Sunday, November 27, 2011

Are you eating better than a prisoner ?

Heard that a long acquaintance of mine who is now going back to NUS to get impressionable undergraduates to get into MLM. As times get worse, I expect MLM and internet marketing to rear to its ugly head again as a larger of younger folks find it harder to get jobs.

We have to accept that some people want to think different. They think it's cool to stay hungry and stay foolish. And despite the fact that thousands of people are getting into MLM, developing internet marketing websites and writing e-books and selling it for ridiculous prices, these people insist upon being unique in their approach towards financial independence.

I want to develop a simple heuristic to help a person decide if he's on the right track.

The answer lies in prison food.

My friend who is an ex-cop tells me that prisoners in Changi eat relatively well. They get three meals a day, always get meat because dieticians recommend a fair amount of protein in a person's daily intake and extra portions are catered in case a prisoner claims that he's not being fed enough. A prisoner would also, very often, get a piece of banana for a meal and sometimes even get night-snack like green bean soup.

If a uniquely Byronic entrepreneur wants to do an audit of his life, I would advise him to examine his lifestyle and ask himself if he's eating better than a prisoner in Changi prison. While you're thumbing your nose at the folks who are regularly employed and acting smug because you're "ramen profitable", the folks stuck in jail are getting more nutritious meals than packets of maggi mee or an infinite sequence of peanut butter sandwiches.

So is it glamorous to be eating worse than a prisoner ?

That is something a new age entrepreneur needs to ask himself.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I'm a vanity publisher but not a backyard money manager.

Traditional bookstores received another death knell with the closure of Clementi Bookstore, Funan computer bookstore and, of course, Borders in 2010. With the launch of Skoob books that sells ebooks from local authors, publishers are in serious trouble.

I think on the whole publishers deserve the mess that they are in.

In the Singapore Writer's Festival, I met quite a lot of obnoxious local publishers. One guy, who knew that I wrote financial books, asked me if I was a millionaire. That left a bad taste in my mouth because even a job interviewer had no right to ask such a question.

The truth is that for most investors, you read, do your own homework and then get into the markets by making your own trades. Other people will react by giving you a fair measure of respect. Some labels can be kind, like self-made man or independent investor.

If you switch the context to publishing, invest your own money to create a product that people would buy, you are labelled a vanity publisher. You are self-indulgent, possibly narcissistic and lack standards.

That's the equivalent of calling an investor a backyard money-manager.

I think at the end of the day, publishers miss the whole point. An author subjects himself to market forces and is no different from an investor. If his books sell, then he has the results to prove that he's created a superior product. A publisher is only helpful if he has the marketing muscle to move your goods.

Sales are everything. Publisher's attempts at maintaining standards means squat if there are no royalties. I fail to see to how a published author can pooh-pooh a vanity publisher if he doesn't have sales to speak of or is not ranked in the best-seller lists.

It works in practice too.

There is one thing that no publisher can explain to me.

My first book, Growing Your Tree of Prosperity, was on the best-seller list in the Strait Times and broke-even within two years. The book lacked proper editing and when it launched, it even did not have a decent distribution contract.

Anyway, maybe local publishers are being a little defensive and have genuine concerns about the industry they are in. Hopefully more writers will hop onto the e-books bandwagon, and I hope to catch SWF next year with some new technical skills like HTML 5 formatting which will herald a new generation of personal financial books on the Kindle Fire.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Time Management as a discipline.

One idea which I'm hatching is that time management is no different from portfolio management. We all have a fixed 24 hours a day but a key challenge is to divide it between a number of portfolios.

a) Work portfolio - For earned income.
b) Investment portfolio - to plan for future income.
c) Sleep - For health reasons.
d) Family and friends - for personal well-being.

An essence of lifestyle design to do more with less time. i.e. Generate income, shrink (a) and (b) to expand (d). There should exist a series of steps to meet this objective in such a way as to make time management a discipline.

a) Virtual assistants can be hired to run your lives.
b) You can adopt a organizational framework like GTD to make yourself more productive.
c) You can scale down your work by working part time or at least remove transport requirements by telecommuting.
d) Time can be recycled. I use transport to read and prepare for my certification exams.
e) Time spent doing hobbies can be enriched with economic resources toward more enriching activities. For example, I can read to daughter but I can also bring her to a book making workshop when she's able to.

What currently missing in my model is something analogous to my dividend investing model. Where more time spent today means much less time to be spent tomorrow. In IT management, I always tell the new administrator to consider working overtime to script some common service requests so that he can reduce the time spent performing service requests.

There has to be a consistent way to measure and manage how time spent today results in less time spent tomorrow. This, potentially, is better than compound interest.

Of course, we need to be mindful of some solutions offered at the extreme ends of time management, where you destroy your ability to earn wealth by dropping out of work entirely.

Many people take on silly projects and initiatives of their own and permanently impair their ability to be useful to society. My instincts tell me that this half-assed bohemian faux entrepreneurship class will become more prevalent as people lose faith in capitalism and bite back at society one day in the form of increased tax burdens for future generations.