Thursday, December 8, 2016

POSB 1.38% 4 Months FD

Don't say got lobang I don't share.


POSB is having a 1.38% 4 month FD promotion with no minimum amount and a max cap of $100,000. Only thing you have to do is to apply and open up a Fresh Fund account and deposit in the money before end of 15 Dec (next Thursday).

Can read more about the promo here.

Personally, I think this is a pretty attractive short-term promotion, especially if you have any money lying around in any accounts that is yielding less than 1.38%.

I might give it a shot. I've been very messy with all my accounts lately. I have too much money hidden all over the place in so many different accounts. If I can consolidate, I might be able to scrape some stuff together to give myself a small little surprise in 4 months time!

Friday, December 2, 2016

#GivingWeek 2016: GMGH Annual Charity Donation

It's that time of year again.


I'm a bit late to the party, but anyway better late than never. #GivingWeek is a national movement that encourages people to give back. I like how it is at the end of every year and near the festive seasons. It's a good time to take stock of how your life and the year went, count your blessings (and accounts) and see if you have anything spare to give to others.

What's different from last year is that the SG50 fanfare is over, so the additional dollar-for-dollar matching by ComChest is over, and the special 300% tax incentive has been reduced back to 250%, the same ol' good number it normally has been since 2009, and it will stay this way until at least 2018. You can of course choose to donate to registered charities that are not approved IPCs, but you will not get any tax deductions. I donate to IPCs because they are held to a higher standard for regulatory compliance and governance, it's easy for me to find the list of IPCs and what's more beautiful than a win-win situation for all?

Last year I made the astute observation that the new giving.sg website looks set to replace SG Gives, et viola, here is the release by NVPC that giving.sg has indeed replaced SG Gives as the online portal for donations. So if you used to use SG Gives, don't be alarmed that it isn't there anymore! Go over to giving.sg and you can do the same as you always do!

Similar to what I did last year (and the year before), I plan to donate all my blog advertisement earnings to charity, as well as match it one-for-one and top up to round up the final donation amount.

The amount of AdSense earnings that I have this year is: $246.57
Add my personal donation of matching it one-for-one is: $493.14
Rounding the amount up to the nearest $10 for easy contribution is: $500

I'll be going overseas, so I might not make the 5 Dec #GivingWeek deadline, but I'll definitely be doing a follow up post as usual.

Although this is what I personally do, I don't encourage or expect other people to do the same. I think that it is very important to have a philosophy and reasons behind why you do something. I'm going to share (re-post) my thoughts from last year, updated with some very minor edits. I still think it's one of my greatest literary works yet.

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Having money isn't a crime to the society

One of the few ires about being an Asian financial blogger is swimming against the tide of taboo that is embedded in our culture, which is that money shouldn't be talked about openly. However, since financial bloggers implicitly do so, apparently it is suddenly okay for observers to tell us what we should do or should not do with our money.

There is a certain notion that people who like to talk about finance are capitalist pigs with no hearts. All we apparently think about is how we can amass more fortune by allegedly screwing over other people. Apparently, we are also ungrateful for the society that we live in that have enabled us to be financially successful. Those who are successful and on the top could have only got there by stepping on other people along the way. Since we are so focused on becoming millionaires, we need to pinch and save ever penny that we can get our hands on and we don't have any human decency to spare a thought for the less fortunate or those in need.

Sure, you can think that, but I don't believe so. That seems to be more like the logic of a sour person who is frustrated with their own lives instead, especially if they keep on making comparisons to others. Everything is everybody else's fault and they are just perfect. Pfft. They are just projecting their own problems onto other people.

Karma and "Fairness"

I have friends from different religious backgrounds and I also have friends who do not follow any religion. However, quite universally between my friends who are religious and those who are not, they all seem believe in a simplified version Karma, which is "Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people", or "What goes around, comes around".

I know this might come to a shock to most people, but I do not believe in Karma. I don't think that anybody is keeping score and hatching a devious plan to "balance" out the bad, or even reward the good. It is a great way to encourage more positive social behaviour, but I just don't see how that works in any sort of semi-practical way (I admit, it could be argued that it is much too complicated for my feeble mind to understand). In fact, after learning more about philosophy of life, I would quite firmly place myself as existentialist which accepts the absurd and is striving to live life authentically and without bad faith. (all philosophical ideas that I would encourage anyone brave enough to put their entire understanding of the meaning of life up to the test to read up on)

However, that doesn't mean I don't appreciate or understand Karma. It is a great way of thinking. One of the things that I do believe in is that people should treat other people the way they would hope to be treated. The notable difference here is that just because I treat other people nicely, it does not mean that I myself would be treated nicely by others. It's a two-street and I only control one direction.

Is life "fair"? Obviously it is not, and I don't think it can ever be fair. Whether we should strive for fairness is a different debate altogether.

Capitalism and Meritocracy

My non-belief of Karma and my support of capitalism and meritocracy surely conflicts with the idea of charity then, does it not? Surely someone that thinks there is no such thing as divine retribution and also thinks that what people have got is somehow a culmination of what they deserve can't possibly care about others, right?

I believe that individuals or groups of private owners (capitalism) is the best form of economic system that we have so far because the rewards that it offers (money) is a pretty effective motivational tool for most people. The capitalist system also allows socialism to exist in pockets within its ecosystem, but not the other way around. The best example that I can think of are not-for-profit (different from non-profit) co-op credit unions that provides services to their members, such as easier loan approvals at lower interest rates. (FYI, I am a member of a co-op and there are many co-ops in Singapore, but that's a different story for a different day.)

To me, meritocracy seems like something that follows after a system of capitalism has been established. When there is a sense of ownership over assets, which people will then accordingly maintain and look after, it allows meritocracy to thrive. People now have ownership over their own skills and time. Between two people with similar skills, the one who clocks in more hours will get the better reward. Between two people clocking in the same hours, the one who has superior skills will get better rewarded. This isn't rocket science and I think this is pretty much the closest we can get to a universal agreement about the concept of fairness (but like I said, life ISN'T fair). Rewarding people who cultivate and improve their skills and are willing to spend more hours working to produce a final product - be it a good or service - is a good way to motivate them to continue their good performance, and also offers peers a glimpse of what their futures could be. Meritocracy would not exist without capitalism, because people would not be recognized for the different levels of skill and time committed.

I believe that the "skilled and hardworking" should be rewarded the most. This is different from being "skilled" or being "hardworking". Working 12 hours a day on a farm sure is a bitch and it is hard work, but try convincing anyone that a farmer should earn more money than a doctor (not talking about drug farmers). Yes, I took the 2 extremes, but that is just to make the point clear. Hard work counts for nothing if you're not applying that hard work well. Hard work is extremely overrated. I wish people would stop saying, "if you work hard, anything is possible" because it clearly isn't. If you have a smart plan and have realistic steps and actually work to complete those steps (note: no mention of hard work), you can achieve your goals. "Hard work" is too simplistic of a concept. It propagates the fallacy that all you need to do to achieve your dreams is to do it more times. Harder. Faster. Sheer insanity.


Being such a cynic and, so far up to now, heartless, how is it possible for charity to reasonably exist without conflicting with everything else that I support and believe in?

Fitting in the concept of Charity to help those who cannot help themselves

Firstly, let's acknowledge one thing. In a capitalist system, poor people DO exist. In fact, in any economic system there will always be some people who are poor and some people who are rich. The existence of a lower class is not proof of a flawed economic system, because show me a system where there isn't any distinction? Show me a system where poverty doesn't exist. Or at least justify your stance why poor people should not exist!

I believe that we were all dealt difference cards in life to begin with. To think that a son of a billionaire and the average person have the same opportunities and privileges in life is naive. Of course the son of a billionaire is starting the race way ahead of everybody else. Born in a rich family? Great, put in half the effort and get the same outcome. Born into a poor family? Unfortunately, you need to work twice as hard to get the same outcome. Ain't nobody said that life was going to be fair.

However, the world that we live in now isn't so unforgiving and harsh as that and I think that's a good thing. I believe that people who are handicapped just because of the luck of the draw should not be penalized and have no social mobility. Many governments are already "equalizing" the playing field to their own perceived notion of what is "fair" and what is not. I don't necessarily think that this is a bad thing. If the system is already stacked against them to fail before they even start, that to me is not something that I would like to see in the society that I live in. People should be able to determine to at least some degree to how they want their lives to pan out, rather than it already being predisposed from birth. But I'm also not saying that anyone can be Bill Gates.

Personal obligation to give to Charity

With many of my readers below the age of 40, giving to charity is a very confusing thought. Almost nobody is prepared for retirement yet. There are bills to pay, family to look after and raise. How can money be spent on others when there isn't enough for yourself yet? That's a great question. If you can't afford it, don't give to charity. Nobody is forcing you to give to charity, especially if you don't have enough for yourself. Look after yourself first.

However, the next question is... how much is enough that you feel comfortable parting away with some of the excess? After you buy a car? After scrapping the Japanese car for a continental one? Buying a second car? Upgraded to a condo? 2nd property? Overseas property in Malaysia / Thailand? And then London? How much stuff and money do you need so that you are comfortable to give some excess to charity? If the answer is that it is never enough, perhaps now might be a good time to realistically think about what it is in life that drives you and what do you what to achieve in life. If not having a yacht and the latest Apple gadgets makes you unhappy, you have way bigger problems in life then "Should I give to charity?".

Perhaps I have come to this conclusion rather early in life, but I figured out how to be happy, what I want in life to be happy, how to create happiness from different outcomes, what steps I need to complete to work my way there and I'm doing it. Since I'm a hedonist, all that works out great for me. I'm not just talking about doing it, I am actually doing it. With the ground already broken and I can see the work in progress being done, I'm quite confident that I know how things would end up for me. Sure, nothing in the future is confirmed, but I give myself pretty good probability that I'm going to end up in a comfortable situation. And that means that I will have some excess that I can afford to part with.

It's hard to say whether in the future as I become more successful, my lifestyle would also accordingly move up and my "needs" gets upgraded along the way. Personally, I hope it doesn't, but there really isn't anything wrong if it does. You've got the money in the bank, you want to buy a Rolex watch and that would make you happy? Go do it. I'm not advocating a lifestyle of selling all your worldly possessions and living simply and in the rough. I'm not advocating any lifestyle at all. I'm just verbalizing why my views on how seemingly conflicting topics can exist is a framework harmoniously.

As long as you can answer the question, "How much is enough?", you would be in a good position to examine your current status to see if you are suitable to donate to charities. If you know how much is enough, and you don't have enough yet, don't worry about it, next time maybe. If you don't know how much is enough, by default, it is never enough. But that's just my thinking about it.

Conclusion

I should wrap up my thoughts because what I wrote is a rather big web of ideas that are all over the place. I think that if you want to be happy, you need to look at yourself, not other people. If giving to charity makes you happy, give to charity. If giving to charity makes you miserable, don't give to charity. The tough part is figuring out if you'll actually be happy or unhappy!

Just like my non-Karmic belief that I cannot control how other people treat me, but I can only control how I treat others, I believe that all you can do is be the change that you wish to see in the world. Whether or not that change does eventually come about, that is beyond our control. But it is a bit comforting knowing that you at least did something instead of nothing.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

EXCLUSIVE TELEPHONE ONLY PROMOTION FOR YOU!


"Hello Sir,

I'm from XXX and I'm calling to let you know that you have been pre-approved to take up this special offer that is exclusive only for you!

Benefit 1)
...
...
...
Benefit 100)

How do all these benefits sound Sir?"

That sounds fantastic. How about you send me an email with all that information and I can get back to you with my decision?

"I'm sorry Sir. This promotion is only by telephone. Maybe I can help you clarify anything that you are unsure about..."

Wait. Wait. Wait a minute.
This is a telephone only offer and you will not send me anything and I just verbally agree over the phone?

"Yes Sir, it's is a special telephone-only offer!"

So I will not receive anything? I don't even want a mailer, I just want an email to look at the terms.

"I'm sorry Sir, we can't do that."


You can't send me an email?

"No, we can't send you an email. However, I can explain the terms again..."

Okay stop. We're wasting both my time and yours. If I don't get anything in black and white, I'm not going to agree to anything, okay?

"Sir, I can explain any terms that..."

Thanks, but no thanks. Bye.

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Holy bloody shit.

First it's all the personal loans, now it's all these weird ass insurance.

My opening line is going to be "Is this a telephone only offer? If it is, then I'm not interested".

I'm not against telemarketers or buying insurance, but this is just a screwed up way of doing so.

Honestly, I feel sorry for the operators and I really don't blame them for having to do this very unpleasant job. I would hate doing their job too.

But fuck this process and companies that do this.

I've got 2 of these calls in the past week.

I was trying very hard to be empathetic, but if these phone operators don't want to get verbally abused, they really shouldn't work for these kind of companies selling these kind of products.

Thanks for wasting 10 minutes of my life on the phone and another 20 minutes to write this post.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Increasing Wealth, Increasing Health

Uncle CW8888 came out with another interest post today: "To save more: Cut Expenses or Increase Earnings? To slim more: Cut diet or Increase exercise?".

For me, the answer came very fast and naturally: DO BOTH.

Of course, any idiot can tell you that. However, I think that there is a hierarchy of what is the easiest to do with the most impact by useful until a certain point, to what is hard to do with slower results, but without as much limitations.

There are definitely exceptions, but I think that this applies 95% of the time.

Taking health for example:

The easiest thing for anyone to do to improve their health is through their diet. Restrict the total amount of calorie intake. Reconfigure the calorie intake to be only from healthy sources. Ensure that the diet are within recommended limits for nutrients and vitamins.

Dieting alone has a natural limit. How much less can you eat if you are already surviving on the bare minimum?

Of course, if you have ALREADY done that, the next level which is hard and slower is to exercise more.

Exercise is able to increase your health to levels that just dieting alone will never be able to achieve. It is a slow and hard processes, but there is always some extra room of improvement to go, although there are diminishing returns.

A lot of people have this order mixed up. They eat all sorts of junk food and think that they can exercise their way to negate such effects. This is very common for people to go to the gym and exercises, but they have very loose control on their diets.

No medical professional in their right mind will tell you that you can continue an unhealthy diet as long as you get enough exercise.

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Now, let's relate this to wealth.

The easiest thing for anyone to do to increase their wealth is through reducing expenses. Limit the amount of monthly expense. Reconfigure expenses to go towards purchasing cheaper alternatives. Ensure that expenses are within recommended limits for each spending category.

Reducing expenses alone has a natural limit. How much less can you spend if you are already surviving on the bare minimum?

Of course, if you have ALREADY done that, the next level which is hard and slower is to increase your earnings.

Earning more income is able to increase your wealth to levels that just reducing expenses alone will never be able to achieve. It is a slow and hard processes, but there is always some extra room of improvement to go, although there are diminishing returns.

A lot of people have this order mixed up. They spend their money on silly things and think that they can increase their earnings to negate such effects. This is very common for people to be very career focused and dabble in side businesses, but they have very loose control on their spending.

No financial planner in their right mind will tell you that you can continue making horrible purchasing decisions as long as you earn enough money.

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TL;DR?

If you want to be healthier, focus on your diet FIRST, then exercise SECOND.
If you want to be wealthier, focus on your expenses FIRST, then earnings SECOND.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Scoop the Poop

Uncle CW8888 asked a very good question: Telcos are no longer defensive stocks with just one add on?

Looking at the charts, it looked like an impulsive downside move to me.

I nibbled a bit more of M1 (I already had some) and some Starhub but not Singtel (at least, not yet anyway).

I also got some hospitality trusts through OUE and Frasers. Why? Because they are sucking balls because tourism is going to do badly. I like bad and horrible stuff, that's just the way I roll.


I'm also looking at lots of other poop.

Centurion
CH Offshore
Chuan Hup
Comfort Delgro
CSE Global
Falcon Energy
Fragrance
Fraser Cpt
HPH Trust
King Wan
Kingsman Creative
Low Keng Huat
Lum Chang
Pan United
Perennial Holdings
SIA
SIA Engineering
Sin Ghee Huat
Singpost
Wee Hur
Wing Tai

AIMSAMP Reit
Cache Log Trust
CapitaMall Trust
CapitaR China Trust
CDL HTrust
Far East HTrust
Mapletree Log Trust
Religare HTrust
Sabana Reit
Soilbuild Biz Reit
Starhill Global Reit

Anyway, these are just brief list of ugly looking charts that I've looked at lately. Plenty of them are bad and are going to stay bad, but I prefer buying things when they are cheap compared to expensive.

I did not believe in the rally that was happening in REITs in 2016 and since Aug/Sep, it looks like we've hit a high there and we're trending lower. I've seen that the markets in the US are already pricing in a 100% chance of a rate hike in December. If that follows through, I think the world would be looking at higher rates for everybody, which is negative for REITs.

I don't believe that now is the time to be buying in general, but when some stocks suddenly move down quite rapidly, it can pay off to examine them and take a gamble if the odds look good.