Saturday, September 6, 2014

Random thoughts: A delusional financial journey

There is not an inspiration post, rather it is more of an negative example. My journey thus far, the highs or lack of, and the lows.

When I was doing my National service, I seldom go out with my platoon mates during nights off. I simply enjoyed a meal at Changi Village, and took a slow walk back to camp, usually alone.

I managed to save almost 10k after the 2 years.

I signed a contract with my employer when I am still studying at university. I was given allowance when I study. I managed to save more than 20 k during my university years. I played with shares. I know nuts about financial numbers. What is ROE, what is equity, receivable. I know nothing. When September 11 happen, I bought SIA. It is a 100% gain. This embolden me to buy more blue chips. It was the turning of bear to bull years, I made more than 5k. Then I took all profits and ploughed it into CAO which wiped out almost all of my savings!

I still have savings. I was so happy to get back 4k when they managed to restructure. I remembered the money coming in very handy when I pay for my marriage expenses. Furniture, property, honey moon etc.

My first 2 years of working savings were gone in a snap of an eye when I get married.

Then we welcomed our first car, followed very shortly by our first baby. Savings was wipe out again. In fact, there were months I survived by past savings and needed my bonuses to clear my expenses.

It was a very different lifestyle I was used to. My wife was not as frugal as me. I felt highly insecure without monthly savings. I quarrel with her over money. 

As I climbed the Coporate ladder, my pay increased, so is my expenses. My maid came along, things like taxes, year end holiday etc, made me hardly able to save the bulk of my bonuses. 

I learn to invest, but there are many a times I need to liquid my counter to pay for some expenses. 

It was painful, demoralizing. Especially when I read about blogger x who is y years old and amassed a portfolio of z value.

Given my character, when I can't beat them, I start to delude myself. I tell myself a lot of joy I had with my family cannot be measured with money. A lot of time spent, a lot of luxury activities should be enjoyed and let it be. I am a generous husband and father and perhaps also son and son-in-law.

Deep down inside, I know I want some financial muscle. I know there are other with debts issues. But most of the peers I know have more than 1 property. Ouchx1

I remember a blagandesh at a ATM in front of me. When it's my turn, I saw the ATM receipt, while I am not sure if the receipt belong to him, I saw cash balance of 100k. Wow, I tell the story to my friends. They reacted in amazement: huh? You mean you do not even have 100k after working for so many years? Ouch ouch. 

I still aim for financial freedom, but deep down inside, I know in reality, I am just working for stability in semi-retirement.

The one solution I had, work till I dropped . No need for retirement fund. LOL.
To self-delude myself further, I tell myself if  I do have the second property, or when I have the half a million investable fund, I will have other problems, I might be missing on other finer things. It made the"ouch" moments bearable.

To self-delude myself further, I even appeal to the rational thinking part. Hey, if my 50K portfolio can be defended, with 6% annual return plough back to work, compounding magic will make it a cost value 200k portfolio in 25 years. I will get 1 k return every month if I can still manage 6% return. I would be 60 then. My CPF should have no problem hitting the minimum sum. 

I would have to survived with 2 plus K a month 25 years later. With inflation eating away purchasing power, it is a highly depressing number isn't it? I should have some spare cash from my 2 endowement policies for some little pleasures for the first 10 years.

So how to bridge the gap? Drive taxi or work as security guard perhaps? 

Of course, the above projection assumed zero cash savings and capital injection into investment fund in the next 25 years, which is almost impossible unless I lose my job. 

So I just described a worst case screnario, my days in monetary sense should be much better. Delusion in process 1. 

Anyway, even if monetary less well off, it could be make up by a fulfilling emotional and social or perhaps even spiritual life, isn't it? Delusion in process 2

Anyway, will Singapore still be around in 25 years? Will its economy still be as vibrant? Will I stop be healthy? Appreciate the present! Delusion in process 3

There are plenty of opportunities that can be opened with money, I am not taking about just pleasure seeking ones but also  in terms of security. But perhaps, options or Too many of them bring more anguish. Delusion in process 4

Grasshopper or the ant, A story I fondly remembered from SMOL. I think I am the hardworking grasshopper, working hard, enjoying hard. 

Until the next ant or grasshopper passed by, and amazed at my not ant nor grasshopper life. Ouch. I know it will hurt, comparison is inevitable but I know it will just hurt a while until I jump off to immerse myself in the next playground or workplace. 

When asked what is my greatest asset, I always say:

1) contentment ( for my lecturer and academic friends). 

2) Shameless ( for my ah beng friends )

3) delusional ability ( for my blogging friends)

But effectively, the three assets are the same thing. Just different packaging LOL

I just hope old age don't make my greatest asset disappear.


  1. Hi Silly Investor, I'm around the same age and you. As recent as 3 years ago, I used to spend what I have and am what people know as "yue guang zhu". Luckily I awoke and started saving and investing. Although I am far away from my peers in terms of savings, I know that life is not a sprint but a marathon... with the power of compounding interest, I will do well in future. Let's jiayou!



    1. Hi R,

      Thanks for sharing. Definitely will keep going at it and focus on those within my control.

      Thank you for dropping an encouragement.

      I think I also Yue guang Zu 3 years ago...

  2. Sillyinvestor,

    The butterfly guy was the one who inspired me on my "peeling the onion" posts.

    It seems you are not quite comfortable talking about yourself and sharing your inner most thoughts and demons.

    The more confident we are about ourselves, the less make-up we put on.

    Welcome to the circle of naked men ;)

    1. Hi SMOL,

      Butterfly guy is LP right? Will go search his blog for his onion peeling.

      Uncomfortable with inner demons? I think everyone is, and has them, just that some people has too many demons or just 1 demon but is level 60.

      It takes a level75 character to tame the demon

      Character, not sure of my level. You know yours?

  3. You had a great start in life, 30k by university years, and you started investing at a young age. But sadly what life has given, life can easily take it back as in your case. You felt that you are spending too much partially due to your wife and your commitments, but in actual fact we are ultimately responsible for our decisions. Living well in the present is good, but ignoring the future is unwise, take comfort from knowing that people with far lesser than you has managed to live happily and you are blessed that you are able to own a car and have maid. You have awoken with this posting, Godspeed!


    1. Hi Y,

      I agree I have a good life. There are just moments where one feel a bit of low...

      Saw your latest post, LOL. We all have those self talking moments, some enlightening,
      Some demoralizing.

      All bloggers like to talk to themselves. Otherwise there will be no blogging LOL

    2. We, bloggers have an option not to keep thing to our hearts and can talk to ourselves.

      But watch who is reading? LOL!

      Once I tio tua kee when I blogged about my big losses. My daughter read about and told her mother. Hell of nagging over days and weeks.

    3. Did you average down CAO till more than 50 - 60% of your capital?

    4. I know my wife don't read my blog. In fact, my friends ... None of them I know personally read my blog

  4. CW, I knew nuts about investing then. Diversify, concentration risk etc. it was almost 100% of my investible fund, all at one shot LOL

  5. 30+?

    You still have a few more market cycles ahead to meet your final investing goals to achieve retirement income for life.

    We must not believe we can't!

  6. Hope I dun make any dump mistakes such that I have no war chest to take advantage of the bull bear cycle...

    I think we are not too far fr the next bear

  7. Just periodically keep some small amts of money away until u forget abt them.

  8. Pf, I money faced. I will not forget the money I squirrel away... But I know what u mean. Trying to keep money

    1. Just keep it where u can't get it out for the short, medium and long term.

  9. Yes, it is vey difficult, to save and maintain a standard lifestyle. I am a single income family, with 4 children (16,15,13 and 8). Hardly spend more than $2 per day eating dinner leftovers for lunch and bringing my own kopi-o. My wife is less frugal, like today she brought the children to eat in Ajisen, while I ate instant noodle for lunch. I am recovering to be frugal set aside about 15% of my salary to save every month and also save all my bonuses. She dare not touch the money set aside for saving. The grasshopper and ant story resonates and reinforces my habits. Time and again I tempted to splurge, go on a faraway holiday and buy a Tom Bihn . Blogs like yours and AK encourages me to stay on course. My father's lifestyle displayed an integral model to shape me since his death.

    1. SM, 4 kids on single income. Respect. You beat me.

      Don't eat too much instant noodle and left over food from dinner as part of money saving plan.

      Health problem come when you get older will greatly negate all your past saving effort.

      Plan your dinner portion well and seldom be any leftovers.


    2. Siew Mun,

      Thank you for Sharing, I think it is not easy to bring up 4 children with a single income, even if the income is high. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child, if you are doing it with your wife, both of you had it tough.

      In terms of saving and frugality, I think you beat me hands down. But I have the same advice as CW, do take care of your health. Health include mental and social health.

      I think you are doing a wonderful job, seriously. Just saving all of your bonus itself is not easy, since all your kids are at "tuition" age.

      In fact, I am really interested in how you managed your expenses.

      I do not want to sound offensive or rude, but it is really out of concern and curiosity and sincerity that I ask this.

      You happy with current lifestyle?
      How you communicate with your family regarding money matters? do you quarrel often?

      I mean, not kaypo, if you managed everything so well, I think you are really a big big inspiration, and if you are willing, I really like you to write a guest blog!!

      My email is if you like the privacy of email.

      But for fathers and mothers who "struggled" during their children growing up, I think your golden years will be sweet and blessed.

      I know my father is, he wanted nothing more, just wanted to see the three of us through university, he defer his heart operations for years so that we can get through uni, when I told him I signed a contract with my employer, and he need not worry about my Uni fees and my allowances during my 4 years of study, he went for an operation.

      The best part? When I am getting married, he gave me an hongbao of 5K. I said no need, he says he save money for Sister and Brother universtity, it is rightly mine! I pay for his hospital bills, and he insisted in returning it to me, i refused, and he took my bank book and banked it in.

      Now, he so relax, although in poorer health.

      Fathers... Your days will come where you enjoy the fruits of your labour and appreciated by your kids

  10. So filial of you to "bond" yourself in University so that your father go for his operation.
    Yes, some parents are like that. Will rather not see doctor to save money. I had to buy outpatient-cum-inpatient health insurance for my father before he felt comfortable to go see doctor for any problem (since premium already paid and would be wasted). [In case you are wondering, that "lobang" of outpatient health insurance has closed for new applicants - it is the NTUC Income Medical Healthcare System set up to meet government need for portable healthcare - not sure why closed now when need is still there].

    1. A,

      Aiyo, I fillial ??? I blush... I only returned home for dinner once in a forthnight...
      It is very easy to see why the plan is out of market. Too good for us? Bad for insurers.

      I have a super good endowement plan from Tokyo marine, one that my wife and I got.

      We pay about 1.5 k per annum for 20 years. Money then got locked for another 10 years. At end of 30 years, 80k is guaranteed with a very small non- guaranteed amount.

      It is also out of maket nowz

  11. Hi Silly investor, thanks for the posting, i am beginning to get jaded with so many success stories and positivity. a dose of investmentmoats, assi, silly investor and bullybear is all i need.

  12. Hi A,

    Thank you for your encouragement and placing me with the blogging qianbei and giants... ASSI, bullybear and drizzit, you been to SMOL? He is one deep guy too, although he always pampered his trading and investment thoughts deep between the line...

    It will be refreshing too... SMOL, you reading this?

    1. Sillyinvestor,

      One man's meat is another person's poison.

      I'm an acquired taste. (I good at consoling myself or what?)

      I do appreciate your kind gesture ;)

  13. I really appreciate this post - very raw and true. living together with your other half in marriage is really about compromise. Most often, we do not marry someone with our views on spending and finance. curious though - how is the matter resolved now? sounds like you give in to your wife or do you think its more of a compromise? i also see myself in the same situation if my other half does not take a more frugal position. on the other hand, i do know of people who spend their lives saving, and then an emergency happens and they have to use all their hard saved money. nv to ever enjoy

    1. Hi Gagmewithaspoon,

      I think there is a compromise, but I think I gave more.

      I think she also understand that I am giving in to her, so when I say no, I think she takes it better now.

      Like, I say No to yearly overseas trip, which I really think its a waste of money. I say maybe once every 2 years? Or at least a budget trip to alternate it.

      No new car after my 5 years old car go to the scrapyard, she accept COE is too damn high, the compromise is a second-hand car.

      She finally agreed to rent out the house.

      There is some cut down of weekend dine out.

      I quietly celebrate my 2 months without maid. I am not sure when she will pop the question again, but saving as much as I can now.


  14. hi sillyinvestor,

    don't think so much.

    as if crunching numbers and analysing stocks will make a lot of pple rich. i doubt. it's more of wasting previous time. i see lots of pple analysing what fcf me its senseless if u going for long haul of 2 decades say.

    one simple but powerful way would be to identify a few businesses whiuch pays increasing dividends for the past 20 years, or the longer the better. go into the,. and let the dividends compound. dont need to look at it.

    eg jmh, mcd, colgate etc

    then just earn and spend once u have that seed money working.

    happy retirement when the time comes.

    paul low

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thank you for sharing your success formula. It sound simple but I believed it to be truth. 大智若愚。truth exists in the simplest of things.

      Are there any case studies in Singapore?

      Your post is really thought invoking, especially the don't think too much.

      Ya, money perhaps is one one of the factors affecting the quality of retirement, but is the one most widely discussed

  15. Btw, are u the same puallow from valuebuddies, that one that invested in hupsteel

  16. yes i am
    i use to tell my dad mai siu ka jue also. my sis has some family problems & my parents actually looked forward to retirement, yet now they need to take care of my sis children so that she can work.

    i think lots of pple are too caught up with chasing after money. look at forums n blogs. too much thought have gone into calculating things like fcf rnav patmi etc etc... n too much time waste. does the gains commensurate with the inputs. i dare say no.
    investing is by itself simple. learn to let go. disregard day to day or wk to wk gains or losses. over time, the downside will be taken care of naturally.
    use dividends to keep buying assets which produce more dividends. repeat process for next 2-3decades.....he will be rich.
    since that is taken care of, use the time on intangibles...things which money cant buy n one shd find himself happier.
    myself i semi retired at 37. if u wish to hear more, let me know. if this already bores u, then its ok too.

  17. Sure Paul,

    I would like to hear more, one reason for me to blog is to hear and learn about other thinking an life.

    You mentioned you are semi-retired at 37, I have a few questions, you can choose not to answer them.

    How old are you now?

    Are you single, or married with children?

    Hupsteel? I do not think it fill into your criteria of perpetual dividend raiser, so I guess you semi-retirement job is a retail investor and Hupsteel your trading/ short term investment ??

    Personally, I enjoy crunching numbers, although I must say I find the story more intriguing and focus more on the qualitative part now. Looking at the business world stretch my mind, although I still like my shelter of my secured job.

    We are our experiences plus our choices, our external circumstances play a role in shaping who we are, I am happy with my combination now, although I am not sure how long it will last

  18. i am near 40. 2 children.
    hupsteel does. it pays div every yr since listed and raised dividend 5-10x since 2000
    i dont trade. Hupsteel is one of my long term invesstment.

  19. Hi Paul,

    Since you invite, I will continue to shamelessly ask. LOL

    Just ignore me when you had enough. (Be careful of what you offered)

    1) Look, hupsteel, I do not think you bought into it at 2000 looking at the track records of prior decade preceeding 2000, there must be something that tell you this has a potential to be a dividend riser. What are some of the things you look at?

    When you discuss hupsteel at valuebuddies, it is more like an asset play.

    When did you start investing and what capital did you start with to allow you to semi-retired at 37?

    Btw, how is the past 3 years of semi-retirement? How old are your kids? Is it something that you still looked forward to, or is it not what you expected?

  20. hi. i started investing abt 8yrs ago.
    each stk i buy i look at the probability of it repeating its past hx into the future.
    same for hupsteel steng tcil sats noel etc. all these counters dividends will imo will keep trickling. since my stake is nt just tens of lots, i have to make sure the former holds true.
    retirement means more time.
    but still same lifestyle. no lambo/ferrari..just a benz e class, fully paid.
    i still enjoy hawker food. no buffets weekly.

  21. Thanks for patience in answering and satisfying my curiosity!! PAul.

    Enjoy your semi-retirement!! Your golden years are long!

    1. no prob.
      the trick is really to think long term. over the long term, the downside will take care of itself and what remains would actually be the upside.
      the passive income will increase. hupsteel taisin steng sats noel singre stamL are examples of non stop dividends and ability to raise dividends over time. once the counters are identified and homework done, usually there is little more to be done except waiting for dividends cheques to come and the dillemma of where to invest in next to create more dividends.
      Never mix active and passive income. let each be its own. mixing the two might create cash flow problems and perhaps quarrels of money issues between couples
      let the passives snowball.
      let the active feed the active ie current lifestyle and enjoy life as it is now.

  22. Oh ya Paul,

    Not sure if u will still be reading this.

    You do regularly investing, or you actually hold ammo until GFC to hood big time?

    Seem like you invest regularly. I knew AK a blogger did the war chest approach, I wonder if there is a real person who succeed using the always invest approach

  23. i idea what the market will be tomorrow. but i do know my dividends will come surely n will rise over long long time, as surely as my handphone n.utility bills will come. so i dont have any war ammo.

  24. I see!! Indeed there is more than 1 route to Rome!! Thanks !!

  25. Oh ya, Paul

    I am thinking of consolidating our interaction into a blog post, I think it has been useful to me and might be good for others too. A real flesh and blood case with another route to Rome.

    Is that fine with u? With your name?

    If u are uncomfortable, let's just leave it as it is ...

    1. call me paullow.
      well, if though this blog, fellow investors can gain useful insights n as what u said, u can earn a few cents a mth from it, why not?

  26. but i must qualify at start that i dont have stock tips nor do i know which stocks will go up/down tomorrow or say next mth. i am no predictor of market. follow what i buy u might find urself in big paper losses in the coming weeks, i am not surprised.

  27. Real people. Real experience.

    Good to share in one blog post. Easier to read for late comers!


  28. Thanks Paul, yes CW real people real story.

    Paul, no worries, I think many readers are sophisticated enough... LOL

    I will write through my thoughts... Not just a rewrite of what is here...

    LOL, the 2 cents also don't have. Adsense need me to own the blog for 6 Mths first

  29. Hi,

    Do look for undervalued growth have more capital appreciation on your equity. I have made 225% capital accumulation from my investment in stock market in 4 years time.
    Wish you all the best!


  30. Thanks for sharing informative post.

    Is it better for me to spend on a credit card and pay it off each month in full or just use my own savings?

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