Sunday, June 01, 2014

Thoughts after 5 months of retirement.

Time really flies.

It's been 5 months since my mini-retirement and now given that I've got a seat in the SMU JD program, there is at least some finality to my life plans. There is now some hope for an interesting career beyond financial independence.

Here are some of my current thoughts :

a) Portfolio financial performance has been very strong for the past 5 months.

Most investors will no doubt have enjoyed the upturn in the markets lately. The market for yield counters have been really spectacular. Capital gains and income gains, even after my living expenses exceeded 15 months of my previous earned income - pretty amazing given that this was done in 5 months.

Of course, I was not as passive with my investments as I was when I was working full-time. These days, I have written some spreadsheets which can inform me when a yield stock is being mispriced by Mr. Market, and I can just sell the over-priced ones and buy the under-priced ones. This way I am able to push my annual forward yields to a nice 8.2%.

As with all good times, investors see bad times in the horizon. Every World Cup I experienced in the past has resulted in a nasty downturn in the local stock-market as punters sell equities to bet on soccer teams. I also expect nasty surprises next week from CFA candidates who close their positions to prepare for the exams.

For every perturbation in the markets, I get to move money slowly out of real estate into high-yield equity counters to have a balanced portfolio and raise my yields at the same time. So my portfolio is no longer passive, some active trading takes place now about once every 2 weeks.

Remember this as a dividend investor : It's not enough for some counters to go up, some counters need to be cheaper so that you can adjust your portfolio to ratchet up your income gains. You also need to know to what extent to do this because, ultimately,  there is no free lunch - your risk will almost always increase.

b) Really working hard on my health

Law school means competing with younger, smarter and faster opponents. There are only so many Second Uppers which will be given out for my cohort, I was told that any grade below this would mean issues with getting a decent pupillage. My status as a diabetic concerns me as I will have problems concentrating in my cases  if I lose control of my blood sugar. My latest results have been unpleasant with a HBA1c of 9. I have since bought myself glucometer.

Which brings me to my latest lifestyle design strategy : Compliance through pain.

I have only about a few safe foods : Fish soup, Yong Tao Fu and wholemeal pasta. I can eat anything I want - the only price I have to pay for that is to test my blood sugar after 2 hours. A score of 10 or below after 2 hours means that I have a new safe food to eat. Otherwise, I stick to the safe foods.

This strategy is showing some promise. I continue to lose weight as I have added night swims into my weekly exercise routine.

Some people on FB remark that my appearance has changed. Of course, given that my low GI foods keep me hungry all the time !

c) Seven courses down on Coursera !

This month I complete courses on Statistical Inference, Reproducible Research and Exploratory Data Analysis. By tomorrow I should have completed 7 courses with 5 distinction grades. This month, I will take on three data science courses to complete the entire specialization track.

This continues my unique strategy to take on law school as a candidate with strong technical and financial know-how.

d) Books I am reading

Beyond all the preparatory texts for law school, I am currently still on this epic book called Strategy : A History by Lawrence Freedman. It's a huge volume on strategy which covers war tactics, political stratagems and management theory. A thorough piece of work.

This book is so huge that I have to read books in between sections to keep my interest in it. I have completed Think like a Freak  by Levitt and Dubner of the Freakonomics fame.

I have also read Benjamin Graham on Value Investing : Lessons from the Dean of Wallstreet by Janet Lowe. It's not so much a book on investing but a biography on Benjamin Graham's life. It's shockingly sad that the father of the CFA program can have such a dramatically horrible personal life. 

For leisure, I bought the latest edition of the miniatures war-game Warhammer 40k. It's a good time to get acquainted with the Dark World of Space Marines.

For the Emperor !!!

e) Figuring out your life without a day job is a good problem to have

All in all, even before moving on to resurrect my career, designing a life around not having a day job is a good problem to have.

Otherwise, there's always enough friends and activities to keep yourself occupied - I spent a day at the Arts Museum and learnt that I have no patience for art. You start to work around your friend's schedules during the day and retreat for a good read whenever you can.

The funny thing about all this is the absence of travel. I have to raise $18k for school fees every 6 months starting in August and I felt that it would not be prudent to travel unless a friend were to invite me to do this and I can cut some costs by slugging it out in a hostel. but otherwise, exploring my inner world can be equally rewarding since I no longer need to relieve myself from burn out.

Here's hoping for the chance for one semester overseas in the future.


  1. Wow! Looks like you've achieved quite a lot during a short 5 months. Well done and keep going.

    Looking forward to meet you again for Kopi (siew dai) or mee soup.

  2. Definitely, next time we get the Cheerful Egg...

    Looks like my Justice League of Financial Bloggers is shaping out really good.

  3. Dear Christ,

    Nice update. Hope you can overcome your health problem and achieve good academic results!

    Reading your blog always remind me that health is wealth. I am in my mid thirties and can feel my body slowing down. Look like I need more exercises!

    SG Wealth Builder

  4. wow, what made you decide to do a JD? the courses u are taking are really intersting. also, where did you learn how to write excel spreadsheets? in your previous jobs?

  5. Maybe you should take a holiday first before starting on your course at SMU. ;)

  6. Microsoft excel is self-taught. I'm an engineer, I'm expected to know these things.

    I guess a good reason to do a JD is so that readers will ask me why I would want a JD.

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