Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Case For Robo-Advisors in Singapore

Robo-advisors. What are they? To the average retail investor in Singapore, we haven't a clue about what it is. It's not really our fault because it has never been talked about. So why should I care about robo-advisors and what can they do for me?

Were you thinking of a small cuddy cute robo-advisor?

In my mind, robos are like TimberWolves. Just 1 of them is enough to kill off a hundred useless advisors.

Robo-advisors are actually more than just advisors. Not only do they all have some form of testing to determine a suitable portfolio for you, they also allow you to cheaply and simply invest in those portfolios (Check out Wealthfront or Betterment to have a better idea of a live, working robo-advisor). Basically, the point of robos is to automate away all the irritating, annoying and complicated parts of investing. And I think that by and large, the technology has improved to a point where it is not only feasible to use a robo-advisor, but it is ideal to use one!

Let me just break it down simply to show you how it goes.

  1. Visit and register with a robo-advisor
  2. Answer some questions to determine your risk profile, and accordingly, your recommended portfolio
  3. Review the portfolio recommendation and tweak it to your preference
  4. Transfer money
  5. Watch it grow

And that is it. THAT. IS. IT.

  • No hard-sell for privately managed funds
  • No offer of leverage to boost your returns
  • No shady investment options
  • No need to open a CDP account
  • No need to open a brokerage account
  • No linking that brokerage account to your bank account
  • No linking your bank account to your CDP account
  • No overseas brokerage account
  • No overseas / foreign currency bank account
  • No expensive FX spreads
  • No need to execute any trades with any brokerages
  • No need to think about lot sizes and bid-ask spread
  • No transferring money around for securities settlement
  • No need to worry about dividends, rights issues or other corporate actions
  • No complicated expensive or complicated fees
  • No large minimum capital required

Honestly, I could go on and on about more of the things that you don't have to do, as well as things that they can do better, but for the sake of brevity (the list is already rather long!), I stopped there. All these things listed above are things that normal retail investors like you, me and everybody else have to deal with if they want to buy stock and bonds on the local SGX and on overseas exchanges. 

Robo-advisors literally deals with ALL of these annoyances, wrap everything up nicely for you in a nice clean package and all you have to do is open an account, transfer in money and finally pay a small fee for them dealing with all the shit we don't like to deal with.

I would consider myself a sophisticated investor by circumstance, not by choice. While many people who read and surf finance blogs are mostly capable of doing their own trading, many of us have acquired this knowledge exactly like me - being forced to learn and do it yourself, because there is just no other way. Even if we wanted to have a passive portfolio, the best that we've got is POSB Invest Saver, and that frankly, highlights the sad state of the financial industry here.

There is a huge void in the local finance industry. After people have learnt about unit trusts and then buying off the local SGX, the next step is a huge leap forward that ends up with you having your own broker to get you into international markets and buy in foreign currencies. That is pretty complicated stuff. There isn't anything in between! I think many, many people (myself included) would prefer to have a suitable product so that we can finally spend our lives doing other things instead of being constantly worrying about our investments (rights issues, brokerage changes, trading suspensions, etc etc). I know that I would use a robo-advisor if there is a suitable one for me.

I've recently actually met the founders of Smartly, and guys, let me tell you, the product looks absolutely amazing. It might not be perfect yet (in the sense that more sophisticated investors might feel restrained), but I'm sure it will meet, if not, exceed the expectations that what most people would want to have in a local robo-advisor. And I think that they would be able to provide an excellent service and serve tons of millennials who currently have no clue about how to invest. This is a systemic problem is our society today! I try doing my part, but I know none of you buggers share my posts on Facebook or social media, haha!

They still aren't ready to launch yet, but why not join their waiting list and check them out? I heard that their Beta is launching soon, maybe you might get to be a part of that ;) 

My fingers are crossed for a good launch for them!

Guys (and girls)! Thoughts on robos?

SCB $138 CC Rebate Extension

For those who are in the know about credit cards, SCB actually has been running a promotion since the Q2 of this year to try and get more sign ups on their credit cards.

Gone are the days of ridiculous and shitty luggages as free gifts for signing up. Now you get $138 in cash back! Or $100 if you sign up at an outlet or by one of those people on the streets. I suppose they are trying to funnel people to use their online services. It's probably faster and easier to process, with less mistakes, and also less commission fees, which is why the cashback is higher for the online sign up than the other methods!

I've been wanting to sign up for the Singpost SCB card because it gives 7% rebates on online shopping (with $600 min spend... very critical!), and this includes plane tickets and accommodation! Bundled together with the $138 cashback, spending $1000 would yield cashback of $198, or almost 20%!

Do note that the cashback is only valid for 6 months, and the card needs to be charged at least 3 times in the first 60 days.

The good news is that the original promotional period was supposed to end on 30th June. However, I have just checked out their website and they have extended the promotion until 30th September!

Most likely my plan is to just wait until mid September, and then I'll be applying for the card. Once I get the card, I'll be using it to pay for my overseas trip that I am planning at the start of 2017! Woohoo!

Charge $1000 and get 20% is not bad right? Good lobang hor! Don't say I bojio!

(and FYI, I don't get anything from SCB or anyone by sharing this info!)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

All of the Android Pay Lobangs!!!

Honestly, it caught me by surprise too. I didn't realize that Android Pay had just released in Singapore until I saw this piece by CNA! (more info from ST)

What is Android Pay? Well, the name says it all, doesn't it? Instead of Apple Pay (only Apple products) and Samsung Pay (only the new Samsung models), Android pay is a LOT more flexible in terms of features and also phones that it can be used with.

As a Samsung S6 user, I felt cheated and sad that I couldn't use Samsung Pay because my phone was just 1 version off from the required one. With Android Pay, the number of handsets that can be used is very very large.

There are only 2 requirements to use Android Pay:
  1. Near Field Communication (NFC) and Host Card Emulation (HCE)
  2. Android 4.4 Kitkat or higher 
Yes guys, THAT IS IT. I was super psyched about it and I immediately loaded up 2 of my cards that I have with me so that I can see how the UX was. I have to say, it's very simple and clean. Very hard to go wrong. Your bank also verifies with you that you have loaded in your cards, so security-wise, it passes all the ticks for me!

As of now, Android Pay only works with DBS/POSB, OCBC, SCB and UOB for their Mastercard and Visa cards. The good news is that they allow unlimited number of cards to be loaded onto their app, while the other payment apps are restricted to only 8 or 10 cards.

Being the useful blogger that I am, I have gone around to collate the best deals by all the banks that have collaborated with Android Pay, so here you go!

 As you can see, the simplest card to get your rebates from is with POSB/DBS. With just a very low spending on $40, you can get back $10 or 25% of rebates. That is... insane! It's a pretty good deal in my opinion! The only thing that you have to be mindful about is that you need to hit $40 of spending within your first 5 transactions, so you should not make very small purchases until you have managed to claim your maximum amount of rebate! Only available for the first 10,000 customers to make a transaction, but you have until 30 Sep to claim your max rebate of $10!

SCB is pretty awesome too, with a nice 20% or $50 of rebates up for grabs! The optimum spending amount is $250, which honestly isn't too hard to spend, especially if you know you're getting back 20%. Although there is no restrictions on the number of transactions, you need to be the first 5,000 to make a transaction, and the rebate period only lasts until 28 Jul!

OCBC has the most relaxed terms, but that is also because it has the lowest rebate amount. Nevertheless, it is still pretty juicy! You get 5% rebates on all your spending until 31 Jul, and you don't need to rush to pay for anything to be the first few to lock in your first transactions! Very nice!

Unfortunately, UOB is nonchalant about this and gives no shits about Android Pay because they have no promotions at all. Why did they even bother in the first place?

So, where can you use Android Pay? Very very simple. Anywhere that accepts the typical contactless payments of MC Paypass or Visa Paywave!

One important thing to note is that the first card that you load into your Android Pay wallet is your default card. If you want to spend on another card, be sure to select the other card and make it your default card. It seems like a hassle now, especially if you're trying to maximise your rebates from the different card promotions now, but I quite like that there is a default option, because I usually only use 1 credit card for spending.

Today I went to the supermarket and bought some small tidbits. I asked the lady if I could pay by contactless card. I tapped my phone and viola, the payment was done! Honestly, this is pretty awesome. It's very handy for people with many cards, and I would be much more inclined to apply for and use different credit cards if I don't need to always carry them around with me in my wallet by having them in my phone instead!

Anyway, let me know what you guys think of Android Pay! Better than Samsung or Apple Pay? It kind of feels that way to me, haha! I'm looking forward for more banks to hop on this bandwagon, and also for more promotions!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

GMGH's ramblings on BREXIT

I know that most of you are probably sick of hearing about all of this BREXIT nonsense, but hey, it's my blog, so I get to talk about what I want to talk about.

Now, with everyone saying this and that and weighing in with their opinions and thoughts about the UK and the EU, why should anyone listen to what GMGH has to say? Well...

  • Unlike most of my fellow part-time armchair political and economic experts on the internet, I have actually been to Europe
  • In fact, I have travelled and been to 15 out of the (former) 28 EU member countries
  • And yes, I have visited all their capital cities as well
  • And no, I do not need to post any pictures to prove anything
  • I have studied and attained A1 language accreditation for 2 European languages under the CEFR framework (sure, it's basic, but I've learnt much of the culture which can only be understood through knowing the subtleties imbedded in the languages)
  • I was a Permanent Resident of a member country in the EU

Yup, you heard that right. GMGH was a PR who lived in Europe. I was living in a European house in a European city, eating European food and drinking European beer bought from a European supermarket, taking European public transport and talking in a European language with other European people and navigating the European bureaucracy to, unsurprisingly, live the European life.

I have benefited from being a European PR. I have moved across countries in the borderless borders of the Schengen Area easily and fuss-free. Have I ever sipped pretentious wine while sitting on the beach looking out at the sunset with the company of other Europeans? You bet your ass I did.

So, am I more European than you? Well, it's not an absolute certainty, but let's just say I wouldn't bet against it. Still though, while living and travelling around Europe, people called me Jackie Chan or Bruce Li, followed by konichiwa. It's hard to be offended with this kind of weird racism. Anyway with all that information thrown out upfront, perhaps my weighing in might sound a bit more personal and biased instead of neutral, but can you really blame me? Perhaps not, since all this European background might give you the impression that I'm pro-EU, but don't be too quick to jump to conclusions. Let's get down to my post then.

I find it saddening that so many ugly things about the UK vote has been plastered all over social media. Practically most of social media has been overrun by liberal hippies who are just slamming UK for abandoning the European ideal of "no borders, no boundaries" and instead, putting up walls to stop free movement and condoning all shades of racism (whether this is in fact reality or not, is a different argument). You can hear them crying while singing Black Eyed Pea's "Where is the Love?".

And who do they blame for this? They blame all the older citizens who have a tilt for Leave. Why do these old farts who are going to die and not live with their decisions as long as the youth get equal voting power? This is one of the stupidest arguments I have ever heard in my life. And I've heard plenty of dumb arguments.

Just because they have "less time to live with their decision", does it mean that their vote should be worth less? In that case, does the vote of a 5 year old matter 10 times more than that of a 50 year old? Screw that logic.

If anything, votes by younger people should be weighed LESS than their older countrymen. What does a 22 year old know about politics, economics, medical care, pensions, taxes and worst of all, being gainfully employed? Compared to the older generation, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that they know diddly shit about what they are voting for, except for less restrictive and less expensive summer holidays to European beaches where they will drink pretentious wine while watching the sun set. Trust me. I had wine with them. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it though. I did.

If all the youths feel so fervently about remaining, then why the heck did only 36% turnout to vote when a staggering majority of the youth would have voted for remain? You know who the youths should be blaming for sticking themselves with "the most time to live with this decision"? Themselves. For not turning up to vote.

I've also heard that if the UK leaves the EU, they can't trade with the EU anymore.... wait, what? Are you kidding me? Are we in the EU? Can we trade with the EU? It's madness to think that because we're not in the "European common market" that we are unable to trade with them! Sure, it's not immediate to straight away broker "trade deals", but it is definitely an eventual thing that the UK will have control over their trade. The case by the remainers have such a bad argument on this actually. Anyone that starts off on this probably doesn't know how trade works if you're a trading nation. If you trade with more people, it's good. If you're part of a shitty union that doesn't allow you to trade, it's bad. Come on people, it's not that complicated.

Another bad argument that I've heard is that people are slamming the leave vote as the "uneducated" vote because the "intellectual centres" of Oxford, Cambridge and City of London have very strong votes on the remain side. Well, if all these intellectuals know what's best, then everyone should just disregard the vote of the majority and listen to the few who thinks that they know better? Bloody shit. Isn't that one of the main arguments for leaving the EU? So that the British public doesn't have to take shit from a small group of unaccountable Eurocrats that think they know better than the peasantry?

To be fair, maybe I am wrong and Remain is better for the UK. But you know what? That's just how democracy work. If there's 10 people in a bus and 6 vote to drive the bus off the cliff, then well shit, it sucks to those 4 that didn't like that idea. That is exactly what democracy is. If this idea ain't good enough for you, then you might like my idea which I plan to enforce in my kingdom, where people are tested in the voting subject and are required to pass before they are allowed to vote. At least, that's how I would do it.

Much of social media has been focusing on how this vote has given the green light for many of the racist Brits to come out and be openly racist in public. I don't like this idea of racism and it does make me a bit angry/sad, but then again you have to realize that the people who voted to Remain are the ones sorely unhappy about this outcome and they control and flood social media channels with news from their angle. Don't get me wrong though, I'm not saying that racism is okay, because it's not. I'm just saying that reading some things on the internet won't be able to give you the full picture. I would assume that most of the sarcastic GIFs and memes being shared on social media are not produced by and representative of the 45 and over crowd.

All along, I've never thought that the vote to Leave is one of hate and racism. To me, it has always been able accountability and sovereignty. And about saving themselves by getting out of this failing European fantasy project. These cartoonist seem to agree as well.

The argument by the more intellectual voters of the Leave has never been focused on immigration and forcing out non-white people. It was always about jumping out of the car before it rolls off the cliff. But we all know that you don't get what you want by telling people the truth. You get what you want by pressing the buttons of voters and finding what gets them the most worked up. Is it hard to imagine that someone in the working class would not get riled up when you present to them that even more migrants are going to come in to compete with them for everything, from jobs to accommodation to services? I wouldn't say that it was a clean fight, but politics has never been a clean fight.

I came across this video of Daniel Hannan debating for the Leave cause which I would like to link up and share. It is a fantastic speech and I think that he made his points very clear. I know I wouldn't be able to argue against that.

I've mentioned Daniel Hannan before. His previous debate was one that strongly resonated with me and made me explore, and now, denounce the practically of socialism when compared to capitalism. I think what makes his views hold so much weight is his background. He is an MEP, he speaks several European languages, he's lived all over the continent and have spent 17 years in Brussels. If what he is campaigning for goes through, it means that he effectively campaigned himself out of his cushy and comfortable job to stand up for something that he believes in. And also how many times did he talk about immigration? Never. Not once.

As much as people are hating on BoJo for his bus campaign (I honestly didn't keep up with the shiny things dangled by the leave campaign), I am still a strong supporter of Nigel Farage. Ever since the Greek Crisis, I've noticed how his stance has always been the same and his points are always clear and on the same topic - the systemic problem of the EU. I do hope that Hannan and Farage have a place steering the UK based on how much they feel for the country. In the future, we might look back and talk about this huge mistake by the UK or it could just as well be their turning point to prosperity, but it is hard to blame these men for standing up for something that they believe in which is for the interest of the nation, and not themselves. They do have their hearts in the right place, at least to the casual onlooker like myself.

Some people might think I'm a conservative and I am against liberals. I am just a pragmatist. It either makes sense, or it doesn't.

Hannan's opening statement really strikes me hard. "One of the features of this campaign is head vs heart". As mentioned before, too many people are enamored and confused by the European fantasy CONCEPT of love and peace and other hippie stuff of the EU, and they confuse that with the REALITY of what it is (Wow, doesn't this sound exactly like the socialism argument? Delusional? Hmmm...). Of course, the counter-argument to this is so easily brought up by saying, "Well, if we don't strive for something better, how can we ever improve?".

Stop trying to see the world as what you want it to be, and instead see it for what it is. Once you've grasped reality, you can then start working towards ideals.

And of course, you have to be awake to do this.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Singapore Savings Bond: June 2016 Review, Aug 2016 Preview

Hey everybody, here's my monthly post on the SSB closing and the forecast for next month. I'm trying to streamline my posts to make them more condensed and info-packed in a regular structure, so it's both easier for readers to quickly digest the article and for me to pump them out on a regular basis.

I have made a similar posts in previous months, and I think I will stick with this format.

First up is update of the subscription of the previous issue. 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.

For the June 2016 SSB, we see the takeup rate once again drop. Just 7% of the offer was issued. Very sad indeed.

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.

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: Jun 2016 rates are used for the Aug 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: Jun 2016 applicants will receive the Aug 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 0.88 / 0.95 / 1.53 / 2.00 as the final yields.

This upcoming issue looks set to be worse than this current SSB issue. This month's issue is definitely better than the next month's issue, if your decision were really that simple and binary. So 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, the differences would be very minor.

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.

Friday, June 24, 2016


Time in Singapore is now 13.01pm on 24th June 2016 and the BBC has just declared that leave has won.


Just wow.

I am impressed UK. I didn't think you guys would have the stones to leave, so good on you guys.

The bookies and the markets are not impressed.

The GBP/SGD has crashed from 2.00 yesterday to 1.82 now.
The Nikkei is down about 9+%.
The USD/JPY was peeking below 100, but it has eased a bit.
The US markets are down 4-7%.
Even HK for some reason is down 6%.
Here on the SGX, we're only down 2.5%, so I'd say compared to other places, we're holding up.
The USD/SGD did spike massively from 1.33 to tag 1.37 though.

Yet on the flip side, bond yields are cratering across the entire yield curve in almost every country.
Gold is up 5+%.
Silver is up 2+%.

It's going to be hella interesting to see what happens next and how the UK and the US markets are going to open. The market is FINALLY becoming interesting!

The irony of this photo is that the majority of Scotland voted to stay. LOL. On top of the financial side, I'm also eager to see how the UK manages their exit from the EU.

We're back to living in interesting time boys!

And yes, I am still short.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Brexit or Bremain?

As much as this might be a financial event, I personally think that this is more of a historical moment where the UK decides its level of autonomy from Europe and how accountable it wants to be to its citizens.

As mentioned before, I would vote for Brexit. I think the shot-term pain would be well worth getting out of this sick and failing European project. Anything that isn't sustainable must come to an end. Better to jump out of the moving car than to be in there when it crashes, imo.

However, the bookies and lots and lots and lots of people have come out to publicly push for Bremain. I think many people are enamored by the idea of "no borders" and other free and hippie stuff. The arguments to remain are weak and I'm not convinced at all. I guess everyone loves the status quo. 

Then again, I would vote for Trump given that his opponent is Shillary. It ain't about how good he is, it is about how bad the alternative is. Same case here, I think UK staying will be bad for them in the long run.

I hope for Brexit, but knowing TPTB, they will end up staying. Unlike the Swiss vote, I'm not holding my breath for this one. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Free SAF Aviva Group Term Life Insurance? Changes are coming!

Of course you would have seen it by now, it's been plastered in the newspapers today. The SAF will be providing free TPD and PA insurance to national servicemen. The amount is $150k.

Honestly, this is a good thing. It's a rather decent coverage level to provide, but I do think that it makes NSFs, as well as their families, lazy to think about other or additional insurance coverage. It would be foolish for families to expect that whatever coverage the SAF takes out for their sons is enough. I'm sure if you browse around social media, confirm plus chop there will be anti-SAF trolls saying "$150,000, is that how much 1 Singaporean is worth? TOO CHEAP", but... screw these trolls and their sub-functional level of IQ. This insurance should not and does not remove the personal responsibility of having your own insurance, but sadly I am sure it would encourage some to be even further distanced from thinking about insurance.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this news isn't the free coverage extended to NSFs and NSmen during training, but it is also the revamp of the voluntary scheme, which is currently the SAF GTL provided by Aviva. They will be rolling out a new scheme soon.

I have recently praised Aviva for their very competitive term insurance rates, however their critical illness and early CI riders leaves much to be desired, especially from the premium (cost) standpoint.

From reading the Today's article (which actually has a lot more useful information than all the other sources that I've seen), they are looking a premiums for $100k TPD to drop drastically from $12.80 to just $5.10! When you count the rebate that Aviva is currently giving out, the cost of $100k coverage is about $7.80, which is in itself already very cheap coverage. This drop to $5.10 is really sticker shock (in a good way)! (Btw, does anyone know where exactly they pulled the $5.10 figure from?)

It is going to be insanely cheap. A million dollars worth of coverage is going to cost merely $51 a month!

What is very interesting to note is that if you are covered under the SAF GTL scheme now, your insurance will be ported over to the new scheme, which is cheaper, at least for the plain vanilla TPD coverage. How the CI and early CI riders will fare and if their premiums would drop and be more in line with market premiums now, it is hard to say.

One very interesting point to note is that the new VS does not require medical check-ups for amounts under $250k, which might be a godsend to certain people.

Personally, I'm covered for $200k now, but I am very tempted to increase my coverage to $500k before the switch to the new plan. This is because any increases in the future would subject me to medical check-ups. It's not that I have any hidden medical problems to keep secret, I am just lazy to go for a health check-up mandated by an insurance company when I already going for my own health screenings.

In all honesty, I'm already paying $13.75 a month to AXA to be covered for $100k. Is it that expensive to pay $51 a month under the new scheme to be covered for $1 million? In fact, it's crazy cheap. You know what? I might even go for $1 mil considering how cheap it is to be covered. Insurance is one of the few things that it is okay to have more of, especially if you can afford it. If you can't afford it, then that's a whole different situation.

I will lurk around and see what other bloggers and maybe even the peeps in the forums think about these changes, but to me, it seems very positive and I am likely to increase my coverage to at least $500k, if not, 1 mil, before the current scheme gets ported over.

A penny for your thoughts?

Friday, June 17, 2016

GMGH is a... Financial Advisor?!

Please, refer to attached picture.

If you would like to get your own cert, go visit John Oliver and download one for yourself. Of course, this cert is his way of proving the point that was brought up in his recent video that pretty much anyone can call themselves with the loose terms of financial advisor, financial consultant, investment consultant, wealth manager, etc... without having any specific credentials.

Well, in that case ladies and gents, allow me to introduce myself. I'm GMGH, your online financial advisor. (Relax, it's just a joke.)

Isn't it horrendous that there are some people in the world that have no choice but to face "financial advisors" who are of even lower standards that what we have to deal with? In Singapore, I'm rather proud to announce that there are laws governing this, and the MAS is the governing body (if I'm not wrong). I've read their minimum requirements to be a financial advisor. Let's just say that if you really really really wanted to buy insurance from me, give me a week to finish the exams and I can probably sell you a policy on.... next Thursday? But sorry, no coffee and low cut top from me.

Hey, don't get me wrong, there are decent, honest, intelligent and hardworking financial advisors out there. Sadly, they are greatly outnumbered by the hoard of clueless post-grad kids who have joined the industry that don't know jack shit about finance. Let's put it this way, my view of their abilities is so low, that I would even be impressed if they can explain the simple differences between ETFs and unit trusts. If they can do it, so what? Cooke and applause? They SHOULD be able to do it. If they can't, shame on them.

Unfortunately, financial advisor, I am not. I am just an armchair expert.

All I've done is:
- read plenty of books, articles and blogs about finance
- graduate from business school
- pass the CFA level 1 exam
- purchase insurance for myself
- have a perfect 2,000 credit score
- write a personal finance blog that has had 500,000 views

But what do I know?

I am considering taking all the CFMAS and SCI exams (M5, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 9, 9A, HI, BCP, PGI and ComGI), as well going through the AFP (Associate Financial Planner)  > AWP (Associate Wealth Planner) > CFP (Certified Financial Planner) track so that I can become a.... Certified Armchair Expert. I have close to zero interests in making a living helping people do things that most of them ought to do themselves, but it does give me added credibility when I criticize (of course, you can just as well criticize without any substantial credibility, but it does make it more fun when you do have some.)

I guess that won't be so soon though. I need my SkillsFuture Credit for other things that I'm planning to do, but I do find it exciting as something to do in the future if I'm bored - to pass all these exams and to be qualified.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

When Should I Buy An Investment Savings Plan?

Hi everybody!

After reading Budget Babe's post about Francesca Soh, I have decided to address this thorny issue.

(hubba hubba. From her blog, I'm not a stalker, k)

The PRUflexicash looks absolutely ridiculous. After 15 years the total non-guaranteed return is about 12%, while the highest possible loss is 24%. Based on their example, the IRR is 1.42%! Are you kidding me? It's a ridiculous product to begin with! And that's not even taking into account the smoke, mirrors and perfumes by the agents selling them.

Whenever something comes disguised trying to be some weird mix of insurance / investments / savings, more often than not, it's a piece of shit. Take for prime example, the savings plan by Great Eastern that ran last year. It was a horrible horrible choice as a savings vehicle, especially when compared to awesome alternatives like the Singapore Savings Bond.

I have decided to make a complicated infographic to help people decide if they should buy an insurance savings plan.

You might think I'm joking. I'm not. You might think that this is satire. Well, it's both truth and satire.

You want the truth? Here's the inconvenient truth:

Insurance Savings Plans are shitty instruments for insurance and shitty instruments for savings. Are you protected and also saving with these plans? Yes, but there are much better alternatives.

Like? Perhaps buying a cheap term insurance and put money in some a low-risk savings alternative, like the Singapore Savings Bonds. Honestly, even just rolling over fixed deposits every single year would probably be almost just as good too.

But if you want a cute pretty agent to buy you coffee and pat you on the head for being such a good little saver, just close this window and call her up for an appointment. What do I know?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Brexit, Why?

I very briefly touched on this with my previous post, but I realized that close to nobody outside of the UK and Europe seems to give 2 shits about what Brexit is and what it means for the UK, and subsequently, Europe and the rest of the world.

Of course, this video is produced by the side campaigning to leave the EU. But I feel that the Bremain campaign is pretty... SHIT. So for the sake of objectivity, here is the top youtube video on Bremain (the video on top is the top video for Brexit... see the stark difference already?)

I was once again deeply impressed by the Swiss when they told basic income to screw off. They are truly a respectable and educated society. Now's the time for the UK. How will they do?

I won't be able to respect the UK anymore if they can't vote to leave. It's almost painfully obvious. "It all about love actually". What a shit logic. Seriously. If you guys in the UK fall for this hot steaming load of BS, then all hope is already lost for your country.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Best Advice I've Ever Heard and You're Not Gonna Like It

This has got to be one of the best damn advice I've ever heard in my life.

And most people are going to disagree with it. Because everyone is special. And we all have dreams. And we should follow our dreams and passions. And never give up. Then we can live like rockstars and billionaires because we are just bursting and oozing with positive vibes. Because we are all special and unique snowflakes. Bullshit.  

"Reality to brain, do you read me over? Mission control, we have a problem."

This should be mandatory for all students to watch and then take a test on, before they are allowed to pick a poly course, a uni course or start a their job search.

As said before, I don't believe in following your passion. But Mike Rowe makes a superbly simple and iron clad argument: "Just because you're passionate about something doesn't mean that you won't suck at it". And he does make a point to explicitly say that he recognizes the value of persistence.

Too many people follow this absolutely naive and baseless belief that if they are passionate about something and keep doing it, they will succeed. Yeah, right. Sorry special snowflake, that ain't how REALITY works. Maybe that's how it works in your "safe space" where you get a medal every day for not choking on your own saliva, but that's not real life. People don't care what you think. They care what you do. Which is very nicely tied-in by this next piece on fairness in life.

As a supplement to general life advice since we're on this topic, this piece by Oliver Emberton is another classic article for the archives of humanity: The problem isn't that life is unfair - it's your broken idea of fairness. This has gone to be another one of the best truth bombs ever told. It is also explained and argued so well. Life is, as is.

Once you can brush off the notion of "entitlement", the gap between expectations and reality of life narrows and you stop being disappointed so often. The whole world planned and lined up that series of events just to reward / punish you? That's a bit... arrogant, isn't it? I'd be damned if it's true.

Everyone in Generation Snowflake should watch this video and read that article. And people have to stop giving advice which are just roundabout ways of saying "Well, look how awesome I turned out". Yes, stop stroking yourself in front of other people.

+1 if you know where this quote is from

Yes, I know, it's a bit morbid. But oh well. It is what it is. I didn't promise rainbows and unicorns.

And That Catalyst was... Brexit?!

Ever since I graduated from business school and started learning about real world economics, one of the more blatantly obvious train-wrecks-to-be is the Euro. The other is Japan, haha.

Now, with Brexit become more and more of a reality, the market is starting to panic. I would surely hope so, I am still short. And yes, my broker is still calling me all the time.

The UK has to be one of the better and more well equipped countries to leave the EU and manage on its own. If I could vote, I would vote Brexit. I would be disappointed if they did a "Greece".

The Euro will never survive as a currency in the future to the level and strength that it has enjoyed. If Brexit is successful, it will encourage EU members to leave the EU as well. (FYI peeps, even though the UK doesn't use the Euro, it is part of the EU)

Seems like this slow realization of the complete failure of the European project is becoming more and more apparent to people. I did not anticipate that this would be the domino to start it all. I would've assumed that the financial epicentre of the next crisis would've originated in the US, not from across the Atlantic.

Being patient is tiring. I hope we finally see some proper action.

Friday, June 10, 2016

SAF GTL vs DIRECT Purchase Insurance (DPI)

The SAF Group Term Life Insurance is quite infamous in Singapore for being cheap. But just how cheap is it? Is it cheaper than DPI insurance? Well, that's what we'll find out today!

Based on my recent rebate with them, the annual cost of insurance for $100k death, TPD and $100k CI costs $213.99. Without rebate, it is $273.60.

The cheapest DPI comparison is actually GE at $246, but I have AXA which costs $286.

Wow, so fast and simple. SAF GTL is cheaper lor! But wait, things are not so simple and straightforward.

1) SAF GTL is a group plan. As a group plan there are risks which are extra to an individual plan. Common risks are insurer insolvency. But specific risks that a group plan has is that the plan is contingent on the SAF continually renewing its group policy with Aviva. Also, there are limitations to the total amount to be paid out by Aviva in the event of a group claim.

2) SAF GTL CI rider premiums increases starting from age 46, while AXA is level and does not. At age 46, the annual CI premium explodes for $120 to $270! And after that it increases steady every year. At age 64, the annual premium of the SAF GTL CI rider is a whopping $1290, which the premium for the AXA CI rider is kept level at $165 the entire term.

So in conclusion, yes the SAF GTL is actually rather cheap. But, that is if we are only talking about the death and TPD part and we include the insurance rebate. They have managed to keep the premiums level regardless of age, and together with the rebate, makes for a very unbelievably cheap term life insurance.

However, the CI rider that it comes along with isn't cheap after age 46. Before that, I would say that the premiums are rather competitive. However, beyond that, I would say that it becomes very expensive.

Looking at how things are panning out, if I ever need more life insurance, I would probably increase it with Aviva. However, if I do feel that I need more CI coverage in the future (due to rising medical costs or risk factors), I would instead go for DPI to increase my CI coverage. I think its entirely foreseeable that I double up my existing $100k death / TPD/ CI with another plan for the same amount to get $200k coverage.

Unless, does anybody know any cheap standalone or bundled CI plans?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Buying Direct Purchase Insurance (DPI)

What is Direct Purchase Insurance (DPI) and what are the differences? Well, if you want a simple, cheap insurance with a very basic rider, then DPI is for you. If you want to be assured for $1 mil and have your policy zhnged with every rider possible, then this is probably not for you.

I think as most people know, I have a stubborn view on insurance and I am not a big fan of most insurance agents. I say most, because I know that there are some who are really good and there are also some who feel morally obliged to try and sell term even though they know that most consumers are stupid are will prefer life instead. I recently met an insurance agent who tried to sell term to her client, who is the PERFECT candidate for term insurance (middle income, sole breadwinner, family with very young dependents), but ended up getting rejected and scolded for offering such a "dumb" plan with no cash value back.

Hokay. No cash value insurance is de sux horz. Whatever. Your money, your call. It could be a bad call, but it is your call to make.

Anyway, I digress. Most of you are here to find out how I bought my DPI, so here we go.

It was pretty simple. I logged onto comparefirst, punched in my data and clicked search. Male, non-smoker, $100k term life, $100k CI. Boom.

The results are plain and simple to see. Okay, good place to start. Now, what about DIYinsurance? I've heard a lot about them and the commission rebate, so I thought, hey why not give them a chance and see how expensive it is?

To their credit, they were fast. Within a day I got a response and also a quote. It was $393. Even with the commission rebate, I'm sure we aren't looking at a final price of under $300, so meh. Okay, thanks. Bye.

For the DPI insurers, I went to figure out what is the application process and for more information. Great Eastern requires the person to physically go to them. Same for HSBC. I didn't want Aviva because I'm already covered by them with SAF GTL and I'm trying to diversify.

Aviva ($320): Expensive, same insurer as my group policy
HSBC ($300): Poor information, call them up, required to go down
GE ($241): Probably the worst insurer in Singapore for follow up (see claims returns rate), required to go down

AXA ($286): Simple website, NOT required to go down

Okay, there we go, AXA is the winner. I confirmed with them that I would not be required to go down to submit my documents and sign stuff (unless medical is required), and basically after that everything was done by email and phone. Here's the timeline:

D-Day: Filled up webform

D+1: Contacted by AXA for personal details, checked that I don't have to visit them, and then received BI and other documents on the same day.

D+3: Took 1 full day to look over the documents and decide on doing it, so next day finally sent back draft documents for the AXA guy to check. Received reply regarding what things I missed out. Awesome.

D+5: Finally got the time to post out the documents.

D+21: Received a call from AXA guy regarding 1 follow up document required. An email with the extra document needed was sent to me.

D+24: Finally got the time to post out the final document.

D+42: Received an email and SMS from AXA saying that my application is approved.

D+51: Received my all policy documents in the mail, nicely binded up.

The process was simple and easy. It probably could've been faster if I wasn't so lazy by doing everything through mail. The process only involved me printing forms, filling it up and sending it off, and that was it. No visits to their office or branches during working hours (seriously, who has the time to do these kind of things?) and no weird medical exams. Probably cos I am young and healthy.

For people that know what they want, you would be hard pressed to find insurance that is as cheap and simple to get as the AXA DPI. I can't speak for the rest of the other DPI insurers, but I am quite pleased with my experience with AXA.

Does anyone else have DPI insurance? How was your process like?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Credit Report: GMGH's Chance of Default: 0.08%

This one is not I say one hor, but it is calculated by Credit Bureau Singapore.

For the month of June, they have teamed up with SingSaver to allow people to view their credit reports for free. Just open this link and follow all the steps. Don't worry, this isn't a sponsored post. I wish it was though. I would definitely endorse greater consumer awareness regarding understanding credit (debt).

Also to my understanding, since 1st April, people who apply for credit facilities will also be able to access their report, which would be generated anyway for the financial institution that is checking up on the person. I think that this is a great initiative to remind people to be prudent with the DEBT that they take on, and for them to always closely monitor how well they take on and manage their debts.

Of course, with such a sweet deal (normally it costs $6 + GST for a total of $6.42 to access your credit report), I jumped on the free shit bandwagon and accessed my credit report. I have always been curious to find out my credit rating.

Oh yeah. That's right. Yours truly has an AA risk grade with a PERFECT score of 2000. Based on CBS data, people like me have a 0.08% chance of defaulting.

And that probably explains the weekly affair of people calling me up with super special personal loans offers.

Although I have only been working 3 years, I think it is important to note that I did have a credit card which I opened up back in university days. And because I had opened that credit card, I actually began my credit history earlier than I expected. I doubt that you can just begin a credit facility and jump straight into the AA band if you make full payment in the first month. It would definitely take at least a year (I'm just speculating, I have no idea) or more to build up your credit score and move into the higher grades.

Why is it important to have a good credit history? Well, simply put, you get easier access and cheaper financing if you ever need to take out a loan. Of course to start a credit history, you need some form of credit, and I think credit cards can actually be used to help you save money, instead of being something dirty and naughty (apparently, there are people that view using credit cards with the same disgust as smoking or drinking alcohol. "It's a naughty bad thing to do!"). If you need suggestions on some beginner credit cards, scroll down to the bottom of the post in this link for an example of 2 rather decent credit cards that are not very complicated.

Some people are in the camp that all debts are bad. Personally, I can empathize with the dirty feeling of "owing" someone else something. It is of course mentally more relaxing to know that you have no outstanding debts and in a sense, be free.

However, there can also be a strong case for credit cards and I shall summarize it again:
1) Starting and building up your credit history
2) Free financing between purchase and credit card payment date
3) Saving money (through rebates, promotions, rewards)
4) Optimizing your wallet (some credit cards double up as membership / transport cards)
5) Convenience (no need visit ATMs to draw money so often, paywave/paypass transactions)

Just remember, if you have a credit card, always make sure to pay off your entire balance in full. I strongly suggest GIRO linking your credit card to your principal bank account to ensure that your payments are always paid in full and on time. No need to queue up at an AXS machine every month. No excuses about forgetting. Don't create a sloppy system with loopholes to trap yourself and make you fail. If you are going to do it, do it right, or not at all.

The simple rule of not just credit cards, but also for living with financial prudence, cannot be stressed enough, if you don't have the ability to buy something, do not buy it.

NTUC H&S Rider Research

Last year in September, prompted by this post by Derek, I decided to review my insurance policies and then plan the next steps I should take to ensure that my insurance needs are met.

I did have 2 follow-up actions, and they were:

1. Figure out which NTUC rider on my H&S policy is right for me
2. Look for and consider DIRECT insurance (my next post)

Well, for FU#1, I did my research on the NTUC H&S plans. I am currently covered by the Enhanced IncomeShield (Preferred) with Assist Rider. I would say that the shield plans across the insurers are roughly more or less the same. It's probably more important to pick the ward class than to pick and choose insurers, unless you have a preference (you have a particular agent from that company that you would like to work with).

The NTUC shield plans used to only come with Assist Rider. This is a cash premium rider that effectively limits your bill to just 10% of the amount, subject to a cap (mine is $3000). To my knowledge, NTUC only had this sort of "co-pay" rider while the other insurers have "full" riders, meaning that there is zero cash out of pocket that has to be paid. Of course, with complete coverage, premiums would definitely be more than the co-pay option. Because of the lack of the co-pay option, I felt many people actually went with the other insurers, even though they have to pay a higher premium.

I think NTUC realized that consumers wanted a "complete" solution, so they added their Plus Rider, which essentially gives you complete coverage and have zero out-of-pocket expenses. However, like I said, it does come with a price.

Straight off the bat, from 19, the difference in premium is $97 a year, and this increases at every step.

I would highlight the main difference between getting the Assist Rider or the Plus Rider as:

I have too much money and I don't care = Get the Plus Rider
I am very unhealthly / prone to accidents = Get the Plus Rider
I have a very bad family history = Get the Plus Rider

Essentially, its just a question of trying your luck if you'll be in and out of hospitals frequently. If you try your luck and you are right, you save a bit more money and have slightly better cash flow. If you are wrong, you may or may not end up paying more in the long run. That's about it. You are still going to have comprehensive health coverage with whichever rider you choose.

With that done, I decided to stick with my Assist Rider policy. I have gotten my policy successfully (after many tries with wrong documents here and there) to have my own policy taken over from my father to myself now.

I personally think that H&S insurance is very important for everyone to have. Everyone should have at least the basic plan and the assist rider (which only NTUC offers). Of course, if you want something more "complete", you can get the plus rider or go to other insurers. Choices are aplenty. But the point is, you need to make a choice before its too late for you to do so.

If you don't have any H&S policy now, I urge you to get the NTUC basic plan with Assist Rider. After you have time, you can do more research and change plans if you want to, but you need to have you base covered.

How about everyone else for thier H&S plans and their riders that they have? I'm curious as to what other people have thought about and eventually decided on. I know some people with children take the Aviva plan because the rider has some insurance coverage extended to their kids.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Charge Travel / Online Expenses to which Credit Card?

In the past, the old OCBC Frank Card was awesome. 6% online rebate with spending over $400, up to a monthly cap of $60. This was the best card for making online purchases. Now, with the minimum $400 retail spend requirement and the same $60 cap, just toss and burn this stupid card. In fact, I have already canceled my card, received my cancellation confirmation and I will be shredding up my card later. Hehe.

I am going to make some big online purchases in a few months time, which is mainly going to be booking air tickets, accommodation and as well as anything that I can prepay online in advance. Because of that, I am trying to figure out which card I should get for that spending in the future.

Currently, I only have 1 credit card and 1 debit card.
OCBC 365 is my credit card for everything. 6% weekend dining, 3% online and 0.3% all else. $80 monthly cashback cap.
POSB Go! is my debit card if MasterCard is needed, my EZ-link card and my ATM card. 0.3% for everything.

The SCB Singpost card isn't too bad with it's 7% online rebate, minimum spend of $600 and monthly cap of $60. This does however mean that any online purchases over $857 will max out my $60 monthly cashback limit. That shouldn't be too hard to do, especially with an airline ticket. The base rebate is 0.2%, which is lower than the 0.3% offered by both my cards.

A totally overlooked card is actually the BOC Shop! card which gives 5.5 or 6% (depends on total spending) for online shopping, minimum spend of $500 online, maximum spend of $1000. The T&C wordings are a bit confusing, but basically you get 5% online rebates if you spend between $500-$1000. You get the extra 0.5% or 1% depending if your total spending is below or above $1000. After $1000, you can't qualify for any more of the 5% online rebates, but all your other spending will qualify for 1% rebate which isn't too bad either. Monthly cashback cap is $100, but it seems that only getting the first $60 per month is do-able with online big ticket spending.

I have problems recommending other cards, such as UOB One (3.33% cashback on everything, but requires minimum spending for 3 consecutive months in that quarter) or the ANZ Optimum card (5% cashback, but only covers airlines and travel agencies). However, I do know of a guy that uses his ANZ Optimum card very very well and always grabs the bill whenever he goes out. I heard that he ever got $200 in cashback in a month before (that's $4000 in spending!), but he does it for the dining category. Travel and online is a separate beast to tackle.

I'm not even going to recommend the AMEX True Cashback because it's promo cashback is only 3% and regular cashback is 1.5%. And you need the merchant to accept AMEX, which I can tell you, it is not commonplace. In that same stripe, the SCB Manhatten card can suck it as well. 0.5% base cashback and super high ridiculous hurdles just to get 3%. And that's capped at $200 per quarter. $66 rebate a month is nothing to brag about, but they like to flash this "up to $800 cashback a year" in their marketing. It's no competition. Your go-to OCBC 365 card has 3% online rebates that smack up these little kids in the online category. Theirs happen to be for all spending though.

The only other extra tip that I can give is to look out for credit card sign up promotions. I think it is really common these days for credit cards to give you $60-150 cashback just for signing up and spending $500. For example, SCB cards have a $138 cashback with online sign up with min 3 transactions within the first 2 months. UOB One has a $50 cashback with $600 spent in the first 30 days (8.3% cashback).

In any case, I will probably be applying for the SCB Singpost card maybe later this month if I can get someone from SCB to explain to me the card and promotion T&Cs simply. If things work out the way that I think it works out, my next overseas trip will see me immediately saving $138 + $60 even before I fly off, haha!

So, how do you spend when you travel?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Today, Switzerland Votes for its Sanity

In my many places of travel, my 1 week passing through Switzerland left such a great impression on me that it is one of the very few places in the world that I would like to live in. To me, Switzerland is a modern, developed country with cultured and bright people.

They showed that they had an educated population when they smashed the ridiculous minimum wage referendum that was held in 2014. While the rest of the undeveloped countries in the world rushes to legislate minimum wages (and by consequence, legalized mandated unemployment), the Swiss stamped it out 76% to 24%. Amazing.

Now, today, June 5th is an important day for the rest of the world to look at Switzerland once again. Today, Switzerland votes for basic income.

Basic income would be a guaranteed monthly income of 2,500 Francs ($3,500 SGD) for every adult and 625 Francs ($870) for every child.

Nothing in life is free, and its absolutely crazy that such a proposal could reach referendum levels. I am hopeful that the majority of the smart Swiss will once again shove back this steaming pile of crap into the proposers' faces.

As one of the last strongholds of a sane population, please give me hope for humanity, Switzerland.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

SCB Min Comm is Coming. How Now?

Unfortunately, I haven't been reading my mail lately these days. I have a pretty stack of maybe 20 letters in the corner that has been piling up, waiting for me to rip them open, process them, then file them away. I'm kind of old school and I like keeping a hardcopy of my financial records. I'm a tad annoyed by e-statements, but I think I will be throwing the hat in soon and start keeping digital records once I get a network attached storage (NAS). I'm hoping to buy one this coming PC Show. I am eyeing a Western Digital My Cloud, if anyone was interested (probably not).

I was kind of surprised when a reader alerted me about the new SCB changes in my latest post about my SGX portfolio. Ripped open my mail and I found the letter. I went to search more and I found the recent post by Derek, as well as reading through the HWZ forums

Basically, the only change is that for regular banking customers, there is a $10 minimum trading fee. Before, there was nothing.

Looking at my SGX portfolio since I started, I've made 111 transaction, with an average trade value of $281.32 and my average trading commission was $0.70. On a normal brokerage, that's $2000 worth of transactions. I've paid about $79. (Of course if I was with a normal brokerage, I wouldn't make half my trades though!) And the math checks out to be about 0.25%, which is esentially the 0.20% that SCB charges, and the 0.0428% that is tagged along from clearing fees, SGX access fees, and of course, GST. Never forget these fees.

The smallest trade I made was $31 and they charged me $0.07.
The biggest trade I made was $1560 and they charged me $3.89.

As you can tell, this change in the minimum trading fee really affects me A LOT.

However, I have always been a ardent supporter of low-cost solutions. There are some people who require zero market research or analyst publications and don't use the brokerages fancy charts and tools. For people like this (people like me), having a low-cost solution to just do simple transactions is exactly what we need. The SCB platform is ugly as shit, but even if it was prettier or sleeker, it wouldn't make a difference to me. However, I do kind of feel like I'm getting screwed over a bit by paying $10 when full brokerages pay $18 and is at least a 5/10 in terms of their platform looks and functions. SCB right now is a 3/10. I might shag it to repopulate the world, but it is purely out of necessity rather than want. If the amount was $2 or $5, it would be much easier to stomach considering their shitty platform. Seriously. Their platform is horrible. Looks like it was written 10 years ago.

Perhaps if there weren't so damn stupid to send me paper statements of every goddamn transaction, they could save on a TON of costs. Why not force e-statements on trades lower than a certain value, or just en masse force everyone on the platform to only receive e-statements? But what do I know about running a bank? I'm just a retail schmuck. Anyway what's done is done, no amount of people whining on blogs or forums is going to make them take back their decision by 1st Aug.

I was kind of sad when I (falsely) thought that SCB was going to shut down in Singapore. Although it does have some shortcomings, their fees were really very attractive for that small risk of custodian vs CDP. Personally, I quite enjoy their system and style of handling rights (perhaps the only complaint is that the time window is a bit tight), as well as how they handle your dividends. There are no fees involved in these extra corporate actions.

Now, the very important question is: What should I do now?

Should I move brokerage? What should I do with my small lots? And how small is small? 

Anyway in such a situation, what does one do? Well, firstly, I need to evaluate my options.

Yes, I realized I forgot Maybank. But you get the point.

I have only looked at "Cash" settlement because that is how I buy and sell my stocks. I don't contra trade and I am not really in a rush to make trades. I also like to think of it as a self-imposed cooling off period for me to think about what I want to do next before making any rash decisions.

As you can see, even after the change in fee structure, SCB is still the cheapest broker and require the lowest amount of trading size to minimize trading costs, by far. Once the Phillip $10 promotion expires, you basically need to come out with a $10k investment per trade to minimize your trading costs. This is.... huge. 

The main gripe that most people has is that SCB is a custodian, while the other brokers use CDP.

From my understanding and usage with SCB, I have only ever paid the trading commission fees. There has been no other fees charged to me, such as inactivity fees, custodian fees, rights issue fees, dividends crediting fees. However, it is important to note that amongst brokers, most of these fees are waived for SGX stocks, but are usually not waived for foreign stocks.

With the other brokerages, I am honestly not sure about the fee structure for anything other than the basic buy/sell actions. The upsides are that you have not bound to a single broker (CDP managed) and that you get to attend AGMs, eat free food, vote and ask irritating questions during the meetings if you want.

For me the answer becomes clearer the more I investigate and find out information. SCB is still the cheapest brokerage and requires the lowest trading amount to minimize trading cost. Although their platform is ugly as shit, they do know what their competitors are offering and have strategically repositioned themselves to a rather good point. Even if I don't make a $5000 trade, making a $1000 trade costs just 1%, whereas a $1000 trade with the other brokers (without promotions) will set me back 1.8%. 1% is still very palatable, considering that is the amount of fees that RSP plans usually take (Maybank, POSB). 

It's ironic, but I don't want to attend AGMs (as if I'm so free to take leave for that) and collect annual reports. I would rather have a nice arms length distance to my investments so that I don't feel too emotionally attached or biased. The free AGM buffets is a plus, but not when I'm in my 20s. If I was retiring / very free, I would definitely make sure to attend all AGMs, haha! Perhaps in the future, I will transfer the minimum amount out of SCB's custody and into a CDP account so that I can go attend AGMs.

So, next question is: how small is small? I would say that even a $500 trade on SCB with a $10 fee is still palatable to me. That is a 2% cost. If you worry about my 2% cost, think about all those aunties and uncles that get suckered at banks every other day to buy unit trusts at 3-5% sale charges, followed by an on-going 1.5% management fee. Don't feel sad for me. Sure, it isn't small, but it does still give me an affordable option to make an investment without OVER investing. I wonder how many people throw in a few extra thousand per trade and increase their capital at risk to save a few dollars on trading costs. I don't mind paying a higher commission if it means that I can comfortably control my level of market participation. 

Now, what will I do will all my tiny investments? I have checked, and 73% of my portfolio are in counters that are worth more than $500. In that case, I don't see the need to quickly evaluate them. However, this 70% is made up of just 12 stocks.

That means I have 42 stocks that make up 30% of my portfolio! Over the coming weeks, I will be reviewing these stocks. I would say that in most cases, I would be making purchases to beef up their value and push it over the $500 value, which is my personal mental barrier. For other cases, I would be selling them, either because I don't want to have a $500 position in them, or I have decided to cut my losses / take my profits on such counters.

Personally, I am really hoping for cheap investing solutions in our financial industry. Phillip does a great job with their unit trusts. SCB was the star example for equities until this change. If the minimum fee was $5, I'm sure SCB customers would moan and groan a bit, but few would jump ship. From the feelings I am getting reading through the forums, most people will be moving to CDP brokers and basically just trade with whichever broker is offering the best trading promotion. Honestly, it's not too bad of an idea, especially if having your holdings in CDP helps you sleep better at night.

For me, this means I have a tiring 2 months ahead of me trying to sell off or buy in and beef up my small positions before the final change in SCB's trading fees. I will continue using the SCB platform. Granted, it isn't dirt cheap anymore, but it is still cheaper than the rest and its platform's inadequate offerings strangely is enough to suit my low-ball needs.

I have 1 Hail Mary left, which is getting someone I know with a priority banking account to "vouch" for me and also have my account be considered "priority banking" even though the balance is no where near that $200,000 mark. I honestly don't know how these sort of things work, but I was told by him that he has done it before. I don't have much hopes for it, but who knows, right? 

SAF Group Term Life Insurance Rebate (Q4 2014 - Q3 2015 Rebate)

Wow, goodness gracious. I can't believe that it has been a year already! It felt like I had just received a letter from Aviva regarding my rebate just a few months back. But it's already been a year!

Last year my rebate from Aviva was $40.47 and it reduced my SAF GTL cost from $307.20 to $266.73. A reduction of 13%!

Well, guess what? This year the rebate was huge!


I find that rather strange because I am paying just $307.20 for the SAF GTL insurance and I am quite sure that the riders do not count. Even if they do, it is $60 each. That makes my insurance cost $427.20.

A $119.22 rebate of $307.20 premium is a massive 39% rebate!
A $119.22 rebate of $427.20 premium is a still a huge 28% rebate!

I'm not complaining about received a huge rebate, but I'm now just curious as to which of my insurance plans are eligible for this rebate. Perhaps the reason why my rebate in the previous year looks smaller is because I changed my insurance coverage halfway and I'm not too sure about the period. Bad accounting right? Oh well.

If the rebate only comes from just the main plan, that means my cost per $100k sum assured is just $8!

All in, including the rebate, I'm covered for death and TPD for 200k and CI and early CI for 50k a piece and my monthly costs is a measly $25.67 a month.

And there I have friends dropping $300-600 a month for complicated X3 accident early death whole life limited pay investment linked participating insurance policies. Honestly, sometimes I don't know what the heck some of the plans out there even are. Apparently the more words, the better. Just like ah beng cars, you know? More stickers, more power.

Anyway, I am going to ring up Aviva tomorrow and find out once and for all whether the riders are eligible for rebate, because if that is the case, then I might be upping my insurance coverage!

** UPDATE: I called Aviva and the lady that I spoke to told me that the rebate portion is only for the term insurance part and that the riders are not part of the rebate. Still... the rebate is massive! Probably won't up my CI and early CI for now**

I did recently also applied for and got approved for DIRECT insurance (DPI) which I was talking about last year after I reviewed my insurance. I am waiting for the documents to arrive before I write a post about it.