Reflections on 2017

Looking back at 2017, the year has been full of ups and downs for me. While I managed a decent return in my investments, my career suffered a setback early in the year. It has undoubtedly been a tough year, and I hope I have emerged stronger after all that has happened. I look back in gratitude for how life has unfolded, the lessons gleaned, and the blessings that I have received in the past year.  As we count down to the new year, I am currently nursing a fever that morphed from an innocent sore throat days after returning from Shanghai. It is a timely reminder, that afterall, health is the greatest wealth one can have.

Going into 2018, there are a few things I have set out to do with regards to my finances:

1. Build the confidence to concentrate my holdings
Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. To only focus on one’s best ideas, one has to get rid of all his other “good” ideas. I found that amongst all my trades, the greatest returns did not come from the group of value stocks, but rather those companies which exhibited strong growth and which I deemed had a strong management team in place. This could perhaps be a sign that I am more suited to be a value-growth investor with a greater focus on the people running the company.I felt I was abit too trigger happy this year, making a tad too many trades in the market. I aim to trade less this coming year, and to instead, focus more on a few ideas which I am convicted about. Diversification can help to reduce the volatility of my portfolio, but I feel that I’m at an age and situation where I am able to take more risk. An interesting analogy regarding concentration vs diversification using nature as an example can be found here: https://www.kitces.com/blog/wealth-limits-diversification-too-soon-concentration-redwood-bush-pear-tree/

2.  Achieve my targeted net worth (not inclusive of CPF)
This goal is more of a private one, since I am not comfortable sharing my figures in a public domain yet. Short to say, the goal is indeed an ambitious one. I had set out a target for myself earlier this year, and my recent figures showed that I had reached 95% of my goal for 2017. My 2018 target will be more challenging, considering that 1) the local stock market has risen significantly since and 2) 2017 was a bumper year in terms of salary due to the positive growth of the local economy. To achieve such a goal would require me to save more and invest well in the coming year. Ultimately, although I have a figure in my head, the stock market does not care about my goals or targets. Thus, this goal is something I will work towards, but not stress myself over if the market does not move favourably in the short run.

In addition, taking a step away from finance, I have also set out a few personal goals which I aim to work towards in 2018:

1. Compare less
How many times have we been envious of people driving around in fast cars, making tons of money in ICOs, or clinching a job which comes with a host of great perks? The road of comparison has no end, and will only lead one to inner turmoil and ultimately, destruction. This coming year, I want to compare less, and focus more on living my life in the present and the now.

2. Fall sick less often
2017 has seen me visiting the doctor quite often for the common flu and sore throat. I have observed that I usually fall ill first with the onset of a sore throat, which then leads to cough and the flu bug. Most of the time, the onset of a sore throat is due to a lack of discipline when it comes to my diet. I tend to eat too much heaty stuff, like chocolates (my achilles heel), chips, cookies, etc at one go. I’m definitely not going to abstain from these foods, but the critical thing here would be to enjoy these a little at a time. I also want to consume less, and a good guide I am looking at would be to eat till I’m approximately 70% full, adapted from the Japanese’s practice of Hara Hachi Bu. In 2018, I hope that I need not take medical leave or even visit the doctor due to an illness.

3. Think more positive thoughts
In line with my previous goal, science has shown that the mind can help to improve the health of one’s own body, simply by thinking positive thoughts.This is more commonly known as the placebo effect. I hope to be a more positive person in the coming year, which I believe will help build my confidence and self esteem as well. Afterall, we only live once. There’s no point in living a mundane, self-defeating life when you can possibly be living your dreams.

Lastly, to the few readers of my blog since its inception, thank you for taking the time out to read my posts. I wish you all great health and happiness ahead. See you in 2018, the best is yet to be!

 

 

 

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What is it that We Live For?

It is 2.12 am as I write this. As I had difficulty sleeping, I decided to pen down some of the thoughts that have been running through my head. Life seems to have accelerated so much since 2014. Ever since I came back from my exchange in Thailand and starting to prepare for graduation, life has indeed become so much richer. What, then do I mean by richer? To some, being richer might simply mean having more money in their bank; being able to afford that flashy car and house, or being successful in the corporate world. On the contrary, being richer is to me, not a financial state, but rather the experience of life’s moments in its varying vicissitudes. During the past 3 years, I have experienced pain, loss, betrayal, spite and failure to great extent, both in my private and work life. However, during the same three years, I have also felt joy, hope, loyalty, respect and success. It is this roller coaster of emotions that makes life so much richer. Can the peaks of life be truly savoured if one has never been in the valley? I doubt so. Failure makes success all the more sweeter. Ever felt that soothing sensation when you popped a sweet in your mouth after taking some bitter medicine before? If you have, you’ll know what I mean.

In 2013, a good friend of mine contracted a debilitating illness that essentially damaged extensively his ability to think and speak. He was 25. It was this first hand experience that struck me that life is really fragile. When we really feel the brevity of our lives, do we then start to observe that time passes so, so quickly. It literally flies by. Our choices on what to pursue and make out of life then, becomes so much more important. Your time is limited; some more so than others. And when we all come to die, as all must and will, our accomplishments and titles will not mean as much then. Death is a common destination we all share, and our names will be forgotten in time to come. Does it make much difference if we are a million richer than our neighbours? Or will it matter if we are sitting on a higher position than our peers? Honestly, no one cares. Neither should we harbour too much bitterness against loved ones and friends who have done us wrong. Forgiveness is a powerful teacher. Kindness knows no limits. It is only with the extension of love and kindness to others, does life then seem so much more meaningful.

I want to live a life of meaning. A rich life. Question is, what about you?

Have a blessed week ahead.

Becoming Warren Buffet (2017) Documentary

As I had some free time over the week, I have been catching up on my reading and spending time reflecting. I came across this documentary: Becoming Warren Buffet (2017) and downed the show in one sitting. A very inspirational and enlightening video on one of the world’s richest men. The most important parts of the show though, wasn’t really about how he made his wealth, but rather, how his beliefs and thinking changed along the way, especially the way he viewed money after his wife’s death. That scene was indeed very touching. You might just take home a gem of wisdom or two from this man. Watch it now to see for yourself!

 

A Painful Week

rocky-boxing
Recently, I encountered a setback in my work. The experience was hard and painful and my boss gave me a couple of days off to recover. During this period, my mind was constantly shuttling between regrets over the past and worries about the future. The famous psychologist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first mentioned there were 5 stages in grief – Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I experienced all of those emotions with the exception of bargaining. Nevertheless, I accepted my fate and predicament as time passed. The week was an emotional roller coaster but I am glad it is over. It was hard to get over it, but remembering a couple of principles helped:

  • There is a reason why everything happened the way it did. 
    I probably can’t see why now but one day I’ll look back and see that everything did work out for good.
  • Enjoy the ups and downs of life. It’s what makes life beautiful.
    I believe I won’t be able to fully appreciate the peaks of life when I have not tasted the valleys. Failure makes success all the more sweet.
  • I’m still alive and kicking. That’s something to be grateful for.
    The world owes me nothing, everything I have now is a blessing. There is always something to give thanks for, if I only open my eyes and see.

I’m pretty certain that this will probably not be the last time failure hits me hard. Like a boxer who gets used to pain, good to taste it early and learn how to get back up strong now rather than later in life. Press on!

“Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end.” ~ John Lennon

 

Back in Business

appreciation-self-reflection-cropped

After a month of reflection and organising my finances, I am ready to start investing again. I will start tracking my returns from 24/10/16 onwards. My goal is to invest in good companies with a view to hold it long-term, ie. 3 – 5 years. Around half of my holdings would be directed to buying growth companies while the other half would be targeted at yield stocks. I also aim to have a small portion in cash to take advantage of any opportunities that should arise. I might dabble occasionally in different methods, ie. the traditional value investing, where one buys cheap companies (although this has not turned out well for me), or catalyst-driven stocks. I am also looking at investing in international markets. Nevertheless, my portfolio will still be benchmarked against the local STI index. As of 24/10/16, the SPDR STI is trading at 2.90.

The past month has been a quiet one for me, spent observing the local market and the general sentiment worldwide. We are indeed living in interesting times, especially in the areas of innovation and politics. New technologies are disrupting traditional industries, (think Uber for transportation, AirBnB for hospitality, etc.) It does feel exciting to be alive in this age, and to witness how the world evolves at such a fast pace. Meanwhile, the global political landscape is also something to keep an eye upon, from the presidential election in the US to the situation here in Southeast Asia. Thailand has recently lost its most revered leader in her King, and the Philippines seems to be shifting towards China under the leadership of her President. Even in my hometown of Singapore, the government is preparing and grooming a successor to PM Lee. How would all this play out in the end? And how would it impact the local stock markets worldwide? That is something only time can answer.

As for me, I hope to continue learning and growing as a person. Through my work and investments, I have discovered more about what kind of person I am. I realise that it is more important to work on oneself and continually improve rather than simply becoming rich in this life. Note to myself: Always strive to be a better man! Lastly, I am grateful to all those who have been regular readers of my blog, although I think I’m the only one reading my posts. I still intend to keep it private, and share it only with a couple of close friends who would like to learn more about investing with me. This journey I am on brings me joy and I give thanks for this hobby every single day.

 

Thoughts on Life

Lifeisagift
Today, I went to repair my bike which I bought a few months ago. Turns out that the previous owner did some nasty things to the bike which caused a couple of safety breaches and thus incurring a heavy repair price tag. I was pretty upset thinking about the amount of money I had to fork out to fix my ride, as I thought I had gotten a good deal at the price I bought. It affected me all the way home, as I had already spent a considerable amount of money to renew the COE for another 10 years.

At the same time, a couple of comparisons regarding peers in the day made me wonder whether my decision to work in my current industry was the right one. As I spaced out, it suddenly hit me…that I was still alive and well. And that alone was something to give thanks for. At that moment, I felt contented.

Looking back at the year, I realise that I have lots to be thankful for. To be able to continue pursuing my dreams healthily and to have loved ones by my side is something I am grateful for. I have witnessed close friends being mentally incapacitated indefinitely and attended the wakes of others who gave up on life too early. There are also many others who do not even have the same opportunities at life as I do. This is a good reminder for me not to compare myself to others and to stop being too uptight with money. Life is indeed short. Treasure it. Live it.

“You only live once. But if you do it right, once is enough.” – Mae West

 

Cultivating Good Habits

Break Bad Habits
Just today, I gleaned a couple of lessons. I had fixed an appointment with a friend at 11 in the morning, but found myself procrastinating and only managed to get out of my bed at around 9.50am despite being awake since 8.30am. It usually takes me 1 hr 15 mins to get to town by public transport, and I had not yet washed up and dressed. Obviously, I was going to be late by at least half an hour. I realised that I had the tendency of arriving late at appointments, and it was not a trait that I was proud of. Frustrated, I decided that I had enough with this negative habit and that I was going to start being punctual for any appointment. After washing up, I took a cab down and arrived on the dot. The trip down cost me quite a bit, and knowing my aversion to spend on unnecessary comforts, it did hurt. It was a painful lesson, but I deserved it and knew that my punctuality was more important. I made the mental note that I would continue to take cabs to be on time if I had to.  Hopefully, the thought of unnecessary spending would aid me in breaking this bad habit of mine. My friend arrived 15 minutes later than me, and I was certain he would not mind waiting another 15 mins for me if I had taken public transport. Nonetheless, I believe my word and commitment is more important, and being punctual is a form of respect to the other party. I just hope that I don’t need many cab rides to maintain this good habit.

We had a simple meal, followed by some shopping for fishing materials before heading to the river to fish. Today was the first time I fished in a long while, and it was good to start from zero all over again. I learnt the basics like how to set the hook, and casting, along with the different artificial baits that we used. I find fishing useful for training one’s discipline and patience. It is pretty similar to the world of investing, where discipline and patience are two vital traits one needs to succeed. One has to prepare well beforehand, and wait patiently for the fish to bite. Similarly, one needs to do his research well and invest only when the price is right. Although we did not manage to catch any fish, I took away a more valuable lesson. Certainly, I am looking forward to more fishing trips.

The last thing that I would like to do more of is to take better care of my health and body. I have noticed that I have started to worry too much about the future, which has caused unwanted anxiety and stress. I find that sometimes I try to save on food only to spend more on medical bills when I fall sick. As such, I have decided to eat well and live well. One area that I am looking into is the practising of mindfulness, which is a mental state of only focusing on the present. In conjunction with that, I am trying to incorporate the habit of gratitude into my daily life. Indeed, yesterday was history, today is a gift, tomorrow is a mystery. Let the future worry about itself.

If we want to improve our lives, then we should all start breaking bad habits and forming better ones.