Saturday, March 18, 2023

Pivoting from Wealth to Relationships

I consider myself extremely lucky, as after my last post, my old JC pals got me out to cheer me up this week. My mum has recovered, but this is a grand opportunity to review my priorities. 

Almost as if I needed another sign, I just received heartbreaking news that a secondary classmate of mine is currently in a fight against an aggressive form of cancer. 

One of the most challenging issues my generation will have to cope with is when we should pivot from emphasising our wealth towards pouting more effort into our relationships. In your 40s and 50s, wealth is a big deal as you need it to thrive in Singapore society, but you soon reach a stage where you find less need to flex your economic status but want deeper connections with loved ones because that’s the last thing that matters in the final stage of your life. The financial equivalent is when a person can begin the process of decumulation or the gradual spending down of wealth they have accumulated. 

As we think deeper, we realise that friendship is a complicated topic, because all relationships need cultivation and in earlier stages in our lives, there are more important priorities like financial security or starting a family. As a consequence, men suffer from the lack of friendships the most because we get penalised for looking vulnerable and tend to keep our weaknesses to ourselves.

When thinking about this pivot, the first question is when should we shift from thinking about wealth accumulation to the accumulation of rich personal connections? I can't help but think of confirmation signals in a trade. When creating my new course, I often have to backtest trading algorithms. One technique I employ to confirm a downtrend is to observe that a stock has been falling for the past year and also been falling for the past month. Dual signals are more robust than just one, and this can be easily put into programming code.

The general rule of thumb is if you see your parents getting older and becoming frailer or losing them entirely to old age, and you witness folks in your generation falling sick, it is time to consider a pivot. At least from what I have observed, both signals have come true many times over the past year.

The second question is how to pivot. Which relationships to cultivate? 

The book The Good Life, which contains research on the lives of volunteers, provides a very functional view of what good friendships are like. Friends are there to diminish your hardship and reduce the stress of existing in Singapore society.

This is an exquisite way to construct a filter and decide which relationships to cultivate. Which friends are there for you when you face a crisis? Which friends have a sense of humour and provide levity in hard times? If you have friends who can solve your problems and make life easier, you need to cultivate these relationships.

But note that if you agree with this utilitarian view of friendship, you should also try to be there for your friends while in a crisis. 

If you apply this idea to practice, you may conclude that the wealthy may struggle with their friends. People will always be available when there are free meals and parties. This is not a valid test. But only in times of crisis can you figure out which relationships are worth cultivating. 

[On a personal note, I’ve been grappling with building my new course and coding almost everyday. If you want to know my views on the economy, I guess you should be attending my course previews for now. ]


Saturday, March 11, 2023

A Moment of Clarity


As we get closer to the close of the first quarter of 2023, it’s been dawning on my that my work in the law firm is not going bear fruit over the short term. The life-energy exchange of time versus money will be quite low for some time as this is a career that requires a long term commitment. As a consequence of this, I began to explore a different working arrangement with the law firm for the past few weeks. In this arrangement, I will return to go full steam as a financial trainer with a new course in the works but will go to assist the firm in periods when the work gets heavy for an hourly wage. My comparative advantage is that I’m tech savvy and faster with compilation of bundles and I can still do fairly competent research.

Everything is in the air as we head into March until my mum fainted from low blood sugar last week and hurt her hips, so now I’m spending a larger bulk of my time running errands for her and buying her meals. 

While my mum will recover in about week, I can help thinking that this is a warning that such events will happen with greater frequency in the future, and I will need to shift my career goals towards more time flexibility. 

So for now, I will not renew my practice certificate this April. 

My focus will be coming with a new training programme with all my spare time, as I can do this at home. This programme will involve quite a lot of coding as I try to come up with a proper system for students to create their own robo-adviser.

My secondary focus is to take this opportunity to spend more time with my mum. I want to prioritise travel with her while she is still able to do so. 

I am definitely disappointed for striking out a second time in the legal profession, but I’m already 48 and mid-life career can produce more disastrous outcomes. I talked about this on my blog initially because I want to make it harder to pull out this second time. 

Right now nothing much has changed and I will assist and direct legal business to firm I’m working with. I have a few job interviews in progress, but I will not prioritise them for the moment. 

In spite of this disappointment, it means that I’m free to hang out on most days again, and I’m back to being an investment trainer. 

More on this future course will be coming soon, I’m only 25% done with course materials.

Hopefully, I will be able increasing the frequency of blog updates after this. 

Loyal readers can let me know what you want me to talk about next.


Friday, March 03, 2023

Spiritual influences of my approach towards FInancial Independence

Generally, I try my best to avoid discussing religion on this blog, but recently, an opposition politician and "Intelligent Vaxxer", Goh Meng Seng, shared something hilarious on social media.

The idea is that this person somehow suffers because he has attained FIRE but does have a grasp of the meaning of life. Goh Meng Seng then goes on to give a lesson on the Dharma. 

Generally, I would refrain from giving any credit to anyone on social media who claims to have a better idea of the meaning of life. If someone's meaning of life is, for example, constantly losing elections and getting POFMA'd, I will not judge what gives their life purpose. 

Instead, I want to point out in this post the spiritual influences of my version of FIRE. 

I have personally gone through many stages of spiritual evolution. When I was young, I was hunted by Christian Fundamentalists in primary school for my D&D hobby. A teacher did not like the cover of the 1st Edition D&D Player's Handbook and thought I was a Satanist. I started out with a very negative impression of religions, especially those that do a lot of preaching and proselytising. I don't alike anything that comes between me and D&D. Consequently, I became a staunch Atheist. I spent a decent amount of time being called up to the Office of Student Affairs in NUS for anti-religious troll posts. Multiple Christian groups complained about my exploits as an undergraduate. 

As I got older, I realised that Atheism itself is a position that requires faith in the idea of the non-existence of God. Subsequently, I also encountered Atheists who were unreasonable and no better than the Christian fundamentalists who oppressed me as a kid. Over time as I got older and more conservatve, I realised I could ally with Christians because they defended the same family values I hold sacred from progressive and woke forces in society, Social Justice Fundamentalism is magnitudes worse than any religious inquisition I experienced as a youth. Also, cell groups even play D&D. 

So these days, I've softened my position. 

Today I identify as a free-thinker. To me, human brains evolved with the capacity for faith because otherwise, it would be tough to live as the final outcome is always death and not everyone can figure out the meaning of life as Goh Meng Seng has done. This evolutionary adaptation of the brain is what humanity has to cope with the suffering of being alive.

Also, I have a deep respect for religion as a community. It's an excellent way for people to get together. I even tell young people to have the flexibility to convert if they really desire to find a life partner. 

Eventually, I found a trove of wisdom that can assist us in attaining Financial Independence.

In my second book, Harvesting the Fruits of Prosperity, I appropriated the concept of Nirvana to demonstrate the freedom a FIRE aspirant can attain if he can live on his dividend payouts. It becomes the close analogue of the cessation of suffering that Nirvana can grant. In my book, I consider the crossover point where dividend payouts exceed monthly expenses as the attainment of Financial Nirvana. Another snippet from my writings is shown here :

Of course, I went beyond employing Buddhist concepts to guide the FIRE aspirant. We should not forget that much progress came from the Protestant work ethic. The following snippet is taken from my second book, which channels sociologist Max Weber on why you must earn and work hard towards Financial Nirvana:

In hindsight, I would have spent more time looking at religion and philosophy to make the journey towards Financial Independence easier for readers of my works. Incorporating religious and spiritual concepts in my writing gave it much depth. It showed that deeper spiritual meaning can come from the pursuit of financial goals and can unite differences in philosophies.

I was pleasantly surprised that after publication, Christians gave feedback that they found my writing very spiritual, and millennials found it very woke. 

I guess regardless of religion, our money struggles are very much the same. 

Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Idea of "Two Singapores" is not a new concept. But I think this idea is.


Leader of Opposition Pritam Singh, I think the only SMU JD in parliament, went viral when he spoke about Two Singapores emerging if we fail to rein in inequality. 

Interestingly, this idea has been introduced previously by yours truly. 

I wrote Growing Your Tree of Prosperity in 2005, and I've taken a screenshot of a page I wrote about 18 years ago. I'm sharing another snippet of my writing.  

Having two Singapores is such an old idea. There is no novelty in talking about it. And in the SMU JD program, novelty earns you an A+ in-class participation. 

Singaporeans should consider themselves lucky these days if there are two Singapores. We can solve the problem by taxing one Singapore and distributing it to the other.

The problem arises if we have 20-30 different Singapores with their own social norms and circles. Policymakers will have a brain aneurysm trying to balance out this kind of society. 

There is a certain fractal quality of income gaps in any society. Policymakers can target broad differences, but the finer societal differences are impervious to policymaking.

Take, for instance, the salary gap between polytechnic and university graduates. We're focused on that today.

But it gets more interesting. If you zoom into different local degrees, there is a gap between non-professional and professional degrees. You can google the massive difference in salary between an NUS graduate in Art, Media and Design versus a Law or Computing degree.

It gets worse. 

Within a degree qualification, major gaps exist as well. Compare lawyers' salaries in an international firm versus a big 4 versus a small firm. Look at the difference between what a Specialist earns compared to a GP. There might even be an intra-group salary gap.

As you zoom in on a population, you will find a gap between different sub-groups within a population. As you zoom into these sub-groups, you may find more gaps. If the gaps worsen over time, it may be because the premium knowledge workers are getting higher regardless of which sector you are in. 

If there are many Singapores, Then as a policymaker and individual, you've got a severe problem. No matter how much training, you'll always be in a collective with vast salaries and income gaps. 

If there are two Singapores, one Singapore is happy and cannot complain. If we have 32 Singapores, only one Singapore will be happy at the pinnacle of society. Does taxing the upper echelons solve that problem?

Economic intervention is something that MUST be done. But it will only solve the problem if we also attempt to change the mindset of citizens, which is hard and involves many fine-tuned interventions. Moving a rich-kid primary school to Tengah will just be the beginning. 

There might be one, albeit ugly, alternative.

Singapore stops seeing itself as a country but a temporary place to earn money. So we take in foreign talent, let them work and try to succeed in a low tax regime, but eventually, most of them will go to a cheaper place to retire. Some foreigners will make it to have children, but they will eventually be tested because they might not make it to produce the next generation. Future immigrants may drive real estate to levels the previous generation will not be able to handle. There's a certain perverse justice and fairness in all of this since most of us are descended from immigrants anyway. 

If you are an opposition MP or PAP supporter who wants to mine future talking points in Parliament, do follow the links to Amazon to buy my book. 

I'm also available to give speeches to your party cadre.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

How can one stop being a simp?


One benefit of having the occasional coffee with readers of this blog is that their questions often lead to new articles. This time, a loyal reader wanted my advice on stopping being a simp. During the session, I could not really come up with a good answer, so I thought I'd give a better answer here.

For one thing, we can't really use a dictionary definition of a simp - someone who is excessively sympathetic and attentive towards a person who does not reciprocate in return. I think this is what I observe of simps for the purposes of this blog.
  • It's generally a guy who simps for beautiful women. Ugly chicks don't get simps.
  • Often the love languages expressed are acts of service and gifts. Beautiful women do not really value the other forms of love language from their simps.
  • To rule out married cheekopeks and sugar daddies who do almost the same thing for different reasons, simps are generally not on the high-income scale and relatively young to middle-aged.. 
So if we take this rules in, simps are young to middle-aged men who give presents or perform services to hot women who are out of their league, losing valuable economic resources but not getting any reciprocation in the process.

Once we agree on this definition of simps, we will be able to give advice on how to stop being a simp. 

a) Climb the economic ladder.

My best advice is to focus on climbing the economic ladder. Make yourselves better and get into the league. The problem with simps is that they are on a lower rung on the economic ladder than the position the women are in the looks hierarchy. 

Readers of my blog, remember this iron-clad rule :

For guys, love is rarely unconditional.

The advantage of being a guy is that you can get into a rigorous habit of self-improve to climb the ladder. Women's positions are primarily tied to the looks they are born with.  This entire blog is written for the incels ad BBFA who want a better a status in life. 

You can also read this article on modern dating for further inspiration.

b) Expend effort on someone ugly or more amenable to accepting you

An example of how a poor dating market works is SDU for folks in my generation. In dating events, guys and girls talk among themselves until some pilot or hot chick shows up. Then all the women gank the pilot, and all the guys flock around the hot chick. The problem is the pilot, or hot chick is actually a plant by the dating company for business development reasons. They are actually looking for something other than a partner. ( Some just want to sell ILPs to simps )

The situation would be better if guys picked a women who they think, based on his own capabilities and earning power, can credibly win her love. This means going against centuries of the genetic programming of overconfidence and picking someone more plainer looking.

One way is to date older women. Another dating market that repels most men is women who are very successful in their careers.

c) Go for foreign women

The problem for men is that it's within their power to climb the status ladder. But this means that every guy will try to jostle for position on the totem pole. Only some guys get to be on top. If it's not feasible to improve yourself to rise through the ranks of society, then take all your toys and play in a different field. The truth is that the average guy in Singapore can project a lot of economic power if it's wielded in other parts of South-East Asia. 

Lastly, I just want to say that it's not easy to stop being a Simp. So much genetic programming will need to be undone. I'm not even sure the economy can survive if simps just decided to go on strike and start allocating their economic resources just to enjoy themselves.

If I'm in my 20s, I might also be a simp. If you push, I'll admit that I have a preference for maybe someone like Annette Lee, who is quite wholesome, funny, and sings quite well. But Annette Lee married someone who works for a hedge fund. 

This totally vindicates my article.

Saturday, February 18, 2023

The Fork on the Road

For something to be defined as failure, it must humble the person who failed. If failure is just a precursor to success, then the person has imbibed a lot of shit from success gurus. 

For the past three months, I have attempted to balance a legal career while conducting an investment course, and I have realised this is unsustainable. 

An investment trainer's job is powered by optimism. We invest because we see a better future. 

A lawyer's outlook is generally very pessimistic, as we need to look out for risks and dangers when we think about what kind of advice we want to give. I find that there's very little room to see any good in others in this line of work. 

I was trying to place two large stones into my jar, but the jar was too small. And while I was chugging along, I couldn't help that I might need to discard the option before the year was over.

The question I've been asking myself is, what would the future of my career look like if I'm forced to make a choice. Perhaps I should talk about this on my blog before pulling the plug.

a) Investment training

If I stay on investment training, I cannot sustain myself with one program like ERM. Based on my projection, I will only earn between 15% of my peak this year, given the high-interest rates and low interest amongst retail investors. An 85% dip in earnings is quite hard to swallow, but I can wait for market recovery.

One way to carry on is that I have to launch a new course. I've been coding a few investment techniques and already have four Jupyter notebooks to launch a new quantitative investing course. But this is just 5% of the work, as there are lecture notes and previews to prepare. But now, I know I can launch it.

If I take this route, my legal work will be pushed to the background if I don't end it. I'm reluctant to give up the practice but may go to the office to do just pro bono work. My legal work will generate negative earnings in 2023 as I have to pay for insurance. 

b) Push on with my lawyer transformation

I can choose to push on with legal work. This means looking for a salaried associate position. This is because I've not been successful in looking for files, and a profit-sharing arrangement has not worked out. My attempts to replicate a payout like investment training does not translate to my legal career.

The upside is that the industry is hungry for associates again, and I can move on with a new career which is stable and will come with good increments. I've spent the last 3-4 months familiarising myself and am now ready to dip into a new position, but I have to choose a family-friendly path, which can mean a career in conveyancing. 

I've lined up interviews next week, and if successful, it can mean a short break from my investment training career. 

This also comes with great reluctance because I've been conducting training for four years and enjoy doing it. I may attempt to negotiate my way to keep training on weekends and use my leave to run my business, but this will not likely succeed. 

(Also, I will continue to build ERM portfolios with my community with 600+ members rather than just letting it go. I have a solid plan to do this.)

So this summarises my angst regarding my career at the moment. I suspect I don't have enough information to choose at the moment because I am still missing information on what my time is worth. 

I would like to delay pulling the plug on one of my careers, but as my practice license needs renewal on 1st April 2023, I have to start making a decision soon.  

Monday, February 13, 2023

[VDay Post] Why shouldn't Money be a Love Language?


It was Gary Chapman who pioneered the idea of the Five Love Languages. The idea is that you can have better relationships if you figure out your own love language or your partner's. The five love languages are:
  • Physical Touch
  • Gifts
  • Acts of Service
  • Quality Time
  • Words of Encouragement.
After a while, self-help gurus tried to expand the model into seven love languages. Some article I read a while ago added intellectual conversation and emotional connection, but if you google the seven, you will get Communication and Expression of love and affection.

Now all this fine and good, if you are in the business of selling self-help books. Recent surveys show that for the men who read this blog, they really need to focus on other things in life to attract a mate. Dating companies conduct surveys in Singaporean women and find out that they prefer the following:
  • Education Qualifications
  • Salary
  • Similar religion
So my question for Valentine's Day in 2023 is simply : 

Why can't money be a love language?

If you think about it, money can be used to buy gifts. It can also buy services that end up giving you more time, which pays for more quality time and enables more acts of service. It provides more economic security and in an economic regime of high inflation and rocketing real estate prices, why can't it be formally inducted as a love language?

I think if we can acknowleged Money as a Love Language, we can have a very fruitful conversation about what kind of money is your Money Dialect, to which there are several interesting examples :
  • High-earned income
  • Dividends / Royalties
  • Investment Growth 
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Inheritance
  • Marriage
Even if your Love Language is Money, there are many ways to make money, so you should think  about what kind of Money Dialect you speak. 

It's pretty obvious my Money Dialect is Dividends. Someone who is always hunting for expat men might see Marriage as a means to get more financial security. Someone who is always studying to join a high-paying profession will speak the Love Dialect of High-earned income. 

Reading someone's Money Dialect is a useful skill even if you are not looking for romantic entanglements. A person who has a Money Dialect of Dividends will tend to prefer to save a lot of money to grow their passive income. This person may clash with someone whose Money Dialect is Entrepreneurship. 

There is nothing more annoying for a dividends investor to keep hearing about self-aggrandizing stories of hustling and Lamborghini cars.