Monday, April 28, 2014

So what advice can I give to a C-grader ?

In my last post which divides Singaporeans into A-graders, B-graders and C-graders, I might have done C-graders a disservice and came off sounding like a jerk when, actually, I mean no disrespect to 70% of the Singapore population. In this posting, I want to share some of my thoughts on how difficult it is to help C-graders (or everyone) succeed in Singapore.

A challenge readers threw at me in the past was to come out with a plan to help someone who makes $1,600  but has no tertiary qualifications. Now,  if you asked me this question 8 years ago, I would respond like most newly, minted financial planners - I would parrot the need to start saving 10% of his income and dollar cost average into a Global Equity unit trust with the lowest possible expense ratio.

Now I'm not sure if this advice makes any sense.

For one thing, it takes a very special person to buy a personal finance book from a local author. This person is probably intelligent, motivated and possibly quite gritty to follow-through financial advice. I'm not even too sure whether I truly benefit my reader, as my reader would probably have also read The Richest Man in Babylon, The Intelligent Investor or A Random Walk Down Wall Street - all exceptional books which can give them the social mobility that they crave.

What I'm actually saying is that readers of my books and blogs are self-selected. Even if you have a C-grader self-image, I can almost guarantee that you will enjoy upward mobility in the years to come. Why ? Because you would rather read a boring finance blog than to catch-up on the latest antics of Jin Dafeng or Xu Laifa in the weekend Taiwanese drama !

The challenge, which no author or blogger can overcome, is to help the majority of folks who simply don't read.

Which brings me to the next part of this discussion.

The magic pill to help everyone succeed financially is the psychological trait known as conscientiousness. 

Conscientiousness folks plan ahead, know how to delay gratification and have always  plan for World Domination. Conscientious folks tend to be richer and enjoy better health. I dare to say that most financial blogs are run by people of above-average conscientiousness.

I will go on further to say that all class and social divisions will eventually settle into differences of conscientiousness instead of wealth or privilege. Another words, humanity will choose to structure itself to privilege people with long term planning and who can delay gratification regardless of starting wealth and education. Case in point,  how does Chan Chun Sing become a minister ? Grit and conscientiousness such that a humble background can't stop him. If you don't like the PAP, how does Low Thia Khiang beat the odds to conquer Aljunied GRC ? Same thing - Persistence and never-say-die !

Now for the grand PHD-level insight :

Future class struggle is a weapon of those who are NOT conscientious, who need to band together to disrupt the social order. ( Mindgasm moment ! I am the new Karl Mark ! )

So, what can we do to increase our conscientiousness ?

Unfortunately, not much. There are many books that talk about Willpower. Most of these books dwell on the importance of conscientiousness, but not how to cultivate it,

If you see yourself as a C-grader, I have only one piece of useful advice for you :

Practice your willpower in one area of your life so that it will affect other areas of your life positively. 

If you are the kind of student who can resist temptation to hang out when you can do your tutorials, you are exercising some that muscle to save more money and pass the CFA in the future. This willpower reserve will help you maintain a healthy diet and have a develop a happy  marriage as you get older.










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