your choice whether it is worth it.

3. While the savings seems minimal, over your lifetime if you applied it to most of your purchases, especially the big ones, you will save a lot, and always remember, money not spent is not money saved yet, only when you put it aside, save it, invest it and let it grow, then you will really feel the power of prudent purchases and compounding!


Real life preschool fees in Singapore (Family Economics)

Different parents have different aspiration for their kids, some might wished to pay more for private Montessori preschool education, up to 4 digit figure a month after subsidies. While with enhanced kifas scheme kicking in this year, the lowest fees for good basic pre school kindergarden/ childcare/ infant care can go as low as 2 digit figure a month, with many low to middle income families paying averagely a low 3 digit figure each month for childcare infant care, and low 2 digit figure for kindergarten.

After the CDA 1 for 1 top up and CDA first step of $3,000 for every child born, the enhanced kifas subsidies scheme is the next best thing, promising good preschool education at very low fees for all singaporean children, especially beneficial to the low income group.

In modern 21st Singapore society, it is hard to survive on a single income, most families are on dual income mode, with infant/ childcare services almost essential and critical to every family, while some roped in the grandparents and relatives, as it truly takes a village to raise children. There will be families on single income, and this is especially tough for the low income group.

Previously i was paying $170+ a month for sparkletots preschool from N1 onwards, 4 years of preschooling from age 3 to 6 will costs me about $8160 ($170 x12 months x 4 years), with $3,000 CDA first step and if i top up $3,000 into my child CDA account, the govt will match 1 for 1 for another $3,000, total $9,000 which is just nice to cover the 4 years preschooling. All in all i paid $3,000 for 4 years of preschool fees, with perhaps another $1,000 set aside for miscellaneous cash payment, like photos, concert, material fees etc. It is really affordable as compared to many other countries.

While this is the cheapest basic package available and the most common scenario for most of the families, i have no doubt that is good quality pre-schooling at affordable pricing. My kids love the teachers and their school a lot.

Previously, the plan was to deposit into the child CDA account $1,000 each year from age 4, 5, and 6, we have $3,000 from CDA first step which is enough to cover the first year in N1. The amount will be just nice for successful deduction for the children preschool fees until the child enter primary school.

With enhanced kifas kicking in just recently, we are now paying a low 2 digit figure, and as such, we do not need to top up $1,000 each year, the first step $3,000 is more than sufficient to cover the 4 years, Preschool kindergarden at Anchor Operator is now basically free, for low income families who is also intending to use the $3,000 CDA first step for education instead of other expenses.

Money not spent is not yet money saved, thus i will be channeling the $1,000 each year into the children stock portfolio, and when the child reached 12th, i will deposit the $3,000 saved into the CDA account for the govt to match it 1 for 1, earning a good 100% returns, while also earning the returns gained over the years, which can be more than 100%, at a rate of 10% CAGR, it takes about 7 years for you to double your money.

The cash gift ranging from $8,000 to $10,000 is also saved and invested into the child’s portfolio, which is perhaps the best gift i can give them after my companionship, being around for their childhood.

父母能给孩子最好的礼物是陪伴。

ALl the money saved and invested can then be used for their tertiary education, though i encouraged them to take a study loan and repay it by themselves after they step into the workforce. Over the years, it can be used for their enrichment, or any other hobbies that they are interested in, i am particularly inclined towards music choices for them, as i believe music can heal many wounds and can accompany them for many years to come.


Musang King’s Price and value (MSW Singapore 2020 June to August main season)

Price used in this article $23/kg in Early July 2020.
Early August, many stores are selling grade B MSW at $11 to $13/kg, and Grade A close to $20. Grade B at this price offers more value than Grade A MSW, with per seed going to as low as $2/seed, go for the rounder grade B, you can even get 4 to 5 rows of seeds if you are lucky. Grade B shape are irregular, however on and off you do get grade A shape, sometimes it is just because the Grade A MSW split open, and are categorised into Grade B with a rubber band tied.
Price might go lower in August, about 2 weeks from start of August before the season ends.

TL;DR information:
————————————————————–
Grade A MSW durian yield: >33%, above 1.4kg
Grade B MSW durian yield: 25%
Grade C: buying by per pcs is more logical than buying by the weight.

For pre-packed, you are not getting a good deal when you pay more than $1 per 10 grams (June to August 2020), e.x. $40 for 400g – expensive, $30 for 400g, better value.
More than >$3 per seed, not valuable for money, hopefully it is good. Per seed weight is normally about 40 to 50g for Grade A.
For 300g pack, you should be looking at 5 to 7 seeds, and at $30 you are paying $5/seed. Expensive.
Price is what you pay, value is what you get. Paying more for better quality or that trusted seller or good recovery customer service is understandable. These are intangible qualities.
——————————————————————-



Durians are getting more and more expensive. It is harder to find seller selling by per durian, everywhere now is priced by the kg, and pre-packed with delivery are all the norm now with the covid crisis.

This is the first year where selling pre-packed took over selling and weighting with husk.

There are a ton of new sellers, using social platform, and e-commerce website to sell pre-packed durians, with no physical shop or walk-in service.

From observation, most of the pre packed sellers are selling at about $30 per kg if you use a yield calculation of 33% since you are paying Grade A price, with additional fees for delivery, 25% yield can never be justified for Grade A, even 99 old trees is using a 28% yield, to cover for its excellent customer service and recovery cost.

Walk in store buying with husk: $23/kg for Grade A MSW with >33% yield
Buying Pre-packed durian with delivery: $30/kg based on 25% yield, with additional delivery fee ranging from $4(Shopee), $4.90(99 old trees) to $8 to $10 for other online seller. (Paying Grade A price for Grade B yield)

A normal average MSW of 1.7kg will set you back for $39.10 at $23 per kg based on July 2020 pricing. It is priced equivalent to a 6 bottles boxed bird nest or a can of abalone, with every seed of MSW costing more than a pack of chicken rice.

MSW has a grading system set by the plantation for export purposes, grade A, B and C. The in between AB Grade, the crème de la crème Grade AA which is further selected from Grade A.

When you see the durian seller putting up the pricing signage like Pahang Grade A MSW at $23 kg, you should be looking at very uniform, round shape, with size ranging from 1.xkg to maybe 3.x kg, please do not go beyond 2kg if this is your first time buying from that store, do request for dehusk and check the durians on the spot, avoid stores with weighting machine that seems to be deliberately avoiding you, and separate dehusk/packing station that you can’t access.

Grading of MSW has nothing to do with taste, it is mainly on the yield of the durian flesh with seeds.

Good info on durian grading by 99 old trees, 4 roomer that is.



For grade A MSW, you should ideally be looking at >33% yield, the lucky occasional >40%. As grade A msw is round without any odd shape or sunken in husk, you should be getting 4 to 5 rows of seeds, with average of 2 to 3 seeds per row. Lesser seeds per row for smaller sized MSW.

As we move on down the grade to grade B, or some called it grade AB, due to the irregular shape of the durians, some rows of the durian will be empty, reducing the yield or number of seeds, so some honest sellers will sell grade B with husk at cheaper pricing. The cheaper pricing is to make up for the lesser yield, resulting in same pricing on a per seed basic.

Grading has nothing to do with taste, however over the years, there are a lot of misinformation on the seller and buyer side, resulting in some using grading for MSW taste, with many feeling that grade A should taste better than grade B, It’s not true.
Legend has it that, one seed in a row taste better than multiple seeds in a row, try it yourself!
(If i am buying pre-packed at a fixed weight, i do not mind getting all the Grade B, every row in the same durians can have different taste, the side that the sun shine on, and the side with lesser sunlight etc.) By having more Grade B durian rows in a pack, i get to experience many more, provided the durians are all good.

So how does this apply to pre packed durians, actually the grading should not apply to per-packed durians, you should not be paying more for grade A or less for grade B/C if the weight of the pack remains the same.

Next we move on to the pricing of pre-packed durains, almost all of the pricing for pre-packed is based on MSW grade A durians, with 400g pack the standard with price about $40, you might be able to get it below $30 occasionally when there are promo code, last min deals etc.

Let’s do a simple calculation on a 400g per-packed msw at $40, which is the standard pricing for June/July season. since this is based on a grade A pricing, we take a yield of 33%, you do get yield higher than 35% for the better ones. So, 400g flesh with seeds at 33% yield is equivalent to a 1.2kg msw with husk, using 1.2kg at $23/kg, the price should be $27.6, you are losing out $12.4 excluding delivery yet. Why is that so, a lot of seller selling pre-packed are using 25% yield for their own calculation, however 25% is very low for grade A MSW, especially when you are paying more for a grade A regular round shape durian, 25% yield is more for grade B MSW.

Next onto the packing weight at 400g, you are getting 2 rows, or 3 rows if you are lucky, and that is 40% to 60% of a whole durian, when you pay $30 or more and get 2-3 rows of durians, that feeling is strange, with slight disappointment as you received the box from the delivery guy, and you referred back to the seller advertised photos, with each box full of 4-5 rows of durians (Advertising 800g box while selling 400g box, or that iconic photo which every seller has taken, that 3 rows of durian on the durian husk semi-opened.) Pro tip, always look out for photos/videos with packing process, or the already packed many boxes ready to be send out, rather than the hero shot.

My recommendation is to go for 550g and above for pre packed durian, 550g at 33% yield is equivalent to a 1.66kg durian with husk, which is a good weight for good grade A msw durians. you will be getting the whole durian in a box, 4 to 5 rows, a good way to start and a good portion for 1 to 2 person.

Last but not least, to know whether you are getting a good rate for your durians, you can do a per seed calculation, take your total purchase price divide by the number of msw seeds.

Based on $23/kg pricing, if you are getting $3 or below per seed, it is a good deal, some of the market stalls are selling pre-packed at less than $20(might be overnight durians), so if you choose one with more seeds, it is highly possible to get such a good deal. Some of the expensive stalls can go up to $5-6 per seed.

Some shops has higher price which can be justified by a better recovery service with 100% replacement, partial refund for bad seeds, or their exclusive access to a particular plantation with old tree, black gold etc. It is ultimately up to you if you are willing to pay more for a good durian experience, but for the many new online seller that pop up this year, do yourself a favour by doing a simple calculation to see if it is worth getting pre-packed or going for durian with husk.


Eating durian has become so expensive, with many getting conned, paying grade A msw prices for grade B/C msw durians, paying msw prices for d13, d101, chanee etc. There are many telltale signs, like abnormal big durian sizes, mixing different breed together in the MSW shelving and selling it to people who do not know it, overnight msw selling at grade a prices. Even in the same store, stores that appeared in the news, people do get conned from time to time, it takes high integrity to treat each and every customer the same.

Some tactics that a lot of less integrity durian sellers like to use, is to mix different cultivars durian in the MSW basket, so the person who got that fake durian every now and then, if he knows nothing about durian, he will be bringing back home a D101 at the price of MSW, and it is all defined as an honest mistake which the seller made. Another is swapping the durians at the packing station, or keeping 1 row of durian that should have belonged to you, and packing all of that into pre-packed to be sold for more profit at your expenses.

Please do your own due dilligence, and always look out for that bright yellow flesh, sometimes with light black bruise (lucky blackgold) and peekaboo seeds which is some of the telltale signs of it being MSW. MSW thorns are thick, while D101 thorns are slim, Thai durians looks like MSW, but they are a lot bigger, in doubt, always reject the bigger durian, they can go up to 5kg, at $20/kg that is a $100 for a thai durian, very often used in the tourist hot spots to con tourists. Chinatown?

Some sellers are good at identifying the blackgolds among the MSWs, ideal for people who prefer bitter durians, blackgold are priced more expensive by some sellers, and is dependent on the seller ability to choose the durians. Some sellers offers impeccable recovery services, for any unripe, overripe/watery or sour taste, while most honest sellers will offer a partial refund based on seeds rejected, or free add on to make up to you for your next visit. (Blackgold are slightly more watery than normal MSW but to an acceptable extent, you are afterall paying for fresh grade A durians.

I prefer to get my durians delivered, and my most value for money purchase this season was $43 including delivery and after discount for a pack of 700g MSW. That gives me a yield of 37% at $23/kg, not too bad, but people going to their regular store buying durians with husk are constantly getting close to 40% or more. For $43 with delivery for 700g, i can’t ask for more, and it wont burn a big hole in my pocket for every durian purchase.

The MSW family terms explained:
Blackgold: It is a more bitter type of MSW with black bruises on the flesh, you pay more for the seller skill on identifying this kind of MSW, if the blackgold you brought is sweet with minimal bitterness with no black bruises, stick to the normal MSW instead.
Old Tree MSW: Typically plucked from above 20/30 years old MSW trees, flat and smaller seeds are expected, giving you more flesh per seed, if seeds are big or equivalent to normal MSW, stick to the normal MSW instead.
WZW: It used to be the crème de la crème of the MSW, but soon every seller start using this term, with some sellers selling other cultivar of durians, like D101 using WZW name, so WZW can mean any durians, you are not protected in any way. Highly recommend to avoid it at all costs. Different stores now have different term for their in house crème de la crème, like empire king etc, MSW is already a very expensive “bao jiak” durian, paying more for better ones can be harmful to the market, please choose your sellers wisely when you are going to pay top notch prices.

Conclusion
It is really hard to guarantee the yield, all the comprehensive information are at best a guide, for you to understand what you are in for, sometimes you get below 25% for Grade A MSW, there are many loopholes in the grading of MSW, with every sellers giving different definition.

Until now many cannot agree if MSW is considered a “Bao jiak” or “Bao Ho Jiak” durian, can we choose our own MSW and reject those with lousy yield or unripe seeds, will the seller top up the unripe seeds with ripe seeds since we are paying so much on a per seed basic. Why are there different pricing for MSW in the same store for two different baskets, it is the grade, but very few sellers mentioned it.

I think personally, paying for Grade A MSW, means i am paying for both quantity(yield) and quality. At $40 for a 2kg +/- MSW, i can’t be getting less than 10 seeds, even if the seeds are outstanding in every way, for a 4 roomer to 5 roomer, i will be expecting 12 seeds and above, making my per seed price at $3.33, not too bad, but anything below $3 is a good deal. Durian is a product from nature, and as such a lot of things are beyond control, then came the grading for sellers to make more money, and thus it is right for consumer to have expectation for the grade that they are buying, i can’t control the durian, but i can control the grade that i want to buy, the reasonable yield it should have, and a partial refund/replace policy for the unripe seed. After all the price for one seed of MSW has increased too much that it is now more expensive than a pack of chicken rice, what would you do if you get a pack of inedible rice.

I appreciate the stalls that sell MSW as MSW, no additional marketing gimmicks like blackgold, old tree, WZW etc, if your msw is good, your plantation are old trees, your msw would be good, intense and flat seeds, and then you can justify that higher pricing as compared to other stores, people know they are paying more for quality. Your per kg pricing is automatically higher than the rest, and your regulars customer will always be back.

Perhaps after evaluating what durian has to offer in terms of value, i should stick to eating chicken rice instead. That is, if i can manage my craving of durians.

It is hard.




Habits of cutting down the monthly fixed expenses

There are many fixed expenses when you have a house of your own.

Electricity bill, S&CC charges, Insurance, Internet, Mobile, & the biggest of all housing loan.

When the open market started for the electricity services, i switched to Geneco, and got some good rebates, and when my Geneco 2 years plan ends, i would like to switch to the Wholesale electricity market though Sp group. Every switch in theory should saved about $10 to $20 dollars every month, however i am not seeing a big difference in the billing, probably due to the hot weather or covid staying home period which blast the monthly bill through the rooftop.

The Singapore Government gives a big sum of rebates for the S&CC and electricity/water bills. After rebates, we are looking at <$100 per month for 2019 electricity & water, pretty decent for a family of 5.

For Insurance, i have switched to Aviva group term $400k at $196.80 plus Living Care (CI) $200k at $144, i am still on Great eastern Term life+CI $200,000 at $626, and i will be cancelling it at the end of the year before the next premium is due.

That is a saving of $285.20 per year until i am 36 years old with more coverage quantum. With Aviva group insurance, there are pros and cons.
36 years old onwards, the living care (CI) will be increased from $12/month to $19.80/ month, that’s a saving of $191.60 per year from 36 years old to 45 years old. After 46 years old, the aviva term and living care combination will be more expensive than Great Eastern, by then i should be cancelling my CI plan, as the family finance situation would have outgrown the $200,000 Aviva living care.

I am on Great Eastern Hospitalisation plan covered up to A ward, while i am more inclined towards getting covered up to private, the higher pricing especially towards the end hold me off. It’s a fine balance. Mine was signed many years back, so i still can claim up to 100% as charged.

For internet, i started off with 1Gbps, and i have since downgraded to 500Mbps, and saved about $7.50/month, i got 6 months free when i signed up for the 1gbps plan back then.

Mobile plan back then was about $40 minimum for a data plan, and i switched to the Starhub lite plan at $15/month and when the promo price ended after 2 years reverting back to $30 a month, i have switched to Giga at $10/month.

For expenses, less is more.