Tuesday, November 11, 2008
No one can outdo the Japanese (the Taiwanese are coming close) when it comes to crazy games shows which have contestants doing silly and usually hilarious stuff. Trust a Japanese automobile maker to incorporate it as a part of a marketing campaign.
Participants stand a chance to win a full year's use of a Mitsubishi Colt.
Check it out here
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I never thought I would even consider getting a credit card from Maybank but I guess some offers can be too tempting. No matter how shoddy the brand perception of the bank may be.
From now till 31 December 2008, simply apply for any Maybank Platinum Credit Card and you will get a S$100 cash credit to your card upon your first card spend within one month of receiving it. In addition, they are also throwing in a 10 year annual fee waiver just for good measure.
Talk about getting a card for life. More details here.
Klok is a great time management tool for people working on projects. It allows you to track the number of hours you spend on various projects and is a great way to clock your time so that you know where it goes and how many man hours were actually spent. In a sense, it helps you to discern if your initial time estimations were correct and if a project required much more effort and resources than was initially planned for.
On a personal level, it can probably help students and project managers manage their limited time and resources on various equally challenging and time sensitive tasks.
You will need to first define all your projects/tasks on hand and then choose to either drag it into a calendar view (by week) in one hour blocks or enter in the specific time for each task.
However, I feel the best feature is dragging the project directly onto the top navigation "Currently working on" tab. This activates an actual timer that measures the time spent in real time. After you finish the project, you just click on "Stop" and Klok will record it down.
On a scehduled basis, you can then export your weekly timesheet and it will show on a daily basis, the time you have spend for each project in that particular week.
Download the program here.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
These are turbulent times in the market. With every possible bad scenario happening, the future of the financial markets look bleak and gloomy. Its at times like these, you really wonder if its even worth investing in the stock market and if you should really just cut your losses and keep your cash in a milo tin underneath your bed.
One of my favourite books (and I would never have thought this would be an enjoying read at all!) is Benjamin Graham's "The Intelligent Investor". Warren Buffett describes it as "by far the best book on investing ever written
The gist of the book can be summarize by the analogy of Mr. Market, an obliging fellow who turns up every day at the share holder's door offering to buy or sell his shares at a different price.
Often, the price quoted by Mr. Market seems plausible, but sometimes it is ridiculous. The investor is free to either agree with his quoted price and trade with him, or ignore him completely. Mr. Market doesn't mind this, and will be back the following day to quote another price.
The point of this anecdote is that the investor should not regard the whims of Mr. Market as a determining factor in the value of the shares the investor owns. He should profit from market folly rather than participate in it. The investor is advised to concentrate on the real life performance of his companies and receiving dividends, rather than be too concerned with Mr. Market's often irrational behaviour.
This is the concept of Value Investing. Not trading based on market sentiment but on companies and stocks that hold true value. Graham states certain rules and conditions that a company and stock must fulfill before it can be considered to be included as part of your value investing portfolio.
A definite must read for someone trying to figure out what to do in this current mess.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Members of the Threadless community (you can register to become a member) submit their t-shirt designs online and these designs are then subjected to a public vote. Designs that are popular (i.e. People like and would possibly buy them) are selected for printing and sold through their online store at www.threadless.com. Creators of the winning designs will receive a prize of cash and store credit. Basically, everyone wins.
A caveat though - The designs are printed in limited quantities (for all sizes) and the popular ones sell out quickly. If that happens, you can vote to have it reprinted and it enough votes are gathered (i.e. Enough people will buy the reprints), then that design will be reprinted.
These are 2 of my favourite Threadless T-shirts. And no, I don't have them yet because the size I want is perpetually sold out.
Fans of the old TV series would relate to this one, aptly titled "What would Macgyver do".
This one's called "The Beginning".
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Check out the fuss at www.moleskin.com
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
The ETF that tracks this is the SPDRS TRUST SERIES 1 (Stock Ticker: SPY) and the investing formula is dollar cost averaging. Because this ETF tracks the entire U.S market, it is essentially neutral and by buying into this ETF at consistent points every year with a fixed amount of cash, you can ride out the ups and the downs. When the market is up, you buy less units. When its down, you buy more. The point is to consistently accumulated units year after year and the earlier you start, the better.
Using the historical market returns of the S&P500 (taking a safe compounding rate of 5%, an initial amount of US$10,000 with a yearly investment growth of 10% (i.e. the same time next year, I will use US$11,000 to purchase more units and US$12,100 the following year), I can look to accumulate US$1,043,003 in 21 years.
The only concern is that your investment is in U.S dollars so there are also foreign exchange risks to consider. There's a local equivalent, the Strait Times Index (STI) and you can look to purchase the STI ETF (Stock ticker: ES3.SI) with the same strategy above.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The Chivas event was jam packed with people and the queue opposite Clarke Quay stretched on for a couple of hundred meters.
However, it was definitely worth the wait. The show kicked off around midnight with a track from their new album - Bruised Water. Many familiar tracks were played - Offshore, Saltwater and Don't give it up.
But the best moment for me had to be when they did Halcyon live, using a mesh of track samplings, decks and am actual band playing the guitar and drums. Man, I've heard so this many times but never played this way before. It was awesome!
I didn't get any vids or pics at the event but here's a clip of how it was done:
My only gripe was that it was over too quickly.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I love basketball shoes and on Saturday, I dropped by Queensway Shopping mall and got myself a nice pair of Adidas Team Signature Lightswitch Gils. Part of a series of 20 designs, the Lightswitch Gils are fronted by Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas otherwise known as Agent Zero or Hibachi. I love that these shoes are low cut and in white/black.
They're supposed to be customizable and you can use the included dry erase marker to add cool graffiti on the shoe. Only mine didn't come with the damn marker. So much for buying shoes from Queensway. But I did get a 25% discount from the retail price.
Check out all the designs here
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Avenue Q is coming to town. Currently one of the hottest shows in the West End and on Broadway, Avenue Q is a fabulously furry and fun-filled romp featuring an ensemble of actors and some very adult-minded puppets.
It’s essentially ‘Sesame Street’ with a very grown up twist!
Tickets available at Sistic
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The best online trading platform in Singapore as far as I'm concerned is DBS Vickers Online. The commission charges for online trades are reasonable (I am using U.S and Singapore market as a benchmark here) and Vickers has also got some pretty extensive market data, online tools, data and research all neatly packed into its high intuitive and user friendly trading platform.
Best of all, there are no custodian charges for U.S market stockholdings - which is something all the rest of the brokerage houses and banks charge.
Nuff said. Find out more or visit their branch at Level 2, PWC building at Cross Street to open an online trading account.
Monday, September 22, 2008
This ad is about how different people have different golf swings. And some of them are really just too funny.
View it on youtube here
Most fund managers that managed unit trust funds rarely manage to outperform the benchmark index. So in that case, why not just purchase the same components in that index. Hence the slow raging popularity of ETFs.
The enjoy high liquidity just like stocks, with low cost (low management fees and no sales charge - only brokerage commission). And there is typically an ETF for every index available in the market.
Some prime examples include the SPDRS Trust Series 1 (Ticker: SPDR) that trades in the U.S market. This ETF tracks the S&P 500 and holds the same component stocks in their respective quantums. Closer to home, there's the STI ETF (Ticker: ES3.SI) that tracks the STI Index.
Investing in ETFs is as simple as purchasing a stock and you can do it quickly and rather cheaply via online trading.
Click for more details on ETFs listed on SGX.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Fancy checking your email on the go? Singtel offers MobileM@il, a basic push-email service that enables users to send and receive emails on their mobile phones. Enjoy almost instantaneous email access while on the move and you can link multiple accounts - Singnet, Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail etc.
This service used to be free (supported by advertising) but recently Singtel (as sneaky as they are) have started charging S$1.99 for monthly subscription plus the assorted data charges. Now, I'm considering if I should still keep this service.
Find out more here
I got this super cool lanyard when I attended an insightful banking and finance briefing by Google last week. The topic was on search marketing strategies and a whole bunch of banks, insurance companies and media agencies turned up.
They flashed the first slide of the powerpoint and the speaker went..."No worries, the slides for today's briefing are available in the thumb drive attached to your lanyard". How cool is that!
Friday, September 19, 2008
HSBC calls it an all in one banking programme to met your every financial need. I just like the card because on every first thursday of the month, I can sms in and get a free pair of Golden Village movie tickets for that month. Super or what?
Sign up here
One of my favourite acts, Chicane is coming to Singapore courtesy of Chivas Live on 26 Sep at the now defunct River Valley Swimming Pool (opposite Clarke Quay).
I missed his gig in 2000 when I was studying in Australia due to exams and I must say I am very much looking forward to this. His music is a blend of progressive trance/ambient and tunes like Halcyon, No ordinary morning and Offshore are some of my favorite tracks.
Tickets available at www.chivaslive.com.sg.
Wordle takes casual doodling onto a whole new level.
Paste a bunch of words into a textbox and Wordle instantly creates a "Word Cloud" layout for you. You can modify the layouts, fonts and colour schemes and if you have a web page or blog with an RSS feed, it can even create the word cloud directly from the page or blog (The example above is taken via a feed to this very blog).
Check it out here
His usual puppets include a woozle named Peanut; a bitter old man named Walter; José Jalapeño, a talking jalapeño pepper on a stick; Achmed the Dead Terrorist; and an unusual superhero named Melvin. Check out the sample clip below:
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The downside however, is the limited period or fixed term of the plan. However, most people get term insurance as a complimentary plan, alongside other whole-life insurance plans. They do well to give additional coverage during the most critical points in your life (young children still studying, aging parents etc).
For me as the quintessential Singapore male, the best term insurance has to be the SAF Group Insurance scheme underwritten by Aviva. For a mere S$81.20 a month or S$974.40 a year, I get S$400,000 coverage for term life and Total Permanent Disability and S$300,000 for Critical Illnesses.
To me, this is the ultimate form of peace of mind - Knowing that your dependents and loved ones will be well-taken care of should anything *touch wood* happen to you. Which is what insurance should be all about.
*A caveat though - Only Singaporean males who have served national service qualify for this. So, apologies to the ladies. But my take on term insurance applies nonetheless.
Monday, September 08, 2008
The UOB One card is essentially used for all purchases, with the mindset of consolidating all my payments to qualify for the quarterly cash rebate. However, for petrol, the best card has got to be the DBS Esso Mastercard.
Along with the current station discount, this card will give you 10% on all fuel purchases at Esso and Mobil. Simply brilliant and if you think about it further, its an additional $15 savings (on top of station discount) for every $300 fuel purchase (my monthly average), a much better usage/reward yield than the UOB One card.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
There are many credit cards available in Singapore and banks are offering a multitude of perks and offers to get people to sign up for yet another one.
The card that offers the best usage/reward yield has to be the UOB One Card. True to its name, the card encourages you to consolidate all your payments to it. The reward is simply a cash rebate credited back every 3 months to offset your credit card bill.
All you need to do is spend at least $300 a month on the card for 3 consecutive months and you will get a $30 cash rebate for that quarter. Spend $800 a month and you get $80 for that quarter.
A yield of 3.33% with no points or redemptions necessary. Its as simple as that!
Ever since its launch last year, I've swapped my previous main card of choice, the HSBC Platinum card (I believe in just using one or 2 cards regularly and consolidating my spend to get better rewards from the card issuers).
From a rewards perspective, the HSBC Platinum card then gave me the best yield ($20 Isetan voucher for just S$3,000 spent). I still keep the card as it offers free golf insurance.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It's a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.
My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.
On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable.
Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.
And so I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you've already won her heart, you don't need to win every argument.
Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.
The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You're done learning.
You've probably been told the big lie that "Learning is a lifelong process" and that therefore you will continue studying and taking masters' degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers. Don't you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.
The good news is that they're wrong.
The bad news is that you don't need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You're in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy. I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I'm here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.
You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There's very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.
Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.
So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you'll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.
Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they're 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn't meet their life expectancy.
I'm here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.
After all, it's calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.
Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.
That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.
If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don't need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.
What you should prepare for is mess. Life's a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it. Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.
Don't expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look. This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows.
What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over. Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free. The most important is this: do not work.
Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By its very nature, it is undesirable. Work kills. The Japanese have a term "Karoshi", which means death from overwork. That's the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there's nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust.
There's a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are "making a living". No, they're not. They're dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful.
People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan "Arbeit macht frei" was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.
Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.
Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself.
I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn't do that, I would've been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction - probably a sports journalist.
So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don't imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I'll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions. By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.
Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don't, you are working.
Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth. I'm not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth. Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is also great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.
In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.
I have told you that your life is over, that you should not work, and that you should avoid telling the truth. I now say this to you: be hated.
It's not as easy as it sounds. Do you know anyone who hates you? Yet every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.
One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it's often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one's own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing
The other side of the coin is this: fall in love.
I didn't say "be loved". That requires too much compromise. If one changes one's looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone. Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation.
That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We've taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. It is hard work - the only kind of work that I find palatable.
Loving someone has great benefits. There is admiration, learning, attraction and something which, for the want of a better word, we call happiness. In loving someone, we become inspired to better ourselves in every way. We learn the truth worthlessness of material things. We celebrate being human. Loving is good for the soul.
Loving someone is therefore very important, and it is also important to choose the right person. Despite popular culture, love doesn't happen by chance, at first sight, across a crowded dance floor. It grows slowly, sinking roots first before branching and blossoming. It is not a silly weed, but a mighty tree that weathers every storm.
You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart.
You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you.
Finally, you will find that there is no half-measure when it comes to loving someone. You either don't, or you do with every cell in your body, completely and utterly, without reservation or apology. It consumes you, and you are reborn, all the better for it.
Don't work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.
You're going to have a busy life. Thank goodness there's no life expectancy.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Insurance is an important facet of financial planning. And as with everything to do with money, it is good to start as early as possible.
However, financial education is not something that's taught within the realms of our education system. That's why most Singaporeans lag behind when it comes to managing their personal finances once they start working. The fact that many banks and insurance companies come knocking rather over-zealously in the form of telemarketers or people who accost you at roadshows, have forced many young professionals to further withdraw into their shell and ignore the need to properly manage their wealth.
The key here is that it is possible to do this by yourself; without feeling obliged to any sales person who has a vested interest to sell you a particular product or service.
Starting to save early is only one small facet of managing your personal wealth. The other is to grow and protect it - Against inflation and any unforseen events. Wealth management, summarized to the core is essentially just about investments and insurance.
The main thing is to clearly differentiate between the two - Banks and insurance firms have been packaging their products in many innovative ways these days, making it all the more complicated for the layman to understand what they are getting themselves into.
Insurance for that matter, should just be that - to insure and protect you and your loved ones against any unforseen situations. Forget about complicated investment-linked insurance products or even whole life insurance plans - All you need is a term life insurance plan; something that gives you high coverage at a reasonable cost. The difference in the premium payments (which can turn out to be a fair bit) can then be used for actual investing.
There are many potential ways you can look at growing your wealth. Buying stocks, bonds, unit trusts, trading currencies, options, deravatives - the list goes on. But the important thing is to clearly split the two - so that you know exactly what your money is doing and where it goes in terms of generating wealth.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Well, what can I say - This is not a blog that chronicles my daily life. I guess no one wants to read about how I spent my day and what I had for dinner. As mundane and boring as that could possibly be.
This blog spans from the usual raves and rants about anything and everything, to interesting doodles and generally frivolous stuff that are just pretty darn cool to write about and share.
Thanks for reading and feel free to leave your comments and feedback. Your thoughts are very much valued and appreciated. Cheers.