Saturday, October 31, 2020

How does a guy turn into a BBFA ?


Japanese authors Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga continue to produce "idea dividends" in their second book on Adlerian Philosophy entitled The Courage to be Happy. Some of the frameworks in therapy can be really useful in deconstructing fellow Singaporeans. Today I will apply the Adlerian Stages of Problem Behaviour to study, and shed light, on how Singaporean become Bui Bui Forever Alone,  a special breed of Internet troll that exists in our local interwebs. 

Let us first discuss the context of dating in Singapore. Unlike women, men can be judged by their success in life. This is often material or financial in nature. When men gather, they often sort themselves based on hierarchy loosely based on material and financial success. So men who are trying to mate have to contend with female hypergamy. It's not that Singapore women are materialistic - Singapore women may find that having some material success corresponds to psychological traits that make good dads, like conscientiousness and punctuality. 

With the context in mind, we can examine how problem behaviour exhibited by wayward students can map directly to a guys' apotheosis into the life of a BBFA.

Here are the five stages of problem behaviour:

a) Demand for admiration 

Every guy wants to be admired. During the first stage, a guy has this idea that, by simply being himself, he should be able to, occasionally, get a word of praise from women. Because he is new to this game, he often acts like a normal, card-carrying member of society to get the praise he craves. Often they enough from mums at home. 

This is where the problem begins. 

Women won't praise you for being yourself. ( Gen X women may even insult or rebuke you for being too normal. ) Men soon learn that being normal hardly resolves their craving for love in Singapore society.

b) Seeking Attention 
The guy realises that he needs to seek attention to stand out. He's also competing against other guys so he needs to set up a marketing department and do some SEO (for his genitals). At this stage, he often gets a gym membership. Others guys may, to the detriment of FIRE, get involved in conspicuous consumption.

This is no longer a personal game. It has to be played against other men. The logical conclusion in ferocious dating markets in Shanghai is that a guy must burn a huge amount of their life energy to buy an apartment to qualify as husband material. 

c) Power Struggle

Everybody cannot win at the mating game. Some men will find that they will fail to seek the attention and love they crave, so instead of attaining a privileged position, they start to challenge women. Popular dating books encourage this bad boy attitude. This is where Millenial guys invented this horrible technique called "negging". Criticizing women and lowering their self-esteem to get ahead in the mating game. Some of my single friends still get very hyped up when talking to my single lady friends on social media, they pick stupid fights betraying their personal lack of sexual access.

A lot of mansplaining occurs at this stage.

d) Revenge  

Things start to spin out of control at this stage. Feeling rejected, and failing to get attention even after negging a woman pushes a guy eventually off the edge.  He begins to take revenge on women.

Some men take to trolling (like me - I love posting offensive relationship articles when I was in my 20s), but if it gets out of control, this is the stage guys talk about Men's Rights and join the more hateful movements like Gamergate. Apparently, games researchers find that the men who criticise and try to exclude women from gaming circles are also the more incompetent players. 

If you are not careful, the law needs to be called in to deal with guys going through this stage.

e) Proof of Incompetence

At this stage, the transformation to BBFA becomes complete. Every attempt a guy has made to get a woman's attention has failed. Trying to stand out failed. Trying to neg them failed. Even revenge did not earn any more than indifference.

The last stage is to simply give up and join the Brotherhood of BBFA. They finally enter a stage of despair. The idea that, at this stage, only a specialist can be called in to help.

Modern society is designed to not really give a shit about leftover guys, they get labelled Bare Branches or Hikkikomori. We will be seeing a lot of men in retreat as we recover from the pandemic as many men will never rejoin the labour market.

Alfred Adler suggests that this problem can be nipped in the bud in a classroom setting if teachers treated students with more respect, but this is kinda hard to apply to single males in Singapore. Women, who have evolved to be the pickier gender due to higher rates of parental investment, cannot afford to sacrifice their own personal interests. 

What if a guy they don't like were to keep sticking to them? 

I have a son. My own personal solution is to shower him with unconditional love but have him be aware of the relentless competition in the dating markets. He somehow has to realise that his parents love him, but society is ready to be completely indifferent to him if he cannot contribute to the country.

But I think a lot of us knows this.

It is entirely possible that no one is thinking about us as we go about our day. 

I know that thought drives a lot of single women crazy.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

On the FIRE movement's enemies...


I realised that I've developed a new superpower lately - People are starting to dislike me without ever interacting with me, or even reading my blog. 

A buddy of mine has other friends and have been explaining to them about my approach to conquering personal finances. He tells me that after a while, his contacts often began to get upset when I become the topic of the conversation and even became hostile after a while. Case in point, some small-time entrepreneurial types think that making money by allocating capital is somehow criminal and dishonourable so I get conveniently installed as the Satan/Thanos in their multiverse.

In the book Courage to be Disliked,  a possible explanation of the resistance against the FIRE movement can be made using the concepts in Adlerian psychotherapy. Alfred Adler is one of the greats in the field of psychology and often compared to legends like Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. 

One way of addressing resistance to FIRE is that we often take a causal stance to our personal finances.  A lot of my critics, even some ex-colleagues, believe that starting circumstances determine their odds of attaining Financial Independence. Other words, you may fail to FIRE because you come from a humble background, or lack paper qualifications. As a trainer, I am particularly vulnerable to justifications like this because I come from a fairly well-off family - I don't have a rag to riches Cinderella story where I helped in my dad's hawker stall which studying in front of a candle at night. In some forums, I've seen really salty readers dismiss a decent article because the author is a billionaire. 

This psychological defence is considered very Freudian. In fact, the atas term is Freudian Etiology. We often claim that we cannot succeed because of the past, or some obstacles we inherited through no fault of our own.

Alfred Adler has helped a lot of kids with developmental issues, and he proposed a workaround. He suggests that we replace Freudian etiology with Adlerian teleology

The idea is that people resist something by saying that they have a past that prevents them from succeeding but, in essence, staying unsuccessful has a hidden purpose or goal. Case in point, some guys claim they can't get a girlfriend because they are nice guy, when in essence, staying single means never becoming vulnerable or ever facing rejection - hence my strong BBFA readership.

So when we address FIRE's enemies or critics, we need to understand not the socio-economic reasons for their resistance, but how this kind of resistance adds value to them. 

Here are some possible reasons some folks resist FIRE :

a) They can maintain a moral high ground when they do not FIRE

There is something dirty about capitalism so collecting dividends is sometimes an immoral act because we are profiting from the labour of others. So when you work with your hands and never FIRE, you stay moral and untainted by greed. You are channelling the nobility of a peasant lifestyle and a life of toil, some religions reinforce such beliefs. 

This is very common amongst the woke Millenials and you often this resistance paired up with an obsession with inequality and minimum wages.

b) They will not have to endure the humiliation of failure after trying hard, so it is safer not to try.

FIRE is hard - you need to earn, save and then invest to have a decent chance of success. 
  • If you fail to earn, it signals that society does not value your time or your skill. 
  • If you fail to save, you have no grit and cannot delay gratification. 
  • If you are bad at investing, you lack foresight and have poor judgement.
All aspects of failure can reflect a flaw in your character or personality so why allow yourself to be judged in the first place?

Those students that refuse to study so that they can get a lousy grade but justify that they did not put in much effort anyway fall into this category. This is a very common defence.

c) They are comfortable this way and don't want the discomfort of change

The last but most common reason is that we're comfortable with our worldview and don't see the need for change which can be uncomfortable. These are folks who downloaded and installed the Great Singapore Script. Study hard, get a degree, get married, buy a HDB, have kids, retire. Why let any competing worldview interfere with their script.

I think having inertia is fine, but a conventional approach will yield conventional results. Just don't get all salty when an old friend with a five-digit investment income spends more time drinking coffee in a kopitiam when you do.  

Regardless of whether you stand with me or against me. Go read the book. It is very difficult for Japanese self-help to emerge onto the global stage and this book really opens my eyes on how help can given to other people by installing a life philosophy.

I look forward to adopting this to my Republic Poly talk in the near future. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Thank you Springfield Secondary School !


Thanks for the really forward-looking staff of Springfield Secondary school, I was able to conduct a successful talk to secondary 4 students via Zoom this morning. I don't believe that pro bono work is truly pro bono, I think I probably learnt quite a bit from my engagement today.

Do note that this event is attended by students who self-selected to attend. Unlike the RI sample space who are semi-obligated to show up, the students today all volunteered their own time to do this.

a) Pocket Money surveys do not show the massive difference in both samples.

The most curious question is whether neighbourhood schools have a significant financial disadvantage compared to an elite school. I did not find a significant difference in my pocket money surveys, but you should note that my sample is small and you cannot really compare apples and oranges.

So unless ACS has someone enlightened or insane enough to invite me, this will be a curious side project at best.

b) Participation was active and super-aggressive

Teachers who worked with me commented that they have never seen such aggressive participation for such talks in recent memory. Some Q&A could not even wait for the delivery to end. This is why I love doing this. 

The talk I designed is totally different from the clinical delivery I gave to RI. I gave the students a choice to choose their destiny and to do better even than there more academically well-endowed peers. Thanks to friends on social media and this blog, I think it succeeded in its basic mission.

c) The best question asked was whether I see myself as a happy person.

Make no mistake, the Springfield secondary who showed up for my talk were whip-smart! 

I entertained really thoughtful questions on the Supplementary Retirement Scheme (WTF right ?), the feasibility of leverage, and FOREX strategies. ( I suspect parents are prompting them! ) 

My favourite question, which took me off guard, was whether I considered myself a happy person.

I wanted to give as thoughtful an answer as possible, so I said NO.

In the pursuit of anything worthwhile, there will be pain and suffering. What is the point of getting grilled by a few super-kwailan Millenials half your age during International Moots if it did not teach you to stay calm and composed under fire? I told the students point-blank that I used to be able to process 20+ exams in a quarter because I had to update my Microsoft Certifications when studying for my Masters, CFA and FRM exams. 

Your state of mind while juggling so many balls in the air, cannot be happy at that time. I think I developed hyperactive thyroid after that.

But something happens as you are clocking your personal accomplishments. Instead of happiness, you get a sense of deep satisfaction. You see your finances taking off, your families growing, and if you are a wee-bit sadistic like me, folks from more elite backgrounds falling off the wayside as you methodically advance up the ladder.

So don't aim for happiness. 

Aim for satisfaction. 

In a future CNY gathering, some of them will be compared with that cousin who becomes a lawyer or a doctor. Whip up your bank account, and show them how much you saved because you started work after getting a diploma at age 21. Mathematically, you can maintain a wealth advantage with the right compounding rate for almost all of your years being single. Most lawyers gormlessly spend it all on alcohol anyway!

In my next pro-bono project, I will be speaking to Republic Polytechnic, I will be refining this speech I just gave to customise it to an older audience. 

Keep a lookout on developments on my blog. 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Letter to Batch 17 of the Early Retirement Masterclass


Dear Students of Batch 17,

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

So many things could have gone wrong in Batch 17.

First, we launched the ERM crowdsourcing tool, but I found out last minute that the web-hosted database will reset all recent input information whenever the website goes into sleep-mode. I had to run my web program from my personal laptop as a last-minute hack.

Second, the fundamental back-testing tool was not running properly as a code-fix made last night bungled up a data download from the provider. Fortunately, Ivan Fok, founder of, was able to fix it 20 minutes before we started on our practice session.

This is my first taste of the ERM Masterclass as a startup where we often have to learn to eat failure for breakfast. If we survive, we will get capabilities beyond anything done in the past. Today, we can witness a taste of how a class can crowdsource qualitative information on investments and build an investing hivemind. My vision is for the students of my program to function as collective intelligence – the opposite of artificial intelligence that is trendy is startups today.

The most exciting part of Q&A concerns a million-dollar question that I can’t answer adequately to anyone’s satisfaction. How do we anticipate a downturn and avoid losses to the portfolio?

If I were to have a definitive answer to the question,  my personal Dunkirk moment, when I had to deleverage my margin account aggressively, would have been avoidable, and I would have been able to buy the markets at its bottom after that. While we do teach four possible ways to predict a market crash, not a single predictor allowed us to anticipate a pandemic in 2020. This failure is the reason to be humble and avoid hubris when investing with leverage.

One solution is in budgeting our risks. We keep loading a portfolio with bonds until the effective-shortfall metric on the Stocks Café dashboard becomes a number that we can tolerate moving forward. But this will inevitably lead to sub-optimal returns if markets rally aggressively when a vaccine is approved.

Being a retail investor will be challenging even if you are trying to fish for dividend yields. The choices were quite stark today, with every safe dividend-yielding counter producing meager yields. This is why we have a Facebook group to guide our community towards a higher level of investment proficiency.

Moving forward, I hope that Batch 17 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 November.

Christopher Ng Wai Chung

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Personal Business Update - Startup ambitions are on !

There are a lot of things happening this week, the market for training courses is slow, but I am still running a class starting tonight so I'm surviving. But there's good news in almost every other front.

a) Got selected to join SMU's start-up incubation program

While juggling all the balls in the air, I created a pitch to see whether my startup plan can qualify to be part of an incubator. The attraction for me was to initially was to subject myself to "Shark Tank" grilling by business veterans and then maybe explode and fail in a dramatic manner. If I succeed, then I get to teach myself how to build a proper start-up. 

Problem is that beyond ERM, most of my ideas are half-baked and experimental. So the pitch creation was designed to be candid about my business prospects and explain my weaknesses - I focused on my poor Millenial engagement numbers, difficulties of scaling, and the problems of a single-man outfit.

The panel was really nice in the end. Questions were thought-provoking but hardly comes across as brutal. One particularly fun question was "Millenials got no money, how can they pay?" which led to a fairly technical discussion on pricing strategy if I launch a different product. I was lucky I forced myself through a Digital Marketing course on Coursera.

So odds are I will be incorporating soon. But some obstacles were thrown in my way recently:

  •  The government no longer incentivise internships for fresh grads, I have to start considering mid-career folks. I was just complaining that I can't even design a career for myself, much less for another 40-something-year-old. But the incentive is such that I need to think about this seriously if I need a pair of hands to free me up to strike deals and create new products. 
b) My next pro-bono talk is likely to be Republic Polytechnic.

So my secondary school talk is next Monday and lecturer from RP has spoken to me to engage for another discussion so there is some good news on that front because I get to shape a totally different talk from the perspective of polytechnic students. Apparently, RP has quite a number of financial assistance cases, so it would be an interesting challenge to craft this speech. 

I suspect the secondary school talk may have a bigger influence on the angle than the RI talk.  Will share more once I get more data from RP.

c) Launching a crazy new tool this week to my ERM Batch 17 students

If you aren't failing enough, you are not pushing yourself hard enough

I am crazy enough to push my MVP product through to my students of this latest batch this weekend. I gave myself a crash course in developing web apps in Python Django and was able to repurpose a simple blog app (A blog is the simplest thing you can build on Django) into a crowdsourcing tool to guide qualitative stock selection. 

This solution is designed to have students do data input which is about qualitatively reviewing analyst reports and articles. It captures their willingness to include the stock in their final portfolios and even allows groups to comment and vote for their favourite stocks which I can then rank based on likeability.

It also has simple reporting features that allow me to cut and paste into a spreadsheet. 

I just pushed my code to the cloud and it looks like runs fine for now. Hope it would not crash on me on Saturday.

Anyway, I feel pretty pleased with myself because I'm not too aware of any other financial trainer that can code an launch a SaaS solution not the cloud for the benefit of their own students.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Letter to my Son : A project with Felix Cheong

Felix Cheong: " A good short story must have an eye-catching opening, can someone suggest an opening sentence to his short story? "

*I raise my hand*

Felix: "Chris"

Me: "His nipples hurt."

Something special happens when quantitative and numerical types get to collaborate with cultural and aesthetic icons. When software engineering meets fantastic design, you end up with a trillion-dollar company like Apple. 

At a much smaller scale, I am firmly aware of my personal biases and relish any collaboration opportunity with artists or poets. But that is hard because personalities can clash and projects delayed indefinitely. Imagine the sparks that will fly if some collaborator-poet discovers that I want Donald Trump to win in November! 

But something interesting cropped up during Phase 1 of the lockdowns. 

Felix Cheong, who was my instructor when I signed up for his writing classes eons ago, asked me whether I would like to contribute to his project where fathers were invited to write a letter to their son. This was huge risk for Felix because he suffered through my extremely pornographic fictional troll writings, the kind of fan-fiction you read on 4chan or reddit. 

Felix Cheong is one of the most prolific writers in Singapore with so many books under his name. His projects are also eclectic, spanning from poetry to prose and he might even have composed songs or plays. He has a serious business dimension too as I used to read his articles on The Edge. 

He is also a great dad - I know because I was able to spend some time talking to his son who is a Dean's Lister in SMU Law School. In contrast, I'm struggling to stop my son from streaking butt naked around the house. 


So for the next few weeks after being invited by Felix to participate in this project, I dived into this aggressively as I have not published anything for a very long while. The idea that I can publish with a very credible publisher under the traditional publishing model (as opposed to self-publishing and waiting for some paycheck to come from the distributor) was a very important milestone for me. Getting some contact with a good publisher is important on my next step as I start building a serious business. 

Without spoiling anything, I did not write some soppy letter to my son telling him that he can pursue any passion he wants, society has pretty firm rules on who gets to win the game of life and who gets to struggle in their parent's basement, remaining forever inconsequential and unloved in society. My son is still 5 years old, I pray he would not read it with scorn like the ranting of his old man when he finally sees it when in his teens. 

My letter falls firmly under the work or career management category.  

For folks who miss my writing, you can pre-order the book here via this link

Friday, October 16, 2020

OK Boomer, Let's Talk


Maybe it's the recent talk I was planning in a secondary school, I've been trying to get to grips with the war between the Millenials and Boomers in the US. I chose a very one-sided book by Jill Filipovic that really does nothing to win any empathy from her detractors. The basic thrust of the author's argument is that US Millenials are doing badly because of racism by Boomers - Millenials in the US are less white than Baby Boomers.

I am not vested in her argument either way, but I am bothered that Singaporeans are importing the cultural wars and identity politics from the US. Somehow, a few local idiots think it is funny to translate #BlackLivesMatter to #BrownLivesMatter. We really need to fight a battle against this because what the US is experiencing is magnitudes worse than Singapore.

Here are some things we don't have here in Singapore:

a) Student loan debts cannot be forgiven by becoming bankrupt in the US

I do not know the basis for this policy, but bankruptcy should be a chance for someone to achieve a clean slate in life. But in the US, study loans cannot be forgiven by bankruptcy, which means that young people who weighed down by an expensive education may be enslaved for a lifetime by the folks who lent them money to study. This is really punishing for minorities who get less financial aid and often have a higher dropout rate in schools.

In Singapore, we do the opposite - organizations like Mendaki actually provide generous scholarships to encourage academic achievement. 

b) Redlining of black neighbourhoods

There is this horrible process where poorer neighbourhoods get marked out in red and wealthier neighbourhoods get marked in blue. The government will then invest more heavily in wealthier neighbourhoods. 

In the US, suppose a home seller sells a house and receives an offer from a black family but a lower bid from the white family, neighbours will often intervene to make up the difference to prevent the black family from moving in. 

In Singapore, we have policies to enforce racial quotas to prevent the formation of ethnic enclaves and ghettoes. 

In fact, NUS researchers found that Malay home-owners will often part with their homes with a lower COV when selling to an incoming Malay family. The kampong spirit is still alive.

c) Opioid crisis

This really baffles me. In the early 2000s, the government decided to subsidise pain-killers but that also made it easier to get prescription pain killers for recreational use from pill-mills. This affected the mortality rate of Millenials, and more of them die compared to Baby Boomers of equivalent age.

Over in Singapore, we still hang drug traffickers. Most doctors will not risk their licensing by prescribing these drugs willy-nilly. 

Anyway, I'm not trying to say that we should ignore poverty in our own backyard, but if you are from the political Left reading this, go read the rants and tirades from your counterparts in the US and ask yourselves is the situation really the same here. 

Maybe in a future article, I may even argue that since Singapore Millenials are still employable, the closest generation to US Milllenials are SG Gen-X because economic opportunities are evaporating really fast.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Neighbourhood School Talk Update

My neighbourhood school talk is less than two weeks away and in consultation with the teaching staff, I've decided to do a press presentation without building on the discussion I had with RI. The differences in the two institutions is just too stark for me to establish a good rapport with the students for the next talk.

A talk given to RI is an act of polishing at best, to arm students already on the elevator to the upper crust of society with some financial know-how. My next project has to be sensitive to their background and I've chosen to demonstrate to them how to win regardless of their starting circumstances and remind them not to count themselves out. Fortunately, I get to channel my personal experience in a neighbourhood school where my peers and myself were made to take the practical way out and convinced not to aim for the stars.

These are the broad directions that I intend to take my talk :

a) Learn the Rules of Winning 

In this section, I want to explain to students that they are not learning things to pass exams and please their loved ones, there are fundamentals rules that, when applied, can allow them to take down a much more savvy and powerful opponent. So this section channels the deconstruction style taught by Tim Ferriss in his works which I think is a cool life skill to have. 

Consequently, I explain that life long learning is a long term process that should be divorced from exam taking. 

b) Avoid the Bad

The second principle channels Charlie Munger who believes that inversion can a powerful principle in life. Neighbourhood schools are forced to play the game of elites and always made to achieve great things in life. I explain that winning can be achieved by avoiding the bad things instead which is actually a lot easier and more nuanced. 

The gifted may be powerful, but they are prone to things like gaming addiction and may even suffer from very mild autism. Just observing friends and classmates who mess up their lives and promising to avoid doing the same thing can make a big difference. 

Just like an ETF. Passive instruments can beat 80% of active instruments by just avoiding crippling management fees. 

c) Build Yourself Up

After eliminating the negatives, students are shown the steps on how to build themselves up. This is where my traditional strengths in financial management come in.  

I've taken the risk to highlight forms of capital that complement financial capital because I don't want them to feel ashamed when they do not have the same social or cultural capital as their elite peers. 

Financial capital is most amenable to build up through hard work and delay of gratification. REITs do not give more dividends just because you come from ACS or RI although the elite may start with more assets.

Students will be taught to fight with the power of time. No matter what happens their elite peers and themselves have the same 24 hours each day. 

Of course, when it comes to the presentation, the devil is in the details. I've incorporated most of the feedback on this blog and from friends. One particularly fun exercise I did was to look for high-paying non-degree jobs to be shared with the kids. 

Keep the suggestions coming, there is still room for about 15 minutes of more material. 

Share with me what kind of advice a student from a neighbourhood school might need to do better or be more successful than an elite. 



Sunday, October 11, 2020

On the trust-worthiness of real estate agents


I don't really enjoy throwing shade at the real estate agent profession because I have a number of friends who are real estate agents. Also, I think as a financial blog and trainer, I have my hands full with FAs and real estate seminar types who can provide endless entertainment for my readers.

The book Kiasunomics 2, does not paint real estate agents in great light, however, and talks about a con that could happen to the hapless real estate seller. 

Suppose you have bought a new unit and are facing some time pressure to sell your current home and have a selling price of $2,000,000. A real estate who already found a buyer for $2,000,000 may suddenly offer a price of $1,800,000. He can collude with a friend or relative to be a buyer if he knows that you are desperate for money and can take on a lower price. In the example from the book, if the seller insists on the original price and turns down the cheque, sometimes the agent may come crawling back with a $2,000,000 offer at a later time.

I don't believe my friends can be so unethical, but evidence from NUS may point otherwise. 

Reviewing the data on buying prices of real estate agents, Singapore real estate licensed agents were found to pay less 3% for real estate transactions. If a piece of property costs $1,000,0000, real estate agents pay 3% less from a combination of having more industrial knowledge and possibly playing similar games to their hapless clients. 

The research does not delve into the price premiums gained when agents sell their own properties but studies in the US show a premium of around 4.5%!

Sometimes, nothing much can be done about this problem because real estate agents have superior information about the markets and this is not a liquid and efficient market like SGX. The only thing we can hope for is more transparency and research over time. 

After all, if I get into a litigation situation, as I can do my research have a network of lawyer buddies, I may be able to resolve the dispute at a lower cost compared to a layman. This is probably the same for doctors who have to see other doctors. 

Nevertheless, this is a rare book that contains valuable research information written from a local context.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

Value of Singaporean Males inextricably tied to Personal Success

About two weeks ago, my mum was telling me that according to Chinese language morning papers, 400 Singaporeans committed suicide in August 2020. I did not succeed in verifying this news, because I have few friends who read the chinese newspapers. My mum added a new tidbit, she said that most of the folks who died are actually young adult males. 

I thought Singapore should get around 400 suicides a year, to have it all happen in August was very disturbing so I asked around and a friend commented that he believes the news because the value of males in society is tied to personal success and in a pandemic, it is no surprise that young demoralised males will take their own lives to get out of the Game of Life altogether.

Right now, I am aware that the government is trying to introduce more gender equality into our policies which might be good, but I think the risk is that the plight of males can be conveniently forgotten in light of coming up with new policy measures. 

Here are some of my thoughts on all this :

a) The largest mating retreat will be triggered by males after this pandemic

First, we have the pandemic. Then, we will experience the economic effects like unemployment that is already trending up. Finally, there will be a demographic tsunami. Why should guys continue to participate in society if they can't get jobs or any respect? Even for gamer guys, a single life playing games and watching Netflix can be so much more relaxing than getting married and having kids. 

So I expect a lot of young men to retreat from family life. They can get some action from dating apps, but they will not play a game where there is no job or income security. Effects of the pandemic may leave long emotional scars.

b) If guys won't pick up their share of the house-work, maybe you need to work them harder in the office

I don't understand why feminists are dead set on more paternity leave for men. Odds are we won't use it even if you give it to us.

If a single guy takes on a colleague's work when she goes on maternity leave, it may be better to legislate more pay to compensate for doing the work so he can settle down with more money in the future, the money will still go to his wife and kids.

Another alternative is to mandate overtime pay for all professions but allows men to hold 1.5 jobs with different employers. If there is a steady pool of male labour to take on colleagues that go on maternity leave, this can help women too. 

My idea is to let guys spend leave days to go on reservist to earn double pay during that time. 

c) Society cannot be engineered to make men more nurturing, why the fuck you keep feminising us?

My final point is how is the government going to use social engineering to change the dynamics between genders. The truth is that with better career opportunities, women still conduct a foodie call to find hapless guys to pay for the food she wants to eat. 

Society does not reform from the mandate or the ramblings of some liberal humanities scholar - Even if some Amazon Daughter of a Better Age is willing to date some ITE guy, you expect her dad to give them his blessing meh? Approximately a third of families have wives who earn more than husbands, but please read the data from social scientists - such families experience higher rates of divorce. I've done such a divorce before....

If a rational single guy knows this data, what would he do if he cannot establish a solid career of his own? 

We're not Steve Trevor you know... Even he died in the movie.

So all in all, I hope laws get reformed to punish things like sexual assault or harassment but don't forget that for men to continue to participate in the gene pool, all guys must have a chance to top the hierarchy we always build for ourselves when it comes together :

  • Freedom to hold a steady job at a salary that can support a family. We have to make our uniformed services jobs of last resort for Singaporeans.
  • Freedom to sell our time to multiple employers so that can we can rise in society. Strike down any contract that allows overtime without extra pay. Singaporeans be allowed to work for more than one employer at any time. 
  • Protection of our property rights - we keep what we kill. ( Ok, we're pretty good here. )
  •  Bonus points: A much simpler framework to let men find an overseas spouse and have them settle down without complicated paperwork. Because not all men can top the hierarchy at the same time but Singaporean men can top the hierarchy in a neighbouring country.



Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Evolution of a walled investment community


For months, I have been struggling with Python Django that allows me to build websites that solve real problems. Completing a course specialisation did not help with my personal confidence but I am starting to get some headway after buying a beginner's guide and coding up their tutorial problems.

Ultimately, the questions I want to answer is this: Should investment forums be open or should it be closed like a walled garden?

The conventional model is to open up a discussion forum or FB group so that the forum can gain value as they get more likes, the final end-point may be monetisation as FIs get to advertise to the audience. 

Personally, I don't like this model. 

In practice, the forum becomes an enabler for FAs and all sort of dubious characters roam around the area PMing potential customers. I've seen quality posts taken a peg or two down even though the poster was data-driven and just wants to share. Some friends even claim that at least 20% of follow up comments are unnecessarily negative. An open garden invites free-loaders who plunder the community and generates toxicity for genuine participants.  

In my model, monetisation comes first with an investment program. As I do not spend my earnings due to my FI status, the dividends I receive from conducting my course ( now well over $1k per month ) allows me to make my ongoing offering better for my community that currently resides in a closed FB group. 

A walled garden allows me to curate who comes into my community and I have a handful of extremely loyal members who share goods stuff with the community. 

The next step is to build a bespoke web app for the walled garden to harness the hive mind to improve investment outcomes. Through voting, crowdfunding and generating comments, a smaller walled community can provide better quality information on various stocks. 

Right now my solution is just a simple blog framework with more advanced fields. Over time, I hope to implement voting and PDF download features to enhance the offering, even incorporate some data science into the offering as I can poll an API to provide some fundamental data on the tool. 

Over the short term, it reduces the administrative workload to conduct my program, but ultimately, my goal is to compete with my more quant-driven partners but to complement them for an end-to-end tool-box for students of my program. 

My coding skills are still quite noob right now, but I am going to add a feature to my app every day so that it can become a unique offering one day.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Next Project with a Neighbourhood School

I do not like to talk about ongoing projects before I have everything confirmed,  but it's not easy to contain my excitement over this. 

Fresh after my talk in RI, a neighbourhood school has contacted me to see whether I can do a similar event for them. This is an important opportunity for the following reasons:

  • The school self-identifies as being in the lowest decile in academic performance, with Normal Academic students out-numbering express students.
  • 25% of students are recipients of financial assistance. 
  • Some stories are quite difficult to swallow. These are not RI-level problems: A student dropped out to take on a role as a temperature checker to support the family. Another left school to cohabit with her boyfriend. 
With a different demographic, so my slides have to be totally over-hauled. 

There are a couple of ways to play this :
  • I was told that the students admire influencers and this may be a good starting point to pitch a presentation. Using the analogy of starting a food stall would be a lot more effective than an MMORPG. 
  • Working, saving and investing is too aspirational. I have to share some stories on getting out of debt on top of what I already do.
  • Very important to the students is that I spend time talking about lifelong learning. 
As a businessman, I do not think of this project as a fully altruistic one, I am working hard to refine my product further for B2B consumption. So having a wide audience will give me a better perspective on what can possibly be monetised at a later date. 

I will be putting more effort into this project and expect to donate some copies of The Richest Man in Babylon to the school library if they are willing to accept book donations. 

Readers who are educators can engage me if there are speaking opportunities in your school. The best time is when I am developing an MVP and can still speak for free. 

Opinions from readers on how to tackle this project are welcome.

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Artificial Intelligence Apprenticeship Program - Mission Impossible or a must-have in the modern resume ?

I was alerted by a reader who informed me of the existence of such a program. 

Unfortunately, the reader was not selected for the program but managed to tip me off to have a quick look at it. I downloaded the "field guide" which can be found here, and was quite stunned at how difficult it is to qualify for this program.

Here is my logic :

  • There is no official course to train someone to qualify for this program.
  • The self-study regime last 12 months and autodidacts must develop a range of skills from Python programming to data science to some expertise in deep learning to stand a chance to qualify.
  • The regime is hard. Even for a fresh grad who comes from some soft IS program would struggle with eigenvector decomposition to be able to start on the basics of AI work. 
  • The program requires some expertise in Microsoft Azure so experienced staff should become familiar with this as they may use a different platform in their work. I'm baffled as to why Microsoft technologies feature so prominently on this program. Even Elon Musk is not too happy at Microsoft's cornering of GPT-3. 
  • The latest update to the document was Feb 2020 so, theoretically, a person who works with the latest updated document would not be ready to qualify for the program yet. 
The entire program does not seem to make any logical sense. 

If you qualify for the program, you can achieve a training stipend of $3,500+. However, if you can successfully self-study for the course and gain skills in the document contained in the link, you should be able to ask for much more money from any start-up in existence - you are not some cheap-ass PHP/Javascript programmer that is a dime a dozen in KL. 

So it baffles me that this program is already running with actual candidates in the program.

So I have some cynical guesses as to how the program really works. Readers feel free to correct me if I am wrong.

a) One interpretation is that you really do not need to master the technology mentioned in the field guide to qualify. The selection process really selects for potential and not proficiency. Doing this will discriminate against older candidates vying for this program.

b) This is really a recruitment campaign and not an apprenticeship at all. They are looking for experienced AI personnel to be polished up in proprietary technologies like Azure to be hired by industry partners who already know which platforms to use. If so, I suspect folks with this skill set can ask for more somewhere else. ( Maybe in Silicon Valley )

If my guess is right, why should there be government support for this initiative? The benefits seem to accrue to just a few industry partners and individuals. It might even be better to reduce the stipend to $1000 and expand the program but have a higher rejection rate. 

I hope that there are actual AIAP apprentices who can shed light on this program.

Twenty years ago, the fact that it has a ridiculous rejection rate would make a 20-something version of myself rush headlong into the program without hesitation. 

This is even better than studying for the CFA.

Right now, I am too old for this shit and I would rather create my own webapp for my closed community. I think I earned the right to learn a new skill at my own pace. 

Still, the field guide is still indispensable as a "martial arts" manual for an IT professional to level up his powers, I hope the organization will launch a school like "42" in Singapore soon to build the AI ecosystem.