Saturday, February 22, 2020

Personal Update

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It is time again for a personal update.

a) Impact of COVID-19 

The impact of COVID-19 has been very small in many retail investor portfolios. The STI ETF was down 1.21% so far in 2020. The ERM portfolio is actually positive territory at 1.62%. Defensive investors have avoided the worst so far.

Sadly the same cannot be said about the real economy. I was trying to help a friend move on with his career by consulting a headhunter yesterday only to find the headhunter out of a job ! The combination of bad news flying around this virus season totally ruined my Friday. I suspect us full-time investors are living in a bubble protected by dividend payouts. We don't see the reality of how bad things are.

Is it something we can foresee ? Thomas Piketty spoke about inequality being represented by an equation (r>g). The rate of return of capital always exceeds growth of labor income. Investors seem unaffected by the corona virus so far, but we will see a lot of workers laid low over the next few months. SME, companies relying on the goodwill of private investors will be affected first.

b) Budget 2020

Budget 2020 gave a nice boost to the stock markets this week. I was initially disappointed with the lack of tax rebate for individuals but I soon realized that the investment community won big with a 25% corporate tax rebate and property tax rebates. 

This is a very generous budget and should offset the downturn which is likely to be much worse than SARS.

c) Training business and COVID-19.

Some other trainers have been asking whether my business was hit by the corona virus. I have not and my results have been largely the same even though I was asking myself whether I should stop and take a break.

So far attendance and sales of my program has held up and we have enough to run a class in March 2020. We are very paranoid about infection in our sessions so in the last round our attendees were screened for temperature twice - once by the building and once by Dr Wealth staff. It does not cover asymptomatic cases but we do what we can to ensure the safety of the customers.

As the possibility of a slowdown is still there, I have started planning for an advanced course for current alumni of my program in case revenue needs to catch up in 2020. I am pretty excited by this new course idea but we're still trying to find the data sources to make this kind of investing feasible for retail investor. If I succeed, we might be able to launch mid-2020.

d) Working out

I am midway through my physical training regime to improve my blood sugar numbers. Training is short but intense and I face body aches two days after training. In between weekly sessions, I make sure that I swim enough to keep my fats burning.

But the improvement was felt within a few weeks. I don't have willpower to do everything well. A lot of my mental exertion is spent on the financial markets so I benefit from paying someone to keep me motivated to work out.

I may run with the idea of getting external help by attending a Python class even though I can easily learn Python on my own with a book. I can follow at a reasonable pace and can even make a couple of new friends.

e) What I am reading

The most important thing is what I am not reading - my Economist subscription has lapsed and I am not renewing it as I have 50-60 books in my KIV list. I just finished Margin of Trust by Lawrence Cunningham and Stephanie Cuba that talks about how Buffett runs his business empire. I also wasted a lot of my time on a Gary Vaynerchuck book that I shall not name. Without reading the Economist, I can now attack entire volumes of finance textbooks because they are actually easier to read !

f) Getting more jaded with my working gear

The corona virus has reduced my overall expenses but I am scaling up in other ways.

When it comes to work, I have been getting really upmarket gear that would be dissonant with my engineering roots. My presentation laptop is a high-end Microsoft Surface Book 2 that costs >$3,800. Recently, my old clicker that got me through law school died and I got a ridiculously expensive replacement at >$160. It allows me me to spotlight a tiny area when making a presentation and even vibrates when I am out of time.

This does not even consider the software licenses I pay to enhance to my training materials or the paid tiers I use for the cloud. I am likely to teach myself Canva to enhance my materials further this quarter.

Maybe one day it would be tax advantageous to be able to expense all this.

But that day is not here yet.

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