Saturday, September 06, 2014

September 2014 Update : From Retiree to Law Student.

I've just survived three weeks of law school, just sharing a personal update to keep in touch with readers.

a) Drowning in legal cases.

Right now, the largest part of my my life is tackling legal cases. In SMU, merely reading up on cases and getting a general gist of it is not enough. As we can be called upon to introduce the cases on the fly, we will need to be able to demonstrate that we understand the cases well, so reading off text is not a good idea. A large part of my current life is figuring out what is the minimum reading I will need to convince myself that I know enough. If I get too obsessed with the details, I will not have time to cover all the cases. If I am too light on my reading and skim too much, it may affect class participation grades. As in all things, being absolute noobs, we are trying strike the perfect balance.

Although I can say that I'm actually happier spending all my time reading about cases which are really relevant to that investor part of me, this aspect of my return to University life has not met my personal expectations.

I was joking to my classmates that I see a law degree almost as a last bastion of liberal arts in pragmatic Singapore and want to pick up skills in rhetoric - career be damned - but the intensity and rigour of the course along the pressure to seek a training contract, internship and then a career is starting to weigh heavily in my mind.

b) Read Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz

I am glad that before bed and in the trains, I was able to read this piece of work which my cousin introduced to me. Perhaps in a later post I will contextualise this piece of work for Singaporeans.

The author paints Ivy League students as sheep who get shoehorned into society's definition of success and lack the courage to explore the world on their own terms. I think the law and medical students are the closest things to Ivy Leaguers in Singapore so it strikes a chord: I had a good read but I remain unconvinced by the author on many major points.

Success and accomplishment are as important as developing a philosophy of life. The author's insistence that students develop that bohemian outlook on life is laughable, Singaporeans do not live in a welfare state ( Unless you have dividends ) and neither do many Americans. Reading the Great Books is useful, but thinking deeply in a vacuum is worthless. Austen and Eliot would be much more useful if the reader can already write code, draft laws or create investment portfolios.

The same problem infects all the English Literature types who recently took up so much limelight in the Singapore news.

Taken to the extreme, English Literature is a religion, it has it holy books by Eliot, Austen and Shakespeare. Literature has it's own fundamentalists, fanatics and zealots. Science and engineering, at least, is falsifiability to keep scientists humble which distinguishes it from the literary arts.

Of course, on the other hand, legal education in SMU is the opposite extreme compared to the bohemian authenticity espoused by the author. The case load I get occupies so much of my time that I wish to have more time to reflect upon my views on humanity and philosophy towards life. So reading this book was done at the right time: It looks like me and my classmates are heading in the direction of becoming Excellent Sheep just as Deresiewicz had theorised.
c) Personal finances

September is a good paying month for dividends, I have already socked aside some cash to pay for next semester of fees. I have stopped tracking my net worth for now and will make minor changes to my portfolio to increase my diversification further. I think the newer REITs and Business trusts launched in 2014 may come under some selling pressure so I expect to do some bargain hunting before the month is over.

My aim so far is to retain or grow my net-worth throughout my stay in law school. This way I can reduce some of that pressure to get a training contract and really focus on thinking like a legal professional, which I think is the real holy grail of getting back to school in mid-life.

d) Other areas of my life

Of particular concern is that I have not been looking after my diet and exercise lately. Mooncake festival always gives me a sugar high and I've been neglecting my running to clear all my cases and consolidate my understanding of the law.

Looks like I need to buck up on my health next week.

Hopefully I can do up another blog article early next week.


  1. Hi Mr Ng,

    I just started reading your blog just recently and i must say that you are my idol in investment. i read an article in ( and you are able to acquire dividend shares within 3 years to the extent that it can cover your monthly expenses by its dividends payout. I've done up my plans and i can only expect to reach the same $24k per year investment income within the next 6 years. Can you teach me or advise me how you do it? I just investing as I am looking to getting passive income to give my child and wife a better life ahead.

    My warmest regards,

    Rat Racer

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