Thursday, February 19, 2015

Some thoughts on career management for the New Year !

Happy new year of the Goat !

Gong Xi Fatt Cai !

The financial bloggers were goading me to write something pretty hardcore about Confucius today, but I decided to hold it off until a few weeks later as I think I've got something better to share today.

As it turns out, I was quite fortunate to be exposed to some ideas when SMU conducted its networking sessions for the folks in the JD Program. My first experience was with a tape recording of Davinder Singh's talk and I benefitted immensely from the only tip I got from him which was to read the Economist.

Last week was my first networking student as a law student. My first networking session was with a law firm called TSMP, a pretty awesome looking setup at 6 Battery Road. Once again I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a very short discussion with their head honcho Thio Shen Yi which was also very insightful and very applicable to folks in other industries.

The idea he shared briefly with Law students is that there generally three kinds of workers :

Grinders - These guys do the heavy lifting and analysis in any organisation.
Minders - These guys handle the grinders and they get them to work towards a common goal.
Finders - These guys are the rainmakers who bring business to the company.

Thio's central idea is that his workers start out as grinders before they are ready to become minders, but the guys who ultimately make partners have to be the kind of the workers who are finders. These people develop the core business and sustain the other workers in the business. Naturally, I asked him how can a minder develope the skills to become finders, to which he said that the trick to becoming a finder is to learn to make friends.

I was reflecting about the usefulness of the Grinder-Finder-Minder model and realise that it's a powerful way to look at anyone's career. It also explains why so many tech workers in their forties start to struggle with maintaining a good career.

Here are some on my insights :

a) Jobs which pay grinders well are rare.

Why does your stupid boss who worked in the mainframe era earn more than you even when you know so much about Ruby on Rails or functional programming ? Good paying jobs for grinders are rare because a grinder can at best be an optimal producer. A good minder who can squeeze 10% more work from his grinders can be worth 10 engineers if he leads a a team of 100 men.

Engineering does not pays grinders well. And unless you work a great MNC or a consulting firm like Accenture, it does not have a structured process to turn you into a minder. This explains why the smartest engineers try to do an MBA as quickly as they can.

Rare exceptions do exists : Specialist doctors like plastic surgeons are highly paid grinders.

b) Most knowledge workers typically start as Grinders but need to evolve to sustain their success.

Successful career management is not about looking at problems at work, which can your minder manager very happy, but to find ways to evolve into a minder role. The technology industry is full of grinder engineers who are very competent with machines and technology and fail to develop the EQ and work coordination skills to move into a supervisory role.

This is the essence of why an engineering career fails - you become so confident in your problem solving skills but lack the communication skills to project confidence and lead a team of grinders.

When you reach your 40s, the massive paradigm shifts in IT makes your grinding skills obsolete, so you either run to the government agencies if you have a decent Honours degree or pick up a taxi license otherwise. This sad career tragedy is played out on all engineers I bet there's one in your family.

c) Being a Minder is unsustainable unless you can transform into a Finder.

While being minder is better than a being a grinder, it comes with many disadvantages too. Management jobs are highly political in nature and you are always fighting for resources. Paradigm shifts are slower but typically result in massive restructuring exercises like IBM's Project Chrome.

Another problem is the isolated nature of a minder's domain expertise. A great manager in an organization has gathered a lot of social capital within one organisation. There is no guarantee that this capital can be retained, when the manager gets promoted, moves to a new department or a new company. Most minders are not particularly mobile in their careers and stuck to the organizations they work for.

Minder managers don't get it easier as well. I've seen so many management career when an executive from a tech firm jump into the government and can't carry their social capital with them and drastically under-perform the folks who have been with the agencies all their lives.

d) Being a finder is a talent and tied to your social economic status

Actually, I would have really appreciated a spirited debate with Thio Shen Yi over this issue.

IMHO, being a finder is not as simple as making friends as described by Shen Yi. It is a complicated talent to be at the right place at the right time. A consummate finder does not need to lift a finger if he has a taste for fine wine, art, and can operate in a network of individuals who may have legal work for him.

This level of ease and cultural sophistication is not cultivated within our school system although SMU's career office tries hard to instil this in its graduates. There is no PSLE subject called Charisma, English Literature may help as an O level subject but it's largely incidental and based on how much you apply yourself. An ACS kid can exude this cultural sophistication even if he gets 25 point for his O levels. A Bukit Batok Secondary school student who has hawker parents will not even know what a Cabernet Savignon even if he gets 6 points.

Making matters harder is that the great schools like ACS, RI and HCI have great alumni movements which dramatically increase the social capital of any knowledge worker.

If I were a business man, I would choose someone from such a network to be my finder to maximise my revenue earning potential. This practically locks B-Graders like me to be at best a Minder even if I work my butt out.

I have a small dream, at least for the industry which I am trying to get into in a few years time.

I think Law School has become so elite that finding someone with no ties to the Raffles, ACS or Chinese High mega-brands is so rare that it may even be possible to start a small association or sub-division for mutual benefit, it would be like a small gathering to just shore up our social capital and find businesses for each other.  ( We'll be like the NTUC Fair Price housebrands who have to fight against P&G and Unilever in the supermarkets everyday ! )

Maybe some of us will get that shot to become a finder.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Dating and Mating strategies for single men !

I finally managed to have a short date with the missus after writing my last article since my daughter had just fallen asleep. When I came back to the console after going for a late night Har Cheong Gai, there seems to be demand for an article for men on Valentine's Day

May God have mercy on your souls !

Initially, I felt that a men's article is unnecessary as I would consider this entire blog advice on how to live life for all men.

The other reason concerns how I feel about the guys in my JD class in SMU which makes a request for advice absurd. While it might sound silly, I have unearthed pseudo-mathematical evidence that the younger guys in my class are Masters of the Universe. 15 years ago, when I was in NUS, I had known girls who come to the Toastmasters to stalk the more eloquent male law students. They would go all the way from the science faculty to ogle at the guy, who is normally an NUS debater or king of the mooting competitions. This guy who was stalked once asked me what to do hoping that some troll would rub off on him, I told him to enjoy it because we engineering students want it but can't get that kind of attention even if we tried.  In conclusion, my classmates, who would likely be worth half a million after 13 of work at a 25% savings rate, don't need my help.

This advice is for the rest of the dudes :

a) Heads you win, tails you also win.

The world of male privilege is very simple. If you get married, congratulations. If you don't, congratulations to you as well.

The malaise of the 21st century is that there are too many sources of entertainment for men starved for sex and self-esteem. For pleasure, you can torrent porn into your system. For accomplishment, you can take out your level 100 Death Knight for a spin and organize a raid where doctors, lawyers, CEOs and high flying professionals may follow your orders to take out the Prince Arthas on WOW.

The only time you might not feel so WIN is when you crave for companionship.

This generally only happens on Valentine's Day.

b) Target 70% percentile in total income before you settle down.

At this stage you might be wondering why I was fixated at 70% percentile or $80,000 a year in annual income. The answer lies in an article I wrote for the Intelligent Singaporean 8 years ago on the night before I went for my ROM.   The article caused quite a stir and prompted some angry lady journalists from the Chinese papers wrote to me to get me to clarify my points.

Basically most women only 30% of the male population good marriage material. Of course, a lot men do get married in the end, but always be reminded that you are a compromise choice. She married you because are a good person who asked her.

The rest of my blog will show you how to generate income towards that end.

c) Go for women who can give you a stable marriage.

As it turns out, Mother nature can be a hypocrite when it comes to relationships.

Stable marriages need conscientious husbands but divorces generally come from neurotic wives. Neurotic women are negative, get anxious over small things and are emotionally of the high maintenance variety. Unfortunately, I suspect that evolution has also made neurotic women hotter because no guy would want them otherwise.

For your parent's and future children's sake, don't do neurotic women. Some possible markers of neuroticism are their propensity towards Goth gear, depressing Evanescence music and black clothing.

Set up a test. Travel with your girlfriend to a third world country and see if she gives you hell in a place without clean toilets or air conditioning. If she does, drop her like a ton of bricks and go back to your Playstation 4.

Your imaginary children will thank you for saving them years of psychological therapy.

d) Take your time and use your age to your advantage

Be thankful that your sperm will stay healthy well into your forties !

Men don't need Apple to freeze their sperm. They just need Google to find more porn.

The lesson for men is that they can wait. Old age and treachery will always triumph against youth and speed. For one thing, you need build up your income to reach 70% percentile, but access to the hotter women comes with higher socio-economic status.

But once again, don't make the mistake Millenials make with their lives.  Do not throw away your twenties, work hard and upgrade continuously and take steps to rise in this world. You can travel round the world in your 40s with your 18 year old wife once you make a million bucks following the advice from the rest of the Singapore Financial blogosphere.

But leave the intellectual masturbation to the 40 year old uncles.

e) Choose your venue with care

My advice for men and women are similar. I think bars and lounges are hot beds for crazy neurotic women to hang out, you are better off finding someone who is into self-improvement and some religious organizations.

Good luck if you go SDN.

f) Guys cannot fail in the relationship game

Personally, I think while marriage and children are great, single men run the risk of divorce, which can be so painful, it makes staying single so much more comfortable.

So what happens if no woman wants to marry you ?

Worst case, you travel to Europe so that you can avoid relatives on CNY. You might be depressed on Valentine's Day. You become a life-time member of the Geylang Community Club.

Of special note is that as single men get older and older, their bitterness grows and cynicism takes root. But that's also not your problem, its the problem of your friends who have to cope with you and self-righteousness. 

As such, unlike women, who have live in a world of glass ceilings and double standards built by men.

Guys cannot lose the relationship game.

Just don't be too fixated with wanting companionship.

Dating and Mating strategies for single women !

First off, happy Valentine's day to everyone.

A lady classmate asked me to do an article which summarises how I view the current dating climate in Singapore. I promised that I will do something to the best of my ability but first off - May God have mercy on her soul !

Some of the ideas I have today are based on how little I know about social science and evolutionary psychology. To temper my propensity to troll, I would have to consider whether this article would be practical if I were to instead give this advice to my daughter. So far, I think it passes that test.

So here are some of my pointers:

a) There aren't a lot of eligible of men to go by.

Men may fail to be marriage material quite easily. A small proportion are not interested in women at all. A larger number are stuck in jail. Even more struggle to support themselves because the world economy is slowly but surely destroying the middle class. Even the category of men who have decent jobs may not marry because technology has provided many alternatives through game consoles and social media.

So the first point is that this is not a good time for an eligible Bachelorette. 

b) Men in the 70th income bracket should be good enough.

I think women are not out to spend men's money. Their men's income is a signal of their own self-worth. It would be hard to justify their boyfriend's salary to their relatives, parents and colleagues, if it is significantly below their own. This is a significant defect in Asian society. Women are not fully liberated yet but they are starting to outperform men in schools and the workplace.  

As my classmate will be a lady lawyer in the future, she would expect a fairly high salary on her own. My concern is that she may reject many men who make less money than she does.

My advice is not to look for a guy who can match her income, but to find someone who can hold his own at 70th percentile on the income scale which is about $80,000 a year. I also think that men at above $80,000 a year can look after themselves and should not have a psychological hangup if their lawyer wives make several times more than they do ( Just go for better holidays lor ! ). 

c) Go for the men who can give you a stable marriage

Personality science has given some pointers on how to choose men for the most stable marriages.

The most important trait if you cannot assess a man's career potential is his conscientiousness. Conscientious men are neat and orderly. They are ambitious, have a set of goals for themselves and can plan for the future. You can see hints on how conscientious a guy is from his icon arrangement on his home PC but you need a certain level of conscientiousness to get into higher education and the highest-paid professional jobs.

The second trait is agreeableness. Whenever possible, go for a guy who is friendly and warm. I know some women find jerks and trolls irresistable, but you should try to avoid men who put you down.

But the economy makes this a difficult bargain - the most financially successful men are conscientious and disagreeable, so good luck sorting this one out as most divorces occur over money issues !

d) Play for keeps while you are young

Despite what feminists say, men remain stubbornly visual creatures. You will need to do something to ensure that you look presentable, but more importantly, as looks depreciate over time, you need to aggressively play for keeps in your twenties and early thirties.

Biologically, it does not make any sense for women to delay marriage if the right guy comes along ( That is, itself, a rare event these days ). Shows like Sex and the City send out the wrong message to women that there is a Mr.Big waiting for time when they hit their 40s. Mr Big will probably go after his hot secretary who is 15 years younger than him.

Worse, there is a train of thought started by Apple that a woman can freeze her eggs to be used the future so that she can work. I would agree that the technology can work, but do ensure that you freeze your appearance as well unless you are only looking for a donor and not anything else.

A Milennial's biggest mistake is thinking that there is a period of their lives in their 20s that they can dedicate for self-reflection and intellectual masturbation. They are wrong - they need to get their career's right, save for retirement and start a family if they can find the right person.

Leave the intellectual masturbation to uncles in their 40s who study in SMU and run financial blogs.

Your time will come later.

e) Choose the venue for your battles

I can't emphasize this more but choosing a venue to find a conscientious and agreeable man can itself be a science rather than an art. I never understood why some folks in my generation think that they can settle down with someone they meet in a discotheque or a bar. These places are not exactly the kind of place you will find guys who are conscientious. And sadly, neither are organized dating events, many guys are there because they lack the conscientiousness in the first place !

In that sense, the ladies in my class have come to the right place. Places of higher learning has plenty of conscientious guys who are out there charting a better future for themselves. I would also like to add that religious organizations are also full of guys who are high on the agreeable scale. 

f) Prepare to fail. And maybe win big as a result of that.

My heart goes out to my lady classmates. I worked with them  and confirm that they are no more neurotic and disagreeable than other women I worked with.

I think female lawyers may face some discrimination in the dating world. Asian men are intimidated by their intelligence and one or two neurotic women may inadvertedly tar the entire profession. So it is entire possible that some professional women may not find the right person in their lifetime which is not their fault.

Maybe that is is why they may have won the game of love. Their married peers have diapers to change and husbands who refuse to share in the house work. They can make their own money and travel several times a year.

At the end of the day, professional women in Singapore have a tough juggling act. Eligible men are getting distracted by technology and find it impractical to start families with so many viable alternatives. Society still have a traditional view on marriage and gender roles in the household while women's incomes and career potential speed ahead as the economy becomes more globalized.

That is why, in the end, with better education and economic prospects, professional women are stuck in the role of being daughters of a better age.

It is so much tougher to be  wives and mothers in this better age as a consequence of this.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Huzzah !!! Time for guys to spend NOTHING on Singaporean women !!!

I would like to build on Budget Babe's very interesting rant on The Real Singapore.

In this very exciting article Budget Babe extends the idea that it is not prudent to for Singaporean men to spend too much money to impress women.

As a financial blogger of the Income Investing school of thought, I want to take Budget babe's ideas further and insist that guys pay NOTHING when dating Singapore women.

Ok... That's not very honest of me... I'm proposing that guys pay nothing out of their salaries on Singapore women because dating can be free if you employ your investing income to pay for all dates, FOREVER !

The current market is pretty conducive to dividends investors, an investor can build a portfolio that has three components :
  • Large Blue-chips like Venture can give about 5-6% yields.
  • REITs like AIMS REIT which can give up to 7-8% yields.
  • Business Trusts one of which can be Rickmers Maritime which can give from 9-11% yields with corresponding risks.
Suppose by selecting equal asset allocations in each category you can create a portfolio which yields 6%-8%. Let's call it your Valentine's Day Portfolio.

Now let's move on to calculate the cost of a simple weekly dinner date :

a) Dinner for two -  $70
b) Movie for two  - $30
b) Transport          - $50
c) Gift                   - $30

A month of dates with different women would cost $720 a month or $8,640 a year.

A portfolio like the one above would cover all dating expenses would need to be $145,000 if you yield 6%

If you are fairly good investor who can stomach bigger risks you only need $108,000 if you yield 8%.

Of course saving enough money to generate this portfolio is not part of this article, there are plenty of bloggers who can show you how to accumulate $100,000 before you hit 30 years old, most fresh graduates who are diligent can do this before 33 years old.

This particular model of employing investments to impress your Singaporean women can lead to some more interesting insights about how single men can plan their love lives better using financial securities and why many men fail.
  • When in your twenties and building your career, you might what to be cheaper or have fewer dates. 
  • Your bargaining position as a good life partner improves after you hit more than $85,000 a year when you hit 70% percentile within the male population.
Another way of looking at the dating game is this : Use Social Science and Evolutionary Psychology to your biggest advantage. When your position is weak, another words, when you are young and struggling in your career, the last thing you should do is to blow your assets on a sweet young thing. All the bargaining chips are in her hands.

The only thing you have at your end of the bargaining table is your small erection.

Build your asset base, start scoping your lady friends to determine who is a good candidate for a life partner - someone agreeable, non-neurotic and conscientious, when you have a more stable career and cash flow, women your age will find that your relative position has risen compared to other males in your age group.

Only then do you make your move.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Downside of financial independence.

Initially, I wanted to put up a piece on who the Child in the Basement really is. I wanted to talk about the problems of trying to frame social ills by telling a story and how it distorts the issue for everyone, Then I became so tired that perhaps I should blog about something much simpler that more people can relate to.

So this will be short post.

A lot of people speculate about what happens when someone reaches financial independence.

Does the person turn good and end up doing a lot of charity work ? Or does the person turn and start bullying other people with their new-found freedom ?

Increasingly based on what I've observed, it is none of the above.

Financial Freedom takes away all pretense of who a person is.

In the past someone may have to get up early and show up at work on time. Once they get cash-flow every month, there will no longer be a need to hold a job. Similarly, a financially free person may not be all that reliant on the people around them because free-markets will now be responsible for putting food on the table, so expect many folks to become more anti-social.

There is definitely a good reason to conclude that all financial freedom does is remove the mask that we put on to cope with the challenges society throws at us everyday, the net effect is that your life after reaching your financial target will reflect who you really are in essence. In my case, I always wanted to recapture my happy days  in NUS when I was an undergraduate. It therefore comes with no surprise that I am once again back in school.

That being said, I am slowly learning that have a cash-flow may not work out for everyone.

Some people can be by nature lazy and lethargic. Others are anti-intellectual. A steady cash-flow will kill off every motivation to improve themselves and cripple their ability to ultimately find happiness in life.

As it turns out that beyond pleasure, happiness is a sum of person's relationships, accomplishments, ability to attain flow and how meaningful their life is. Without a job, goals, motivation or need to interact with people, financial freedom will sound their death knell and they soon find themselves in a limbo.

I've read a lot of books on self-help and personal development and as much as I know, I could not find a cure for someone who sets a low standard for their own lives.