Thursday, September 30, 2021

Are FInancial Advisors playing their own Squid Game in Singapore ?


A few days ago, Ivann Fok of beeped me on Messenger and told me that I should watch the Squid Game, he thinks there's at least one blog article that I can write based on this show. 

Turns out he is right. 

If you have not watched the Squid Game on Netflix, do it ASAP. If you can't afford Netflix, maybe skip the next 2-3 years of drinking bubble tea to build a self-sustaining Netflix subscription with local stock dividends.   

The Squid Game will mean different things to different people but primarily people will resonate with it's very gloomy critique of capitalism. 

I'm going to do my own spin on the Squid game and you are free to decide where it is a commentary about financial advisors in Singapore. 

This article assumes that you have watched the entire series.

To me, Squid Game answers the question as to what happens to folks who are (1) unlucky or (2) lack intelligence and conscientiousness. Every society has such folks - folks who may not be able to survive the academic grind or, somehow, met the wrong people at the wrong time. The result of this is a precariat - folks with zero financial, social or cultural capital.

In Singapore, a sales role exists to allow the precariat to turn their lives around. This is usually in real estate sales, entrepreneurs or in insurance sales where non-degree holders can end up living in a GCB. 

For now, I'm going to zoom in on insurance sales for this article because, well, a lot of my haters are in this industry. A similar argument can be made for all sales and entrepreneur lifestyles. 

Insurance is a second chance industry with, in my opinion, fairly lax academic pre-requisites. The minimum requirement is an 'A' level certification, polytechnic diploma or an IB cert. For a wider perspective, note that about 56% of 25-29-year-old Singaporeans have a degree today. You don't even need to meet the median academic proficiency level to sign up to be a financial advisor Singapore.

So with this example in mind, let's compare the experiences of an FA with various courses of the Squid Game.

a) Slapping game

The first encounter with a recruiter results in a slapping game. I think that is one of the key skills of being a successful FA or any salesman. Can you deal with rejection? I find it really accurate that you need to get slapped a few times before you get a cash payout. Imagine calling countless pals to meet up for lunch but getting asked whether you are FA and then getting rejected by someone whom you knew for decades. 

But most of the folk who carry on are those who can swallow these few rounds of rejection so they can move on to the next round of the game.

b) The Squid Games

The Squid Games have six-rounds, all of which has brutal consequences. I will quickly run through each round and which areas, in my opinion, are similar to financial sales work.

  • The first game is Red Light, Green Light. 

To me, this is a game of compliance with local laws. Non-compliance is fatal. When you take on client's money, there are established steps that are not negotiable. Especially if funds come from overseas. 

  • The second game is using a needle to remove a pattern from a honey-combed sweet. 

This is a test of speed and precision. Conscientious folks are better at this and every shape is a triangle for them. Those who are not born to be precise will see every shape like an umbrella. This could mean keeping up meetings with prospective clients and making the right recommendations for them. The complexity of products that are being sold can be high.  

  • The third game is tug of war. 

This is a pure test of strength. Insurance and investment products often have to deal with substitutes. Previously, for FAs it was a fight to the death against Buy Term and Invest the Rest. Now Financial Advisors right now seem very concerned about Robo-advisors. Almost every day, a salesperson needs to deal with objections, very often from products that levy a fraction of the expense. 

  • The fourth game is a game whereby you find ways to divide marbles between yourselves

This is a test of conscience and the most heart-wrenching test I my view. I teared when Ali died after being tricked by Sang Woo. 

I will illustrate this with only one data point as I think a story is better. A very competent and ethical FA once told me that he sold a long-dated lock-in product to uniformed personnel who seemed to have an iron rice-bowl job. A few years later, he was dishonourably discharged and had to surrender his policy. The guilt from making the sale made him switch to primarily AUM career. 

There will always be a conflict of interest in the FA industry. Commissions are fixed but outcomes are not. Someone will always lose their marbles when a transaction is being made.

  • The fifth game of crossing the glass bridge with random panels made to collapse. 

This is simply about luck and timing. Maybe you started in a pandemic and got a few friends to buy a policy but you get MDRT because the threshold was lower in 2020. Others entered at a bad time and had to quit. 

  • The final game is a Squid Game which is just a game of tag played by two guys. 

At the end of the day, the FA industry, like real estate sales, is a Tournament. The large number of folks at the bottom can barely eke an existence but there is very little room at the top. This is why only one person can win the Squid games.

c) Old man and VIPS

 If you are good enough to be a VIP, then it means that you've joined the directors of these FA companies that essentially get to bet on rookie agents like horses. Get the right kind of agent and you can profit from the sales commissions. VIPs are portrayed very negatively in the series.

But the real winner is the Old Man or player 001. He's free enough to play the game and yet exit in safety no matter what the outcome is. To me, any one of us can be the Old Man if we own shares in Insurance companies. As of now, I'm still holding onto my China Pacific Insurance and Suncorp shares.

The overarching question

Finally, I think Squid Game as a series does pose the question for policymakers. 

To reduce the financial burden of the middle class, it is very easy for a policymaker to press a button and ban commissioned sales and enforce fees for financial advice, and raise academic standards at the same time. 

This will mean the end of the Squid Game.

But why do people continue playing the Squid Game even when the police have all the evidence that such a game exists?

The show answered that question and the answer should scare you. 

For the folks who are drawn into the Squid Game, the game is a rare moment of personal agency and fair play that has been denied to them by society at large.   

As such, I leave you with no answers as to what the policy intervention from MAS should look like. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

You should prepare for your professional decline

I spent the greater part of my morning adding Fractal Market Analysis into my Early Retirement Masterclass Web App. Even as I've automated the process of rolling out new code into the cloud, half of the time I was trying to cope with some fundamental changes in the way we do software engineering - for example, today I learned the hard way that Github now requires two-factor authentication. 

On the other hand, today is a special day for local dividends investors. 28th September 2021 marks the end of dividends season for Q3 2021. If you've been playing the same game as I do, 4.30pm is a great time to look at your bank account, after which you will not see much moolah for the next 6-8 weeks.

The question I want readers to ask themselves is: how long can you do your shit until you start feeling the effects of professional decline? 

This is inspired by an article on the Altantic (link).

The gist of the article is that there are two kinds of intelligence.

Your fluid intelligence determines how open you are to new ideas and how quickly you can grasp concepts and manipulate symbols. I suppose getting work done on a web application depends more heavily on fluid intelligence. As time goes by, not only does my productivity drop, until I find a way to hardcode my password into my batch operations, I find myself using authentication tools twice every time I pus my code into the cloud. 

The bad news is this: Fluid intelligence also begins its decline when you hit your 50s. It's actually quite scary if you map this to local data as it mirrors a Singaporean's salary decline as well as shown in this super recent Dollars and Sense article here.

Fortunately, there is a way out.

There is another kind of intelligence called crystallized intelligence that continues to grow and develop as you age. If you play a lot of D&D, this is Wisdom rather than Intelligence. Developing crystallized intelligence is like building a dividends portfolio - it pays regardless of your age. Sometimes the older you are, the larger your pay-outs.

The trick in managing your career is to pivot from a high-paying fluid intelligence career before your 50s into an area where you can depend more reliably on crystallised intelligence.  Right now I am really curious about Quantum computing, but the paradigm shift is really drastic, I need to move from bits and bytes to the realm of qubits, Hilbert spaces and Bloch Spheres. It's not a game I can play when I hit my 50s. So instead, I'm better off refining my training program, figure out how to present my materials better to rookie investors, and developing a broader helicopter view on personal finances.

This realization about life shows that most PMET folks here are doing well by virtue of their fluid intelligence, to survive deep into your personal Autumn, somehow you will need to monetise your organizational savvy and wisdom which means you need to take on a more mentorship or trainer kind of role. Alternatively, you may need to build up your social networks.

Otherwise, your professional decline is inevitable. 




Sunday, September 26, 2021

Why guys with Cultural Capital can be extremely dangerous

I was going about my business when drama finally arrived in the Singapore Literature space. For folks in the Financial Wu Lin who may not understand what has been going on, the literati in Singapore are almost fully dependant on just a few venues to come together to conduct events. One of these venues was a bookstore called BooksActually. 

The best way to catch up on the latest happenings is to read this expose by Rice Media.  

I'm one of those dads who have a very artistically-inclined daughter. My daughter just passed Grade 3 ABRSM piano and her drawings are often feted by her school. One of my favourite places to bring my daughter was Basheer Graphics which I also visit very often these days on my own. One of my biggest fears is that after she grows up she begins to dally around boys who are also "artistic". If the guy can shake off his artistic inclination and end up being a lawyer, that's fine by me. But not all guys do. 

What happened to BooksActually elves is a nightmare for dad's with artistic daughters. 

In my last article, I wrote about the kind of woman to avoid and I used the example of Whitney Duan as the kind of ENTJ Queen Bee to avoid unless you really enjoy being emasculated in a relationship. 

It looks Rice Media has answered the question for men.

Ok, let's talk about the operating system (OS) that runs on most of us straight men. 

When we men meet, after short pleasantries, the first thing we do is to setup hierarchies. This often arrives after the we execute the API function call "So, what do you do?" and receive the reply. Once all replies are received, we men begin to silently rank each other to the totem pole. The wealthier guys become senpai and may be saddles with responsibility to pay for drinks. They also get more leeway to spread worldly wisdom, like being the Jack Ma of the Kopitiam. The less wealthy have to settle with being more deferrent but hey, at least there is male company. If you are a guy amongst women, regardless of your position, you may end up playing Sebastian the Black Butler. 

But there is a complication. Capital comes in multiple forms. That hierarchy I described is about financial capital. It's a simple matter of who got the biggest dick will win.There is also social capital. Social capital in China can trump financial capital because you've seen how obsequious business can be when facing civil servants.

If you are an Ah Beng and do not come from privilege, the only way to play the game is through the cultivation of cultural capital. 

Who has loads of cultural capital ? Poets and Writers.

Now, what if you do not have the talent to create literary works?


Learn a thing or two from landlords, become a gatekeeper. Become a rentier in the creative economy.

Once you are the only source of income from Poets and Writers, folks will begin to surrender their cultural capital to you.

The power of having a monopoly at play means that if you commit an atrocity against your own staff. The poets and writers who benefitted from you financially have a dilemma. If they keep an eye closed, then they are hypocrites because they are part of a culture of progressive value of the left. If they cancel you, you can stop ordering their books and substantially hurt their bottom line. 

The financial blogosphere will never have such a problem because there is no monopoly and FIRE folks are hard to cancel unless you can convince CDP not to pay out their dividends. 

So I'm going to summarise the lessons for female readers on how to avoid becoming someone's else's Elf. 

When meeting a potential date with a male, assess what is his strongest capital.

Tech workers these days have very strong financial capital but very little of everything else. These guys are safe and reliable and will benefit from the contacts and fun you bring into the relationship. 

Hippies or the Bohemian Bourgeois are the opposite. They go no cash to back themselves up, but they can make your life living hell because he knows a lot of people and have a lot of access to cultural events. You may mistake him as an easy catch and can even control his wallet, but he can make your life living hell. 

No prizes for guessing which guy I prefer for my daughter. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Dating Lessons from Red Roulette


The books shown above was strongly recommended to me to my pals on the finance chat groups. However, I initially wanted to restrain myself from reading Desmond Shum’s Red Roulette before presenting my materials on China investing because I was sure that it would bias my thoughts negatively against China.

My suspicion turns out to be right because if I had read this book before I invested in some counters in the Hang Seng Chinese Enterprises index, I would definitely deploy my capital elsewhere. 

This is a wonderful guide for investors who really want to know how the underbelly of Chinese corruption works. It is also a careful illustration of how guanxi really works.  Although the author had an axe to grind against China, he was fully prepared to name names and I’m pretty sure that China will take revenge on him one day. Of the parts that are valuable to the reader, the understanding of factions within the Communist Party is particularly enlightening. It should also answer the question as to whether China is still being led by a reformer. An important considering if you read this article against my Dr Wealth article on China that will see publication pretty soon.

As this blog is where I talk about more leisurely stuff, I feel that the real value of Red Roulette is for single guys to know what kind of woman to avoid in the dating market. As it is a novel where there are no real good guys, I think the character of Whitney Duan is the true star of the show that makes the story shine. Her antics make the book a page turner and the final product reads like Crazy Rich Asians, except that this is a true story and it is 10x worse than any piece of fiction by any Singaporean author. 

Here are some lessons that a single guy can learn from this book:

A) A purely logical and transactional relationship is an epic disaster

Whitney Duan probably had the worse way to get a relationship going. She told her hapless husband that a relationship can be cultivated over time provided that there is a logical basis for the union. Desmond represented the West and had impeccable skills to attract foreign investors and do the sum. Whitney takes the cultivation of Chinese politicians to the level of an art form. She surmises that they can make a lot of money together as a couple and love and grow out of this. 

Folks who read my blog know how logical I am at meeting and dating women. But the bottom line is that I’m still a guy so I’m quite visual and my final decision is no different from what most guys will make. Whitney’s idea makes my blood run cold and I thank the lucky stars I did not meet someone like this in my 20s - I might actually fall for this logic.

B)  Control over money can destroy a relationship

Of course, after courtship, the relationship goes straight to hell. Whitney’s idea of controlling her husband is done by controlling all the money. Even though Desmond plays his part well and is in charge of executing projects, Whitney controls all the money. It got so bad, Whitney formally approves all of Desmond’s expenses. Her strategy for divorce follows the same pattern - she tried to turn Desmond into a pauper and even tried to shift the divorce proceedings to China where she can exert influence over the judge. Desmond had to threaten publication of his story to gain a small settlement.

Fundamentally, Whitney is the kind of woman who was driven by her insecurity. Her idea is that all she can do is to cultivate guanxi and she is worried about becoming a fifth wheel when the operations go international and function in a less corrupt environment. Her desire for control ultimately destroyed the relationship.

C) Lies cannot be the foundation of the relationship

The part which affected me the most was the point of time when Desmond actually found out after years of marriage that Whitney was actually older than him by 2 years. When confronted with this, Whitney reasoned that she cannot afford to have her age affect such a strategic union. So the entire marriage was built on a foundation of lies. Age is something so fundamental that this should be sorted out way before parties sign on the dotted line. 

One funny effect of reading this book is that I ultimately have much more respect for the Chinese Communist Party, women like Whitney Duan needs to be kept under lock and key and never be allowed to endanger the rest of the male gender. 

How can we apply this learning at the street level? My pals have constantly warned me against ENTJ women, ladies with the same MBTI profile as myself. ENTJ is not a bad personality trait for a guy because we take control and can cut through a lot of bullshit to get a lot of stuff done. The problem happens when women are ENTJ and have to live in a patriarchal Asian society that has expectations on them. So these ENTJ women start to scheme and play the queen bee, as they get older they still need men in their lives so they lie and scheme to manipulate everyone around them. Often the biggest victims are the women who end up working with them.

Anyway, I doubt I will lose ENTJ female readership from writing so directly about them on this blog. A true ENTJ woman will read Red Roulette and find better ways to hide their personality profiles.

I really hope Red Roulette becomes a movie one day, it will be a big hit.


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Machine-Age Humanities


With the closure of Yale-NUS, we managed to witness a round of whining from liberal arts majors from that institution. Even though I was a fan of having a liberal arts college in Singapore, I support the closure of Yale-NUS because it does not make sense to use my tax money to subsidize foreigners to study here, turn woke, and cross-dress on campus. Also, the pandemic employment rate of Yale-NUS is a joke - you can see this for yourself, the employment rate of these academic bluebloods is lower than our vulgar and provincial business school. 

There is a looming crisis in the field of Humanities. 

A part of the problem in the field is so specialised, there are very few jobs that specifically will require someone with a particular humanities major. The best jobs are in government and teaching, but our government can't absorb all humanities graduates into every ministry that we have. 

The second and bigger problem is that the humanities colleges in the West have been subverted by the political left. A student is not so much learning how to think critically and to develop a skill-set but to subvert capitalism and major institutions in Singapore. This is probably the other reason why the liberal arts have to go - let it fester and it will incubate a capitalist-hating fifth column in Singapore. 

Without a doubt, people want a new way of looking at the humanities. 
  • What kind of critical thinking skills will allow us to compete in the age of machines? 
  • What kind of training can allow us to remain relevant when algorithms begin to run our lives?
Kevin Roose in his book Futureproof : 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automaton attempts to figure out what these Machine-age humanities will look like. I'm going to briefly list them here and I strongly recommend that readers take a quick look at this nascent attempt at machine-age humanities :

a) You must be able to guard your attention and invest your focus like an asset. 
b) You should be able to read a room and modulate your behaviour according to what you read.
c) You should have a system to rest and recover from a strenuous work cycle.
d) You should have skills in digital discernment and be able to figure out whether there are commercial interests behind an article or whether the author is advocating for a cause and is thus biased.
e) You should develop social and emotional skills. What the author calls analogue ethics. The ability to act like a human being is becoming rarer as folks ghost each other on Tinder and prefer looking at their phones rather than having a conversation. 
f) You should understand the consequences of new forms of technology. When a new technology is rolled out, it will instantly divide the population into haves and have-nots. 

This list is likely incomplete. Right now I can imagine a software engineer levelling up with these skills and getting ahead of his peers, but I cannot imagine someone getting hired solely on developing expertise in this.


Monday, September 20, 2021

Some highlights from presentation to RI Sec 4 students

This is the second time I am presenting to RI secondary 4 students who are taking a gap semester with a finance specialisation. 

Before you start levelling allegations that I am an elitist, know that this is a good business move because if my material is good enough for RI it's good enough for any other school. I actually have a different set of slides for neighbourhood schools (which I spent a lot more time on because it can make such a big difference to kids from lower-income families).  My RI material has gone through two iterations and generally can demonstrate financial concepts by reference similarities with MOBA games. 

RI's strength is not that it has more resources from the government, its strength is that it can cut through the bureaucratic red tape that will allow the private sector trainers access to their students. This is a valuable testbed for new ideas - if someone from RI does not understand your slide, you should quit the training business. In my presentation today, I actually struggled to explain the 4% safe rate of withdrawal to them so I had to do it twice, which means that there's plenty of room for improvement when I conduct training elsewhere.

As usual, I did not earn a single cent from my effort - in fact, I donated two books to the winner of my quizzes so this is more like a pro-bono project I do when I am not conducting classes. 

I'm sharing some useful data I collected anonymously today. 

Here's a breakdown of the weekly pocket money they get, this can be a useful guide for parents to follow. Like every institution, most the kids have a fairly normal stipend but one of them does draw a bigger allowance. 

I also polled the method their parents wire the money to them, and was actually surprised that cash is still king. I'm still not seeing major fintech adoption here. 

As for my experience, RI definitely has a particular signature style quite unique to them that I don't see when I present to other schools or polytechnics. RI boys start out really hesitant, like solving a H3 level Physics problem, but once they establish a steady tempo, the really smart questions start to arise.  

Some caught me completely off guard.  

I was asked by a student what's the best way to use one's time after exams to which I replied that for kids my generation, we really played throughout our holidays and doing something "useful" was out of the question. Then I started feeling really shitty about the quality of my answers, so I did an entire discussion on mental models and why they are best off learning about how to find models to cope with ambiguous situations that they will encounter in real life. This led to an entire discourse on parents, tuition and why this is actually a prisoner's dilemma. Not satisfied with that, I told them, mental models from Literature can be useful in finance too, so I told them about Jane Austen's Mr Darcy and why Victorian women value their spouses from their income from their estates.

In summary, these are really intense kids who are not really just book smart. I have a question that I did not cover in my lecture notes and most of them got it right.

The question was keyed off the idea that your success in life is largely determined by how you invest your time outside work. 

Whoever taught these kids obviously did something right.

Of course, I could not resist making a quip about recent political events, I told them to believe in themselves even though someone in the Cabinet called their school a lousy school. 


Friday, September 17, 2021

Understanding Elitism in Singapore

This is supposed to be a busy pro-bono month for me as I ramp up my schedule to do some non-profit work and have been busy working on my next presentation to Raffles Institution. Next Monday, I will be rehashing a presentation I made some time ago on The Richest Man in Babylon but this time round, I took some steps to donate some books to quiz winners I intend to conduct as part of the program. 

Make no mistake, RI is a great brand that I want to associate my training programs with. The students are bound to have parents who will be listening in via Zoom and conversion is a definite possibility. But I’ve decided to donate some books because, as elite RI is, some students are on financial assistance, and I hope they get to win some of the stuff I have planned for them.

I am not as angry about Vivian Balakrishnan’s quip about Raffles Institution because this is not a signal of disregard for ordinary peasants but an expression of the rivalry between ACS and RI. It’s like Harry Potter and the rivalry between Gryffindor and Slytherin, it does not reflect VB’s views on ordinary folks like us. 

If anything, I would jump at the chance to speak to students from ACS, RI or HCI. 

What I find interesting is the media’s immediate reaction to sell Tan See Leng as an alumni of Monk’s Hill Secondary School because PAP is actually very self-conscious of their elite branding as a liability. The fact that PM Lee, Tan See Leng, Vivian Balakrishnan and myself are all NJC alumni, is not something that needs to be mentioned to the public right now. But two years in an elite JC is not long enough to build strong alumni bonds, I was drinking $1.50 kopi at Toast Box yesterday with my two NJC buddies and none of us were invited to any Illuminati meeting that can determine the fate of Singaporeans for years to come. 

( I think we spent more time complaining about PSLE math problems, one requiring some advance skills in tesselation or  Eight Queens recursion algorithm to solve properly. )

Elitism and classist inclinations will take a generation to cleanse from our society, and that’s only when it is in our interests to do so. 

I have my own personal model about our elite secondary schools. I call it the Great Wheel as it is inspired by the Game of Thrones.

I imagine Singapore education system like a wheel with RI, ACS and HCI on top and it rolls forward over all time but with us peasants at the bottom. You might be fixated with the school on top and get upset about a top secondary school, but the issue is really the wheel that keeps rolling on and on, there will always be a top secondary school as one displaces the other. You can evade the wheel, seek FIRE, or buy some shitcoin to avoid facing this kind of labelling at work or you can use the political process or 50 years of your life to attempt to Break the Wheel.

If an ACS boy inherited a lot of wealth, we can argue that he got lucky in life. But if an RI boy inherited a higher intelligence and conscientiousness, we have to accept that the genetic lottery played a big role in this as well.

Anyway, until I realised how elitist the government sector was, Breaking the Wheel was my personal fantasy. 

But these days, I suspect the PAP wants to Break the Wheel a lot more than I do. Alumni bonds are way too strong and can even threaten party coherence and loyalty to the nation state. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Come for my ERM Community Event Q32021 on 16th September 2021

Ok, as I'm 95% done with my slides, I should be able to share details on the next ERM community event. 

Date/Time : 16th September 2021 / 730pm

You can register for the event here :

The theme is employing the ERM framework on overseas markets. A large proportion of my program focuses on investing in the local markets and this creates the impression that I only teach investing in the local markets. Recently, I managed to enrol a student from Australia who has applied the same framework to the ASX and I've been piggybacking on his stock screens to make my first move into Australia. 

If the framework works Down Under, why not apply it to the most divisive markets today which is China?   

The community event will be divided into about three parts :

a) International Investing: Australia

I will be running through the entire ERM framework applied to Australian stocks. Students can treat this as an extension of the ERM programme that discusses how to build an Australian portfolio.

c) International Investing: China

The next topic is a hot one. One signal that markets have bottomed out is when a Dr Wealth instructor gets flak from random folks on the web for no rhyme or reason. 

I've independently done some work on explaining how a retail investor can think about China which should be interesting as I'm not really tainted by the talking heads in the media on investing in China. I try to read a popular book on international politics and then I will apply it to what I know about a country to form a conclusion.

At the end of the session, I will also be applying the ERM framework on making my first series of Chinese stocks. 

d) Update on the ERM portfolio

I will update everyone on how the consolidated portfolio is doing so far. It's not too bad and my students continue to make fairly smart moves in the market.

e) Fractal Market Analysis

From now on, I will begin to stretch the boundaries on what is possible in investment training, so I will pick really hard topics on Finance, topics that I barely understand, and I will try to teach them in a short public lecture. At this level, my task is to actually find a way to deepen my own understanding of the subject matter and this is largely inspired by Richard Feynman's technique where he would teach a topic to deepen his understanding of it.

I will be covering Fractals Market Hypothesis (FMH) which claims to address issues raised by the Efficient Markets Hypothesis. I will also demonstrate how these concepts actually work when applied to the local stock market. 

f) Alumni referral program

Finally, I have a fairly strong community of 565 alumni and I've made arrangements for them to earn their next cup of Starbucks Coffee with a referral program. 

Anyway, if you have nothing on Thursday evening, why not just pop in to see whether you understand what I spoke about. It should be challenging unless you are already part of my community. If it's all greek to you, at least you can debate with me whether my stance on China makes sense. 

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Does Singapore feel cheap ?


I've been busy preparing for the next community session where I will do some thinking about China, so I've been using the book The 10 Rules of Successful Nations by Ruchir Sharma to come up with a few pointers on how to think about China. The aim is not to be the final word on China, as I'm sure there are better investors out there on this topic, but a guide on how to interpret the news in a better way.

There is one point of analysis that I will not include in my presentation which I think I can share on this blog. 

One of the rules of a successful nation is that it must feel cheap at least to foreign visitors. 

This is a strange criterion because it is a subjective feeling of a country. Another criterion is that this is from a foreign perspective, so Singaporeans can't be arbiters as to how cheap we are. For me, Kuala Lumpur definitely feels cheap but the Gold Coast in Australia, with its $3 doughnuts feels quite expensive.

If I were to venture a guess as to whether Singapore feels cheap, I would venture to guess that foreigners should find Singapore expensive. The price of vehicles is enough to prove the point. Another rude shock is probably the price of beef that can be expensive compared to back home. but on the other hand, if the foreigner lives like a local, our hawker centre fare is way cheaper than many other countries. And let's not even think about the cost of domestic help.  Up until recently, you can even get Michelin star fare for less than $10 here.  

The author speculates that having a currency that feels expensive can be a powder keg if this is combined with an increase in the current account deficit.  When this happens, it is normally the locals who will flee the local markets and send their capital elsewhere. 

Thankfully when I checked our numbers out we are still on a surplus. 

The author suggests looking for cases where the country feels expensive followed by ballooning current account deficit to predict a crash. When the balance of payments gets restored to a surplus, investors should be able to earn a fortune from the market recovery. 

I still haven't figured out where to make out this game plan but I suspect a few of our neighbours might make great candidates.  

Friday, September 03, 2021

ERM Community Event for Q32021 - this time it’s all about China

The time is ripe for ERM to take a clear objective stand on China. 

One sign that is unmistakeable is that I was having lunch with another Dr. Wealth trainer and he was telling me that old “friends” who have been observing him are coming out from the woodworks to show some “care and concern” about his China positions. This is very familiar to me as it reminded me of March 2020 when I was having my own dark moment with S-REITs. 

So in my opinion, this is very much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a split will occur in your timeline and a lot of wealth will be either made or lost depending on which stand you will take. ERM is a slightly more advantageous stage as our portfolios are doing ok and can farm some winnings into the beaten counters in China.  

So there is no better time for thinking about China in a community event. 

I have not decided to take a bullish or bearish stance in my next community event yet, there is still plenty of research to do, but I intend to apply the ERM framework and start enumerating the key issues investors need to think about when they decide to put money in China stocks. If they do invest in the HSCEI, which factors will likely apply to give them the greatest chance of success.

Our next community event will be divided into three parts :

  • We will begin with short introduction on transplanting the ERM approach to an International market with Australia as a worked example.
  • We will then try to bring the same approach to China, but with some emphasis on the political situation there. 
  • Finally, we will also reveal ERM’s first referral program where alumni can refer friends and family to attend my courses. 

Members of the public may register for the event here, but 40% of the material does assume knowledge on the ERM approach. Like all community events materials will only be available within our closed groups :