Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Personal Update - Taking a breather.

With the end of Batch 15 and no previews this week, I decided to take a short break from doing any work. This includes a short moratorium on Python coding. Instead, I focused mainly on arranging meetings with partners and allies.

a) Cori super masks may be the best mask for teaching.

Wearing a mask to conduct a full day of investment lectures was a really smelly affair, I have been testing several masks and, so far for me, Cori Supermasks provides the most comfortable option. They are not cheap coming at around $9 and they break easily. Another good candidate is KN95 which I hope to trial in August.

b) Working on Interactive Brokers

I am working with my community to iron out the basic of trading with Interactive Brokers and hopefully coming up with a short guide on it in the future.  Getting basic trades for Singapore stocks was a breeze, but I can't seem to trade local retail bonds.

Also, I am sorting out the margin financing options which can be a big gamechanger in Singapore but no luck so far.

c) Reading about Erwin Rommel

Field Marshal: The Life and Death of Erwin Rommel by Butler ...

I suddenly developed an interest in WWII German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and picked up a book to read. Sadly, Daniel Butler's book reads like a history text and felt more like a recount of WWII than a discussion of Rommel's personality and tactics.

Fortunately, there are things to learn from this account. I think in life, you can't wait for things to be perfect to execute your moves, to win in financial markets, sometimes you need to double down when you taste blood. Rommel had an eerie sense of understanding of when the morale of his enemy breaks and won many battles where he was numerically inferior. Sadly, it took too long for him to see HItler's true colours and he died a tragic death.

I imagine Rommel to be the inspiration of some characters in Pop Culture. Thrawn of Star Wars probably was inspired by this great Field Marshal.

Otherwise, I am buying manga for my daughter and reading ahead for Demonslayer.

d) Shows I am watching 

Anime Review: That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Season 1

I completed all of Kono Suba's episodes and now watching That Time I got Reincarnated as a Slime. 

I am holding out on anime until tomorrow when the latest Transformers:War for Cybertron cartoons launches on Netflix.

This is going to be big for Transformers fans and I watch it with my son who is a big fan.

That's it for now. I am still figuring out what I need to do to enjoy my short holiday that ends on coming Saturday. A more serious investing article on Dr Wealth should be out over the weekend or early next week.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Letter to Batch 15 of the Early Retirement Masterclass

Dear Students of Batch 15,

It’s been a great honour and privilege to be able to conduct a 2-Day Early Retirement Workshop for you.

As Phase 2 begins, with some folks returning to work, we are beginning to see a gradual reduction in our class sizes which is good as it allows me to provide every member of Batch 15 more attention to their needs. We have also expanded the program to 2.5 days so that we will have more time to discuss and debate potential investment choices.

With Batch 15 there is also a lot more discretion in the construction of your respective portfolios. I look forward to investing in the blended portfolio you have constructed; the final yield is relatively modest at 6%. Beyond getting each group to decide whether to buy or not to buy a stock, we conduct one more vote to buy only six counters from the bluechip and REIT categories. So some stocks chosen by the teams may not be included in the final portfolio. Students who can afford larger portfolios can buy the three counters selected by the groups but were rejected through the democratic voting process. The side effect of doing this is that you will wind up with higher dividend yields over the longer term.

For this batch of students, we’ve also introduced a “dark horse” business trust in our collection that constitutes a calculated bet that can either result in massive gains or losses over the next few months. For more conservative members of the class, you may swap it out with a safer investment like Ascendas REITs.

The class discussions were also impressive with savvy students providing some fascinating insights into the tankers business. In the finale where we performed the emigration exercise, Thailand won again as a favoured destination for emigration.

Moving forward, I hope that Batch 15 would participate actively in the FB group. We should be able to see each other again soon as I am preparing for a webinar for all ERM graduates in September.

Christopher Ng Wai Chung

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

How Millenials can save themselves when it comes to their Personal Finances

Evolution doesn't proceed in a straight line, so why draw it that way?

I was quite appalled when I read the latest article that features the latest sensations in personal finance blogs. What triggered me was the casual statement that a lot of millennials who identified themselves as "creatives" find Seedly too dry for their tastes. For the past few days, I wanted to troll the heck out of millennial readers on this blog, but I stopped myself because there are plenty of losers in my own generations too.

It's so easy for Gen-X to caricature Millenials as avocado-toast-eating, bubble-tea-drinking people who get offended easily when you do not support their pet causes like alternative lifestyles, inequality and environmental awareness. I should not forget that it was my own generation that read BigO magazine, attended tea parties at Fire disco,  sniffed glue at void decks, and fapped to the pages FHM. (I'm at least responsible for one of those things mentioned)

But I also need to light the candle instead of cursing the darkness. Taking a page from the Worker's Party, I've decided to take the high road and see whether there are ways for Millenials to save themselves on the financial front.

I think the secret for Millenials ( as well as slowpokes in Gen-X) is that developing financial knowledge is like muscle training. You need to start slow and ease yourself into successively more difficult mediums of instruction, if you jump immediately to read Seedly, you will be demoralised and will lose faith in your ability to build up your financial muscle.

So here's what I think a good glide-path would look like:

a) Start with The Woke Salaryman

I think the Woke Salaryman is probably the best thing that evolved out of the web in recent days. Missing in the blogosphere is a nice webcomic that is a little bit like The Oatmeal that makes financial knowledge easily digestible. Starting out by reading this comic is the easier thing to do because the comic is even easier to understand than following, say, DC Comic's Doomsday Clock.

I predict the founders will make a lot of money if they aren't already raking in cash, thus vindicating essential value creatives have to provide in Singapore.

b) Read The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason

I see only one weakness in following The Woke Salaryman - that deeper ideas in finance are hard to express in comic form. So you can't just stop there, you need to develop your skills further.

So the second step in your journey in to read The Richest Man in Babylon by George Clason that is the simplest personal finance book to read that takes away all the bullshit such as those found in the purple series of popular finance book on the shelves.

I admit this is a hard stage to pass as most young folks these days are easily distracted and may not be able to digest a long-form medium like a book, but you need to try if you wish to level up further.

c) Read Christopher Tan's Money Wisdom: Simple Truths for Financial Wisdom

Suppose you have taken these two steps, you still have a problem because all the concepts you have picked up so far cannot be put in a local context. Christopher Tan's Money Wisdom allows you to contextualise all your financial know-how into actual products you can find in Singapore. Christopher Tan is not alone in this genre, books by Lorna Tan can also be read for the same reasons.

d) FB forums like Seedly

After reading Christopher Tan, I think you are ready to delve into Seedly as a portal for financial knowledge.

Like many portals, Seedly is still a hunting ground for many financial advisors, so I have deliberately selected Christopher Tan's book as a vaccine against paid commissioned advisors before jumping into a portal like Seedly. At least when you face a financial advisor, you have the means of self-defense against their financial sophistry.

e) The more accessible blogs like SG Budget Babe and Jeraldine Pneah

At this stage, you will also find that reading the more accessible blogs will start paying dividends to you. I might be a little biased, but the better beginner blogs are helmed by female bloggers. You can start with Budget Babe and Jeraldine Pneah.

Both blogs feature some amount of investing but they mostly discuss career and lifestyle issues faced my Millenial audiences. I placed blogs after Seedly because you need some savviness to navigate the occasional sponsored article.

f) The contents of this blog and even my investment training programs are still quite far away even if you complete all earlier stages

I maintain this blog for my own pleasure and indulgence so the stuff contained within can be hard-core. Even my course may not be suitable for many Millenials as they are intended for folks who want to begin their evolution into a serious retail investor.

To push yourself further along the glide path, you may reach an important milestone and even be able to enjoy Investment Moats by Kyith Ng. At this stage, you might also be ready to tackle a book like Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. Just make sure you have a brokerage account set up by this stage.

As Millenials do not face the kind of youth unemployment in the West, I strongly believe that they are not doomed to a life of living with their parents, getting triggered, putting up online petitions, playing console games and fapping to non-English versions of Pornhub.  I think there is ample room to participate and benefit from Capitalism in Singapore.

Maybe instead of getting triggered or offended by others on the web, you can channel your angst into developing money management skills with this glide-path.

Hopefully, if I am still alive in about 20 years and when you grow old, I wouldn't use you as a negative example to browbeat my own kids.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Glimpse of the investment training program of the future.

Right now am pretty hard at work trying to imagine how my program will look like in the future.

I do know that I have a very successful collaboration with Stocks Cafe and my challenge moving forward is to scale this form of collaboration across the industry with like-minded individuals - folks like Dr Wealth's Alvin Chow and Stocks Cafe's Evan Koh.

The folks who work well with me have a few common traits: a strong engineering/computing background, a strong desire to build solid products that consistently deliver more value than it's cost. While marketing an UX is not the strongest suit of folks I partner with - I do constantly get angst from my more marketing-oriented friends about the usability of some products I support, I believe that focusing on substance will always mean more profits long term and a comfortable growth rate. Because let's face it, we're in the business of delivering results.

I am currently working with Ivann Fok of in building backtesting tools to provide the means for local retail investors to backtest fundamental strategies. You can follow the link to get a free subscription and even access a simple video I created here where I show my students how to use the tool.

A screenshot of is as follows:

The back-end program logic is starting to shape up really well and I am beginning to able to get some of the simpler backtesting to work on my next class without burning hours queuing for a Bloomberg terminal in the libraries. Our challenge is to simplify the UI to improve on usability. Until then, I will be creating video tutorials for my students to use the tools in a way that is consistent with what is taught in my program.

I expect to have a close collaboration with Ivann over the next few months and I even invited him to be a guest student for my next ERM run which is this weekend. If you want to attend a course to run elbows with an ex-quant and developer, now's your chance to do this. The last preview for this weekend's course is tomorrow

Naturally, I take my collaborations with my partners seriously and I have to imagine how I would want a backtesting tool to look like on the web to collaborate with partners better in the future. We're brainstorming ways to simplify the webpage UI and the best way to do it is to build alternatives and share the code. 

I have been transferring my own Python code using Streamlit to build a personal web-app tool to analyse stocks and build lecture slides for future ERM course runs. This exposes me to the newer UI components that can be used to improve the appearance of web-based investment tools. My struggle now is to use unfamiliar tools like Docker to push these web-apps to be hosted in the cloud, so my learning curve is kinda steep as well. Hope by September 2020,  I will be demonstrating my training concepts using web-apps that I write myself.