Thursday, September 29, 2016

How Much "Money" Is There?

The short answer?

A staggering and mind blowing amount. 

It's coming to the end of the year and I actually haven't gotten about to do my annual purchase of 2016 coins.

Technically, the premium of older "vintages" of coins should increase over time, but unfortunately the Singapore coin market is not so mature yet, so most bullion is just treated at weight value, with little value placed with the minter and the rarity of the make. Which technically, makes a lot of sense, since we are talking about bullion here. The funny thing is that bullion from lesser known mints are not as willingly accepted as those from the more common names, and hence the larger premiums when buying those "brand name mint" coins. Think PAMP and Credit Suisse.

But oh well, rant aside, I do love me my gold and silver.

I'm easing myself back into the precious metals market so that I can hopefully make a nice purchase as my own Christmas present and for surviving 2016.

I'm looking for another plunge in Silver, maybe down to USD 17? That will probably be the next time that I back up the truck. Hopefully when that happens, premiums of my beloved RCM 10oz will not be sky high and ridiculous. On the bright side of things, there seems to be a few players in the market that have brushed up their game, so I do have other supply options than only BullionStar. However, if the price difference is marginal, I'd probably still get from BullionStar. They really have built a very simple and easy process of buying and collecting bullion, so at least I have a stable and reliable source.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Future of Singapore Transport 2016

I just read this piece of news from Today. Amazing.

$5 to get to anywhere! That's what SWAT has proposed.

So, what's the catch?
  1. Advance booking (30mins in advance, or by 10pm the night before) 
  2. Share ride with others
  3. Designated pick up locations (within 300m)
The additional limitations because it is in it's initial phase are that location and timings are limited, but of course, as with all businesses, if they are successful, they are planning to increase the coverage and also operation timing.

Personally, I think that this is quite ambitious, but I am definitely rooting for them. I use Android, so unfortunately, I am unable to try their service. 

I've always thought that Beeline was an interesting idea. Maybe with the increased awareness of SWAT, Beeline would also get a boost and we can see more of these novel modes of transport options become more readily available to commuters with a general increase in adoption.

I still feel that the gap between a regular public transport commuter (BMW - bus, MRT and walk) and being a private car owner is huge.

I have mentioned that Uber/Grab and other taxi alternatives do come in nicely in between, but I feel like it's slightly on the premium side because it's essentially just leveraging on technology to decrease the matching and idle time of traditional taxis.

The introduction of UberPool and GrabHitch is really a game changer because it allows increase utility and efficiency of transport vehicles, especially when commuters have routes that overlap. Of course, while being less comfortable (private), it is cheaper, as it should be.

I feel that Beeline and SWAT are coming in slightly below UberPool / GrabHitch to offer many multiple riders who have a lot of route overlap, but also want more convenience than public transport and are willing to pay more for it. Their pricing is also obviously cheaper than UberPool and GrabHitch, so I think that my infographic is pretty accurate.

I ranked bus on the most extreme end of the spectrum because.... standing in a crowded bus sucks ass way more than standing in a crowded train. Gotta compare apples to apples, yeah?

Public transport should focus on being cheap, no-frills and connective. Leave the extras and premiums for the private market to figure out. I think that the government is doing a good job allowing a rather free play on this (at least, seemingly).

Honestly, the emergence of transport alternatives is a GOOD thing, especially for people that take public transport. Firstly, taxes from everybody still goes into transport infrastructure and public transport. However, if there are less riders on buses and MRT because they have moved up into other transport options, that alleviates the strain on the system, but that also transports less bodies in your chosen mode of transportation. Less commuters on buses and trains = more comfortable ride for those remaining. 

I think that there is a healthy group of people who would be willing to pay more for a transport option more premium than public transport, but are way too far off from wanting to own, operate and maintain a private car. I think these new ideas really will help change the way that Singaporeans choose to travel.

My personal vision for the future is self-driving TAXIS (note: not cars, which I personally would like to see have insane COE price tags on them), 24/7 public transport and safe, segregated lanes for PMD (e-scooters, bikes, etc). In my personal vision for the future, I don't own a car, but I'm more than satisfied with all the transport options available to me.

The future is so exciting, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Singapore Savings Bond: Aug, Sep 2016 Review, Nov 2016 Preview

All right, I missed the previous month because it was just a horrible issue and I don't think people bothered to apply for it, but I'm updating for this month because I've just enough time to squeeze in this post.

First up is the update of the subscription of the previous issues. As previously mentioned, the SSB will probably have $300 million available to be issued every month of 2016. While it is a HUGE drop from the $1,200 million that they were offering in 2015, the SSB take up rate has been... pathetic, so it makes sense to cut down on the total offer to boost up the fill rate. It looks a look less sad now.

The Aug 2016 SSB came in at 9% which is within expectations. However, the Sep 2016 SSB had a drastic drop to just 5.6% uptake. Why? It's a no brainer, the yield for the Sep issue is horribly low. For 10 years, you only get back returns of 1.75%. Looking at the yields of the Oct 2016, I wouldn't be surprised if we punch in a final number for the fill rate to be closer to 5% than 9%.

This month, there is no the yield curve inversion. The MAS rates continues to show strong levels of prediction to the actual SSB issue, confirming the relationship that we have identified. I might stop showing this table in the future unless we have a month with a yield curve inversion, because of intervention is rather obvious when it happens. But when it doesn't, it follows the relationship very well, with less than 1% margin of error for 83% of the time.

Moving onto the next SSB, we use the same old-fashioned method of looking up the data from MAS and constructing the table below. As a refresher, the current month's rates are used as a proxy for the issue in 2 months time (For example: Sep 2016 rates are used for the Nov 2016 issue). Also, if you are in the first 3/4 of the current month, you application this month is for the bond that is too be issued on the 1st of next month (For example: Sep 2016 applicants will receive the Oct 2016 issue). I hope this clears up some of the confusion people have regarding the names of the issues.

I would hazard a guess of 0.78 / 0.82 / 1.30 / 1.79 as the final yields for the Nov issue.

This upcoming issue looks set to be one of the worst ever SSB issued on record. 10 year yields have collapsed from 2.78% in Nov 2015 by almost 100bps in just a year! 5 year yields have also collapsed 80bps. However, the more interesting thing is that the 1 year yield will be pushing under 0.8% for the first time ever.

I'm not trying to predict the future, but lower long term yields is a sign that investors are more gloomy and dim about the future, hence the willingness to accept lower and lower rates for such a long time. Holding next month's issue for 10 years is the same as holding last year's Nov issue for just 7 years.

This month's issue and last month's issue are both bad, but next month's issue will be worse the entire front end. If you really want to buy some SSBs and are not sure when, it would be advisable to lock in your order today as opposed to waiting for next month's issue. But in all honesty, both issues are horrible and you're probably better off rolling fixed deposits.

Today is the last day of applications, which closes at 9pm. It can be done through ATMs or iBanking.

I would not be applying for this month's issue, and I'm 99% I will not be applying for next month's one as well.

If you really are looking for a low-risk savings-type of investment, you may want to consider the 5 year China Life Endowment Plan that has guaranteed 2.25% returns. It's almost a whopping 95bps of difference. Of course, you ought to be very very clear about your liquidity requirements before you purchase any product that has inflexible withdrawal terms. At the end of 5 years, the returns that you would get would be almost close to 75% higher than with the SSB. Their product closes 30 Nov or whenever it gets full, so just an FYI if you're looking for some pick up and don't have liquidity issues.

As much as I like the SSB, there are pros and cons to it, and the obvious con right now is its extremely low yield. It is likely to persist for a while. Let's all spend a moment to thank global central bankers for punishing savers and rewarding the gamblers in the casinos.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Interesting News: The Failure of Obamacare

Don't look at me, look at Bloomberg.

The ACA is one of the worst government policies in the history of government policies.

No one can say that they didn't see this coming. It was already doomed to fail from the very beginning.

Truly affordable and quality healthcare in Singapore is really one of the things that I really enjoy about living in Singapore.

In a few days time, my new insurance coverage kicks in and I'll be doing an update on that. The premiums I'm paying are ridiculous. I heard about some of the insurance plans that my friends are forking out a few hundred dollars a month for and I just shake my head. Oh well. Look forward to that post once I get the confirmation of my insurance changes!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bill Fleckenstein and Horseman Capital Speaks

One of the big fish that I really like is Bill Fleckenstein. Not only does he have a very unique and cool name, but I can follow his logic well and he has the (rare) ability to think outside of calendar year / quarterly / monthly performances. Because his main aim is to make money and not to lose money in the long run and he doesn't care about benchmark performances, he keeps things real and he plays it cool. I'd like to be that way as well.

The biggest mistake that the casual retail investor makes is trying to hit an annual target for investment returns. Few people would come out and say it, but investment returns are rarely as stable and smooth as people would have you believe. In fact, returns are usually lumpy. You don't get 8% a year, every year. The ability to think outside of those fixed time periods will help you take take advantage of one of the few things that the retail investor has an edge over professionals.

Do we get paid to sit in an office and read financial reports and news all day?
Do we have admin staff to do mind numbing data entry and to format data for us?
Do we have fancy computer algorithms to crunch data for us?

The only true advantage that we have is the lack of career risk. As our own portfolio managers, we have zero career risk because we don't need to fire ourselves, ever. Performed below benchmark over the last year? Oh well.

Putting pressure on yourself to perform well within arbitrary timeframes is really unnecessary and very unproductive.

Bill manages his fund without the usual constraints of investment managers and I like that he's aware, but unmoved by all the noise in the markets. Returns are nice and all, but REALIZED RETURNS is the only thing that matters at the end of the day.

Anyway, this is a nice interview where Bill just crushes it.

Moving on though, the infamous Horseman Capital speaks about "the best short in the world" (in their opinion) which is unsurprisingly Japanese banks. With negative interest rates, NIM is compressed and that is just killing off the main income for banks. Negative interest rates also promotes cash hoarding, and it doesn't take a genius to add 1+1 to figure out that plenty of Japanese are shunning banks and just keeping cold hard cash in personal safes at home. Throw in the declining population in certain areas and you have the perfect storm - less customers with less deposits with less interest. Now on top of that, add in a protected, high-cost, foreigner-unfriendly, locally focused businesses and you have structural problems with the economy that can't organically "grow" itself back to health. I wouldn't be surprised if NPLs start to go up when everything else starts going south.

Policy-wise, Japan is way too deep down the rabbit hole. They are pretty much exercising their nuclear options already, and the last thing to eventually come will be the devaluation of the yen. (but, I am expecting short-term appreciation because of the carry trade)

We're beyond the point of "if". It's only a matter of "when".

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Rate Hike Predictions for the next N meetings

This is how Yellen decides if its time to raise rates or not.

Just kidding, she looks at the S&P500.

Wow, no rate hike. Total shocker. Not.

What I wrote last year in April 2015 is STILL relevant today. Seriously, the Fed ain't every going to hike rates. And this cartoon just sums it up the best.

Honestly, if anyone really really thought that they were going to raise raise, I would think that they might be slightly delusional. The Fed has said that they would be raising rates for YEARS now.

This is an oldie, but a goldie. For more than 7 years now, the Fed has been giving "forward guidance" to raise rates. All in all, one rate hike.

But, oh wait, the next one is coming up VERY SOON. Yeah right. I wouldn't hold my breath for it.

US LT growth is collapsing every other meeting and now stands at a pitiful 1.7%-2.0% forecast. But of course, knowing the Fed and their ability at forecasting, you best be prepared for a number coming in well below that.

Perhaps the only person's view that I respect is Gundlach's. He did call out that this September will not be a hike.

But until anything interesting happens, I'm just sitting back on my itchy hands and watching this whole shit show from afar. It's tough not doing nothing, but thinking about all the risks that are just about everywhere, it's enough to scare me to remain focused and disciplined to my style and strategy.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Sleep September Updates

The market has been boring as shit. It has been for a while, and it still is.

That 2.5% move in the US indices last Friday sparked "markets in turmoil" headlines. Seriously? 2.5% down is considered turmoil? I still believe that we are in a global financial shit show and I've already cast the first stone, or flung the first poop.

I'm short to the neck with my CFD account. The guy that has to do the margin calls already knows me. "Yup... you've been in margin call for a while now so... yeah, please monitor your positions carefully".

Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I think the US indices are absurd and the fallout will spread. As cheap as Singapore stocks are, I think they can get cheaper, especially in certain sectors that are obviously doing terrible. I have no idea why their stock prices are still holding up to some extent. I definitely think that there is plenty more room for stocks to fall if there is a global crisis.

And as always, I'm still holding out to get my own place because prices of property are still ridiculous. It's funny to see how transaction volume has vanished, yet sellers are still steadfast on their crazy pricing. With the market supposedly lower, I see some projects with every single listed psf price higher than the actual transacted price at the market peak. Again, I think we can head lower. I know a lot of people think that we have already flatlined and we are poised for blast off. I disagree, but hey, it's my money and my positioning. You do what you gotta do, I'll do what I wanna do.

I'm like a broken record. I've been talking about the overvaluation of the US markets, the fallout and the effect on the Singapore market and the high property prices for a very long time now. Pretty much just repeated everything that I said in August. It's okay though, I'm very comfortable with all my positions and with every month passing, my war chest grows bigger and bigger.

Interestingly, BullionStar wrote an article on the expansion of the GST-free policy on investment grade precious metals. I've also started looking at SilverBullion's P2P loans, which I personally find very tempting. Compared to crowdfunding which is all the rage now, this is something that I would prefer.

AK just posted one of the most asked questions I get about insurance and I really wish more people read a post like that before committing to whole life / 99 years old insurance products. Sadly, people will not. Oh well.

I have also received my PAssion card (free 5 year membership) and I have already qualified myself for the $20 cash rebate! Now I can accumulate Tap and Go points and also get merchant discounts. I like to eat Makisan and with the PAssion card, I get 20% off! This is probably the best membership card that I didn't pay for.

I will also be setting it up so that it is my ATM card and my auto-loaded EZ link. After that, I can retire my POSB Go! Card, but not before getting a refund of whatever is inside my NETS Flashpay wallet. My razor thin wallet will then drop to only 2 plastics (other than IC and driver's licence), the other being my OCBC 365.

Lastly, I received my SCB Singpost card which should come with $138 cash rebate since it is my first and only SCB card. I plan to buy my plane tickets and book my accommodation with it for my next trip. I've found pretty cheap tickets from and I'm still looking out for my accomm before I decide to spend on my trip. I'm looking at rebates of $198 ($138 promo rebate + $60 rebate from the 7% spending) when it is all done!

I've been busy with work, though my big project of the year is ending next week. After that I will be looking to train up for my IPPT (get cash reward!), try my hand at being an Uber driver (depending on the sign-up incentives, I think close to $500 is up for grabs with a weekend's worth of work), refine my freelance portfolio and take on some jobs, discuss my next business plan with my partner and also lots of my own personal rest, recreation, study and self-improvement!

When people say that they are so bored, I really wonder what they do in their free time. Hmm.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Unconventional Side Income: Professional Pokemon Go Player

A lot of people are actually not taking Pokemon Go seriously. Which is funny considering how unique and different this immensely popular game is compared to previous contenders, like Candy Crush or Clash of Clans. The game mechanics are entirely different, but yet people like to talk about it as if it is just another game.

When the game first came out, I was actually in the works with a friend about making a local web portal for Pokemon Go, but neither of us had the tech skills to do it properly. I was always thinking what is the best way that someone can monetize on this trend, but for some reason the most simple and basic way of trading time and putting in hard work escaped me.

Although I had seen this video circulating online, it's only after the New Paper published an article about it that made me think about it again.

At first glance, this sounds like a joke doesn't it? A professional Pokemon Go player? He should go and get a "real job", right? Well, I beg to differ. This is a job and he's making money from it.

At $25 an hour, he has to potential to be pulling in buckets. This means that his maximum capacity is 48 (12 hours x 4 devices) hours and his maximum billables is $1200 a day (48 manhours x $25). He has a "Buy 8 Get 1 Free" deal, which means that you pay for 8 hours but you get 9 hours instead. I doubt that he has superb scheduling skills, my best guess is that in a normal day he manages to sell this package to 1 person. That puts his daily earnings at about $200 a day, which is what he said he makes a night. His actual earnings could be somewhere in the middle as long as he has customers constantly taking up his package.

His did mention that he can make $200-300 a night, while some days it is nothing. If we assume a pretty low average of $100 a day (1 package every 2 days), that's $2000 a month playing video games (if he had said 5 figure sum instead of 4, I would be inclined to estimate a higher amount). Sure, it isn't a snazzy high paying job, but consider his utilization rate. If he is able to drum up demand, he could be EASILY look at $8k a month if he sells just 2 packages a day.

I doubt that his demand is so high constantly and that this game will last so long. However, in the short run, isn't that just amazing, mathematically?

And he takes it seriously. He brings down a foldable table, chairs and powerbanks and set-ups his shop to play all day. There are people who work in "real jobs" that are much less hardworking. I don't get all the online hatred about him monetizing his time and skills.

Some detractors will say "THAT ISN'T HOW THE GAME IS SUPPOSED TO BE PLAYED". Well, screw that. This is the free market. If money changes hands, there is a demand. Plenty of games can be played how they are not supposed to be played. The AFK troller in DOTA? The team killer in any FPS game? The 1 unit build in RTS?

How about the guy that says "I invest by buying insurance policies" (lololol). Or the one that goes "I invest by rolling my fixed deposits perpetually". Sure, they might not be doing it optimally, or even in the standard definition of what most people would consider investing, but many people just shrug it off with the "well, if that's what you wanna do, then you can do it I guess".

So why can't that mentally port over to games?

Personally, I'm impressed by this guy's business idea. He has the skills. He gathered and bought all his tools (device, powerbanks, "office"). He identified a gap in the market and he came in to fill that gap. He even successfully marketed his services to people overseas who require such a service.

If he isn't an entrepreneur, then I don't know what is.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Online Shopping: Qoo10

Back in the day, Qoo10 was known as G-Market and it was my first brush with online shopping. Someone may correct me if I am wrong, but they started out in Korea and re-branded themselves later on.

As a natural born skeptic, I was a bit dubious about online shopping. Like many people, I've heard horror stories of credit card fraud, or even worse, identity theft. I had always been put off by online shopping until I actually stumbled upon the website (through a recommendation of some female friends).

Once I started browsing, I was hooked. There are certain items you just know are commodities. This is especially so when it comes to technology and branded goods. You know that it doesn't matter which retailer you buy it from, as long as you have faith in the branding and quality of the good that you are buying. It's like deciding to buy the same branded TV between Best, Harvey Norman or Courts. Who wins? The retailer with the cheaper price, that's all. Of course, the biggest worry to that would be if you receive fake goods, which is actually fairly easily to mitigate by avoiding sellers who have not been tried and tested.

Personally, I mainly buy consumer electronics from brands that I know and trust. From Qoo10, I've bought Samsung, Xiaomi, Fujifilm products from reputable sellers. You would think that I'm lying, but prices are WAY cheaper than what are listed at physical retailers.

For example, I am quite a fan of the Fujifilm Instax camera series. When it first launched, physical retailers were selling a pack of film for about $15. I remember buying a batch of film online for just $9 a pack. Finding a pack of film for $10 was unheard of at that time! Ever since then, Instax became more popular and prices drifted downwards a lot. I think at the peak of its popularity, it was possible to get packs under $7! However, I don't snap that many polaroids these days, so I usually only buy a few packs of film, as opposed to the 200 pieces that I have ever shipped for in the past! My cost per pack is about $8, which really isn't too shabby considering that most shops still sell them for around $10-12.

Qoo10 is also great for small, trinkety junk. You know those cube shops that sell the most random things? Almost anything you find there can be found on Qoo10 and it would be cheaper! Phone / computer cables, power banks, screen protectors... you can easily find whatever you're looking for online!

Another great thing about Qoo10 is the discounts that they offer. In turn for being a registered user that shops, you frequently get coupons to offset your shopping cart or for individual items. You also accumulate points from purchases to offset your cart. Even sellers will offer you coupon codes if you purchase enough from their "shop". There are also frequent sales and deals and you can see the savings compared to normal times! These amount of discounts and savings adds up quickly and becomes substantial. And all of this is already on top of the already cheap prices.

In fact, I just purchased some stuff off Qoo10 today. On top of already finding fantastic prices (especially when compared to physical retail stores!), the discounts from coupons, sales and points quickly added up to give me a very cool 19% off my purchase!

And if you count credit card rebates, the savings become even more substantial! I used my OCBC 365 card for my purchase, so I get 3% off while my purchases counts towards hitting my $600 monthly target for the rebate and the $500 monthly target for my OCBC 360 account bonus interest. Multiple birds with one stone!

Actually, I applied for and I am waiting for my SCB Singpost credit card which offers 7% discount from online purchases, so that would have greatly brought down my costs even more! I'll probably use this card next time when I buy stuff online.

When it comes to small consumer electronic gadgets, these days I don't even bother going to the store unless I feel like scoffing at how ridiculous the prices are and feel good about me saving money through online shopping.

Online shopping hasn't become a revolution because of inertia. Many people feel that it is very unsafe to shop online, plus they enjoy the retail experience of going to the store. However, I think if people knew that shopping online could save them routinely between 20-40% of retail prices, people would be more receptive of trying and using online shopping. Even for someone with friends that are familiar and comfortable with tech, I feel that not as many of my friends do online shopping as I would have imagined.

As long as you practice good computer and web surfing safety tips, online shopping can be a simple and cheap way to purchase things.

What's there not to like about that?

Btw, this post isn't sponsored by Qoo10 or SCB credit cards. I'm just sharing this because I've saved tons of money buying stuff that I wanted in a very convenient and stress-free way and I thought it might be something interesting.

I've yet to use Taobao, but I think I might do so soon! Any recommendations for other online shopping sites to check out? Lazada has fallen out of favour because I have not seen a single item yet that is also sold on Qoo10 but has a more competitive price.