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Wednesday, 26 January 2011

1 month's milestone - review and saying thanks!

I started my maiden blog post on 23 Dec 2010 – just before Christmas.  How time flies!  It’s now 4 weeks later, and near another holiday period – Chinese New Year! 
I would like to take this time review this milestone; and to share my thanks to the below fellow bloggers who have kindly took the time to encourage and give constructive feedback me on my blogging journey (I know I know, blog one month already start saying “fellow” blogger.  Shameless!)


1)  Drizzt from http://www.investmentmoats.com  

Like a duckling who imprints the first person it sees as “mother”, Drizzt will always be the “first” in my heart.  It’s better than saying Drizzt is my “first kiss” kind of attraction….. Nah, not between guys! (Drizzt is probably saying now – I just woke up, face not washed, teeth haven’t brush, I don’t know anything, and have nothing to do with SMOL! )

Drizzt is the first to comment in my first blog posting, and showed interest to who is this new blogger with a weird moniker.  For that I am very grateful.  We all remember our firsts!


2)  Sg financial freedom from http://sgfinancialfreedom.blogspot.com

What a fantastic surprise to find another “seasoned” blogger sharing his views on making New Year resolutions.   I am reassured that even if I go against the “norms”, they are some like-minded people out there too.  It’s OK to be different.


I am glad to know that I’ve made at least one person laughed!  I will continue to write irreverent posts, even if they are a bit “wu liao”.  Life is stressed enough.  Need to let our hair down a bit.  Hey!  Where did my hair go?  (Look at my pic)

Thank you Temperament!  You also gave me the confidence to write in Mandarin.  It’s good to be “bi”.  (I mean bilingual, not the other one!)


4)  PanzerGrenadier from http://fivecentstencents.com/blog

When I was curious about why I am blogging, you welcomed me into this community by sharing the reasons why you got started in the first place.  Imagine a person who has started blogging since 2003 taking the time to post a comment in my blog!? 

Your actions speak louder than words!  You could have easily taken the stance of: “I am the mountain; newbie you come to me, not I come to you” 

Your generosity in encouragement and comment is very much welcomed!  And appreciated.


5)  Derek from http://thefinance.sg

I’ve already thanked you in a previous post, and I will thank you again.  I now have a guest posting account in your blog!!!  

This finance blogging community is so generous and helpful!  I have a dilemma, I am not technically a finance blogger; but I guess just as long I post once in a while some matters concerning money, I can continue this “membership”?


6)  La Papillion from http://bullythebear.blogspot.com

Ah!  What can I say?  Your recent postings have been a fantastic source of inspiration.  I am so glad you have decided to stop posting on individual stocks.  Not that I don’t appreciate your earlier posts, but your recent posts is allowing me to understand who is La Papillion.  And that is infinitely more interesting (to me)!

And thanks for linking my blog to your blog rolls unsolicited (you are the first to do so!).  It’s so interesting to see a lot of your readers dropping by to my blog after visiting you. 

I now have to find a way to capture their attention.  Most visitors come to my blog and leave in 00 seconds!?  At least that’s what sitemeter tells me.  I guess it’s a bit like going to the wrong toilet and hastily making an exit!  Ha ha!


7)  Wealth Journey from http://thewealthjourney.blogspot.com

I really appreciate your constructive feedback when I made an inappropriate comment in your blog recently. 

I don’t need to say much more; since as long we continue to speak from the heart, I’ll be most contented.


8) Silent readers

To all other “silent” readers and bloggers, I thank you also!  But if you can just drop a comment or note to me, I will be even more grateful.  Even if it’s to tell me you don’t like a post or I’ve offended you in anyway.

If you don’t feel comfortable writing in public – you can email me privately: jared.seah@gmail.com  

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Going home


Picture taken at Warsaw park Oct 2010. I missed home seeing all the families at the park.




寒风吹,秋叶飘
燕儿飞,院钟敲
离乡愁,涌心头
归家途,以背熟


The cold wind blows, and the autumn leaves flow
The swallow has flown, as the temple bell tolls.

Put not till tomorrow, the homeward path I shall follow
Eager is the lonesome fellow, to quench his homesick sorrow

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Count down to 2 more days when I fly back to Singapore this Friday.  Can't wait!

The Chinese version came to me in a flash last night.  Took some effort to come up with the English version 20 minutes later.....  A bit clumsy with the translation though.

It's my first time writing Chinese poem, and also first time in translatting from Chinese to English.  Double virgins night? 


Monday, 17 January 2011

Help from experienced blogger to newbie

I would like to share a very positive weekend experience I had with Derek from http://thefinance.sg/

As I've only been blogging for less than 4 weeks, I was curious how Derek was able to automatically post blogs from other Singapore Finance bloggers into his website.

Derek was very patient and answered my questions in simple layman English.  And with genuine interest to help a newbie out.  I felt very good!  He could have brushed me off by asking me to come back in 12 months time when I have more blogging track record.....

As my blog is not a Finance focused blog, I was afraid to ask Derek to include my blog into his list of authors.  Imagine having my favourite songs or poem posts appearing in http://thefinance.sg/!?

But Derek found a way for me to post directly in his blog - he even gave me a "post only" account!  That's how I was able to post my "Rent or Buy" article in hig blog.  Now that's cool!

I would recommend other more experienced Finance bloggers to take contact with Derek to have your blog included in his authors list.  Spread the love!

For other non-Finance bloggers who have the urge to post Finance related posts once in a while, I would encourage you to have a chat with Derek.  If I can do it, so can you!  Its very simple!  Really!

Thanks Derek!

P.S.  It was a fun weekend for me.  Played with Linkwithin and Feedburner widgets.  To use the lingo of my friend's daughters, I was "pimping" my blog!  Well, at least that what they meant by "pimping" their Nintendo DS - add accessories!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

To Rent or Buy Property?

First of all, I will not talk about the rule of thumb used by economist: if the home price is 15 times higher than the annual rent for a similar property, it is better to rent.

Nor will I talk about financial worksheets of formulas and ratios used by accountants to determine whether it’s better to lease or buy a property.

No, I won’t mention them. (Smile)

What I will do is to share the emotional struggles and questions I’ve gone through to determine whether it’s better to rent or buy. 

(Here I am not talking about hardship cases where renting is the only option.  I’m talking about choices – when we can afford both rent and buy options.)

Renting

Renting is like “living-in-sin” or co-habiting with a partner. 

It makes sense when psychologically, we fear committing to a banking relation by committing to a 20 to 30 years loan.  No hand-cuffs for us!  

And at the back of our minds, we fear this song may come true: “Yes it’s sad to belong to someone when the right one comes along”. 

Yup, how many times have we bought a “tock gong” (gangbuster) product – only to be frustrated that a better and newer model is available 6 months down the road?

Yes, renting makes a whole lot of sense when after each lease agreement; you want to switch to a fresh and young place all the time.  Yes, we all like to have condo mambo no. 5! 

We rejoice in the unbearable lightness of being (now that’s a contradiction!).

As for the downside, renters have to bear with lots of well-meaning advice from relatives and friends – especially during the festive seasons when we only see them once a year.  “Ah Boy, you must buy a place and commit.  Cannot like that, you not getting younger you know!?  Renting has no security.”

Also, there could be regrets when the rental property you like very much is sold to a new buyer.  When you plead with the previous owner to sell it to you instead, the slap in the face reply is: “If you liked it, you should’ve put a ring on it.”

Buying

Ah!  Buying your own place for the first time is full of anticipation and trepidation….. Lots of self-doubts and cold-feet moments before we muster up the courage to sign on the dotted line.  Yes, this is the property! (We hope…)

Buying is like a marriage.

For some, it’s love at first sight.  You see, you like, you buy!  For some, it’s multiple rounds of property searching (you are the client from hell to property agents!).  And some were formerly renters – having gone through a soul searching and heart wrenching transformation to converts of commitment.

To us, it’s more than bricks and mortars.  It’s home.  No matter what slings and arrows we suffer outside, when we return home, it’s where we find solace and comfort.  And it does not matter whether it’s a palatial bungalow, a shoe-box studio or a HDB (subsidized housing); it’s still our “castle”.

And having a place we can call our own sends a powerful message to potential partners we would like to share our homes with.  This signal of “marriage potential” is one of the most powerful pheromones we send to the opposite sex.  No?

Renters tend to use flashy cars as pheromones to attract sleepovers at their place.  Different strokes for different folks!

Buying a property is the first step to growing roots, then developing strong branches where you bear the most beautiful flowers and bountiful fruits for the next generation to enjoy.  “I, me, and myself” fades into my family.

However, it’s not always a bed of roses.  The biggest downside to buying a place of your own is when you fight with your partner over it - when it’s time to go our separate ways.  You wonder why has it gone this far; and where has the love gone.  Now you spend your time with vultures in suits over settlements on who gets what….. A place of pride and comfort has become a weapon and symbol of hurt…… To get even……

This is the time you envy your renter friends who have a much easier exit clause: “Just leave the keys on the table when you leave.”  Ouch!

Decision time

“What should I do?” you asked.  Eh…. You are asking a single person who has bought a 3 room HDB.  I’ve told you in my previous “Term or Whole-life?” posting that I am a confused guy….. I should be asking you instead!


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

If I had a hammer - my social consciousness



Another blast from the past.  This song is made popular by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

 
That's what I meant when I said" "If need be, I'll rather be the hammer than the nail."

Sometimes I do wonder, if I were in my twenties in the 50s or 60s, I would probably be in politics......Merdeka!   And where would I be today? Exiled overseas or retired as the elderly man of leisure in Singapore?

Below is the original singer - Pete Seeger. He's a social activist fighting for the "small guy". For his passion, he was branded as a "communist".  He's not the first, nor will be the last artiste to suffer for his craft and beliefs.


Sunday, 9 January 2011

When a man gets tied up to the ground


Photo taken at Greece's 2nd largest city Thessaloniki during Easter 2010.
It's a mooring by the waterfront

What's the saddest sound a man gives to the world when he's tied down to the ground?

No.  It's not the rants and complaints he makes; thrusting his fury at the world in desperation.

No. The saddest sound a man makes is the deafening silence of resignation.  When he hangs down his head and plods on.....

In the still of the night, when the mind is no longer able to suppress the true yearnings of the heart - the man sees his true self.

No, tonight there will not be silence of the lambs.  Tonight, the heart of the lion ROARS! 

And in the morning, the man smiles to himself in the mirror.

Friday, 7 January 2011

El Condo Pasa - my aspirations and outlook on life




Inspired by a remark from La Papillion recently.  Here's the song the song I am referring to in my "About me".  I forgot younger readers may not know this song of my generation.

I didn't fully understand the meaning of the words until I hit 40.  Then it became clear to me.  It has helped me on my journey towards being the Singapore Man of Leisure ever since.

By the way, Jared Leto's "Closer to the edge"' MTV below is my recent favourite (I still watch MTV OK!?) Especially at the end when one of his fan says: "Some people pray, I turn up the radio."

Now that's grass-root poetry!


Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Term or Whole-life insurance?


There are lots of debates on this subject matter in many blogs.

The latest buzz is to buy term and invest the rest - skip whole-life.....

What do I think?  It depends.  Huh?  You don't blog when you don't have an opinion.  My answer is still, it's different strokes for different folks.  We are dealing with (irrational) people remember?

It all boils down to why we buy insurance in the first place?

1.  If it's purely to provide for love ones, then its term - maximum payout for the equivalent whole-life premium.

2.  If it's getting our premiums back and then some (at least that's what we think!) after X years, then it's whole-life.  It's more about me, me ,me; and not so much about our love ones. Look into the mirror - how long can our love ones survive on the whole-life policy we've bought?

3.  Now many "experts" tell us whole life is a "bad" investment - most of  the premiums go to commissions and profit to company (which is true).  The surrender payout yield is only 2 to 4%.

But 2 to 4% yield isn't so bad compared to fixed deposit interests today.  And buy term and invest the rest is on premise that we can earn a yield higher than 4%.  For those of us who has been investing for more than 10 years (why 10?  It's long enough to include both bull and bear market cycles), what's our CAGR?  2 to 4% don't look too bad compared to negative returns at all. 

It's our personal investment track record that should guide us.  We know ourselves best.  (How many got out before the 2008 credit crisis?  Even with the recent recovery, how many are still under water?)

For those who have yet to achieve consistent returns, then "invest the rest" is "promise".  Which is no different from the what whole-life promises - good year more bonus, bad year bonus can be cut to nil.

Whole life can also be a good "forced" savings if we are one of those people who can't stop spending once there's cash in our hands (I think having nagging wife works better.  Japanese wives are the best - they take all our take home pay!).

It's also works well when we have the urge to gamble with our nest eggs - be it in casinos (opps! Should I say integrated resorts?) or stock markets.  Statistically, most retail investors lose money in stocks, but statistics lie big time!) 

4.  Maybe a better question is do we need insurance at all?  And what type?  We buy those that we need.  Financial literacy first, then know ourselves, then decision.

Ever wondered why multi-millionaires say in the papers they have X and Y amount of insurance?  You mean their net worth or estate can't sustain their love ones if they are gone?  Can it be they have financial advisers that can sell ice to Eskimos?  Now that's million dollar round table for you!

5.  Me?  I bought insurance from a childhood friend when I was 27.  Glad he didn't screw me up.  It's 30% whole-life and 70% term.  Why be black or white?  Shades of grey is cool too. 

I will be cancelling all my policies when I hit 47 - whole-life breaks even after 20 years (OK, after inflation adjusted, it's still a loss).  My net worth will take over as the "insurance" payout if something unforseen happens - and that includes diability and critical illnesses.   Hospital and surgical?  I'll put medisave and medishield to the test! 

Insurance is: we win when we lose; we lose when we win.  I am confused now.....


Saturday, 1 January 2011

Why do I make new year resolutions anyway?

I never seem to achieve any of my past new year resolutions!  And this year is no different :(

1.  I still can't see my toes standing up - stomach blocking the view.

2.  The tomes of books I wanted to finish are still collecting dust - bloody TV's fault!

3.  Learn a new language - 2 years in Athens and my Greek vocabulary is still less than the count of my fingers.

New year resolutions for 2011?  The resolution is not to make any resolutions for 2011!  Let's see if this new year resolution will come true by end 2011!

Joy and happiness to all aimless people like me!
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