Sunday, February 27, 2022

My Path to Immortality


I think the question of immortality is an important one in personal finance because we do not know the time when we will leave the earth. That inability to predict when we will die forces academics to rely on mathematical models to simulate safe withdrawal rates. 

One standard idea I don't subscribe to is the concept of consumption smoothing, a futile modelling exercise that determines your standard of living given multiple variables like your income, your portfolio size and risk appetite. In my worldview, if you can establish a standard of living assuming that your lifespan is infinity, then that should be the way you should live - the excess should go into FIRE.

So I'm actually very interested in Longevity and the idea of living forever. Adding years to my life gives me a bigger incentive to load more money into CPF Life and take on the Basic plan that produces more monthly income every year. 

Sadly, in practice, I probably would live a life much shorter than most readers because I am a type II diabetic. Worse, thanks to CNY and poor discipline, my HBA1C leapt from 7+ to 8+, which means that I need to act quickly to bring it down again. 

The hikes I have with my young friends are not really helpful (but it is still fun) because the highlight of these events is often the food, and there's nothing to erode your willpower to resist good food more than a 12km hike.   

So I'm creating some lifestyle changes this week :

a) Bringing back intermittent fasting

I have tried IF on and off in the past but could never muster the willpower to sustain it. This is complicated by the cocktail of drugs I eat because it drives me ravenously hungry. Still, I have attempted to bring it back and so far reduced the number of meals I take to two a day.

b) Some swimming and hiking will be maintained with some resistance training

The moment I get comfortable on IF, I need to find a way to bring some resistance training back into my life which means that somehow, in addition to swimming, I have to start planking which is something I dread. I can barely plank 30 seconds but, according to my new physiotherapist friend from SIT and some googling, this is the best way to do resistance exercise. 

c) Added Resveratrol to my daily cocktail of nutraceuticals.

My drug cocktail is almost maxed out and my specialist now encourages me to do my own research into nutraceuticals. I discovered Resveratrol which is made from grape skin which has anti-aging properties and can improve my insulin sensitivity. 

The problem is that resveratrol is super expensive. $70 a month from GNC and my doctor pal tells me that my dosage is not as high as dosage researchers use in their experiments. If any reader has a cheaper way to get more of this, do let me know. 

d) Added Rybelsus into my drugs cocktail

This is the big one. Rybelsus is the latest and greatest diabetic drug that works on a new vector and can lower my weight further. It is also free because manufacturers are offering it to Singaporeans as a trial to convince hospitals to stock it. 

Right now I expect results in about 3 months and my doc explains that even if it works, the drug may not appear in government pharma for a while so I have to buy them from Guardian. 

I expect this to cost a bomb later, but then again, it may not even work for me. Maybe I should worry about the finances later. 

Sometimes, I wish that my fiscal discipline and savvy can transcend boundaries and make me fitter and healthier, but who am I kidding right? If this is easily applied to other domains, physical trainers can also become top hedge fund managers. 

There should be new content from me coming up on the Dr Wealth Blog this week. You can also sign up for my previews this week by clicking the links on my blog sidebar. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Making new friends from SIT


A long-time reader contacted me a few weeks ago and invited me to speak in SIT in an event conducted by a breakaway public speaking club that splintered off the Toastmasters movement. We spent some time trying to make the event a reality until SIT bureaucrats wrote to me seeking acknowledgement on three sets of rules that I had to follow during the event. 

One rule which I cannot abide by was that I am not allowed to disparage SIT as an institution during my talk. 

I felt that this rule infringed on my freedom to express candid points which, if I'd executed the talk, would ultimately do SIT students a lot more good than ill. It is also unfair that a tenured professor can flout this rule without threatening his career.   

So let me give you an idea of the speech I intended to give :

  • I hoped to open with a comparison of salary and employment data on the latest graduate employment survey. Although the data is not in yet, I believe that there is a salary gap between NUS and SIT if current trends from last year persist. 
  • I will also review the apprenticeship results and compare that with papers written by government economists to build up my case further. If what I read is correct, apprenticeship numbers are too low to move the needle at the moment to even justify sending my own kids to a polytechnic.
  • What I will attempt to draw from my data is to support the conclusion that an SIT graduate would need more than just their degree paper to compete against the Big 3 Universities. Life is unfair.
  • I will propose "qualifications laundering" to resolve the issue - SIT graduates can trawl through Coursera to "graduate" with Ivy League or MIT credentials based on topics of their interest. This is a signal that they are truly passionate about their career.
  • They should also supplement their resume with a CCA leadership record.
  • Finally they will search for jobs that they only a rare few would enjoy. ( Eg. Embalmer )

In my planned structure, there will be multiple points where I can be seen as disparaging not just SIT but also some government policies. Even if my reader would enjoy my presentation, I doubt he can guarantee that I would not hurt the feelings of some of his classmates. The likely outcome may be getting cancelled like Jordan Peterson. 

So I made the decision to cancel the talk.

 If I'm going to acknowledge a set of rules, I should sincerely abide by them. In this case, I know I can't.

I think both myself and the students have worked hard but could not come up with a program and there was wasted effort on both sides, so I got them out and bought them some coffee. I also suggested a few names who can replace my speaking slot.

SIT students turned out to be great ambassadors who spent time explaining to me their coursework. I was informed of many misconceptions I have about SIT - there are actually A level students in the program. 

It was also a great learning opportunity for me. The valuable ideas I got from them is how young people look at their personal finances and it's very DeFi and crypto-centric, I promised that what I learnt from them would influence the training I am about to conduct. 

Overall what is my impression of SIT? Actually, it's always been positive because Dr Wealth sales staff are products of the program and I am a beneficiary of their excellent work ethic. 

But I did make a disclaimer - I have been super candid about polytechnic graduates and private degree holders on this blog, given what I read I doubt I'd even spare NUS Science grads in a future article - so it would not be fair to talk glowingly about SIT simply because I really like their graduates. 

I would like to review the graduate survey numbers before I set out a concluding article on SIT. 

The NUS and NTU survey numbers are out, I'm still waiting for SUTD, SUSS and SIT.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

New Product Launch - Cryptocurrency for Conservative Investors !

Yesterday, we've just finished a practice session of my new product launch and, boy am I grateful to have business partners. As the creation of sales materials and the product is simultaneous in my industry, the material I built meant for tonight was somewhat inadequate with quite a number of flaws, so I spent the past two days improving it for the mainstream audience.

But tonight I am ready. 

At 7.30pm, 16 February 2022, I will be conducting a preview of my second product Cryptocurrency for Conservative Investors. This product is designed for investors who are thinking of taking up a fresh position in cryptocurrency but are sceptical of the ridiculous push that cryptos have been getting in social media.

My course offering has a unique number of strengths. We've already built a network of partners and a library of tools in the ERM program that can readily be deployed to analyse and manage a portfolio of cryptocurrencies. On top of reading voluminous tomes on crypto investing, we're ready to challenge existing orthodox views on crypto investing. 

We've also got the backing of some older academic ideas. 

This is a discussion that will bring different generations of investors together. We will attempt to unify the prudence of Boomer and Gen X along with the dynamic optimism of Gen Y and Gen Z. 

Mor specifically, I will discuss the following :

  • Generational considerations when it comes to cryptocurrency.
  • What a conservative investing profile for cryptocurrency should look like.
  • What precautions need to be taken before starting a journey in crypto investing.
  • How to complement an existing portfolio with a position in the cryptocurrency
You can sign up by following the link here :

As it is almost a trial run, we have yet to ramp up marketing efforts, so it should be a cosy meeting later. If you are free, why not come along to have a discussion with me. 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Valentine's Day thoughts in 2022


In spite of a busy schedule, this blog should say a few words for readers every year on Valentine's Day (VD). This year, I've decided to borrow some heavy firepower from Laurence Kotlikoff who is an economics professor who wrote this wonderful book called Money Magic. The book is kinda hard to read as it focuses a lot on the US context, so quite an amount of work is required to re-contextualise it to Singapore and I must say that it has changed the way I think about personal finance and these changes do percolate into my training materials.

I'm just going to focus on some main points made by Kotlikoff on marriage. I think marriage has taken a hit in Singapore as young folks have much better options to settle down. For guys, they can farm their crypto coins at double digits yields to live a carefree life playing Lost Ark all day. For girls, well there's plenty of literature to convince them that it's no fun to be married and have kids. 

I still think that there is ample evidence to support marriage in modern societies even though major issues like divorce and kids increase the risk of going through the process. Here's what Kotlikoff have to say in his book :

a) Marriage is about economies of scale within a household.

Romantics prefer Shakespeare Sonnet 116 when it comes to marriage. Even I included lines of it in my marriage album. 

In practice, I prefer to use economic data. 

A single person aged 65 needs $1,768 a month to live a dignified existence. A couple of the same age needs only $2,419. The rule of thumb across societies is that marriage cuts expenses for each party by about 20%, so much so that US levies a marriage tax penalty when rich people shack up. Singapore actually gives you HDB benefits as a couple. This should offset nerf single living.

The main issue with this argument is that young folks live with parents so they won't feel the premium associated with coupling, but the numbers become very clear after age 65.

b) Ceteris Paribus, you should marry someone rich  

I had lunch with a doctor pal and ask him what happens to single women who become medical specialists. He said they struggle a lot because they are always looking for someone better than them. One of his colleagues is dating some CFO of a company who is in his 50s even though he is triple-divorced. He even said he can introduce them to me but they might be twice my size, conveniently ignoring the fact that I am married with kids. ( Maybe these doctors don't mind. )

But if I'm single, why not? 

On first inspection, it looks like advice for gold-diggers but Kotlikoff meant for the advice to apply across different genders. If you marry rich, you can raise your standard of living and you can do this without penalizing the other party because of point (a). Kotlikoff argues that wealthy people can provide just the same amount of care and love, poor people can give. 

I agree with Kotlikoff, but he should account for psychological studies. Some folks are rich because they're disagreeable. I can't make a pile if I listen gullibly to a commissioned financial advisor. But rich people are hedgehogs. 

We're spiky on the outside but we're soft underneath. 

I think the only difference is that rich people can't complain publicly about anything because of "first world problems". 

If your Lambo develops a flat tire, go ahead and cry me a river. 

c) Divorce happens, but plan for it.

Western societies have high divorce rates, Kotlikoff has really great but unpalatable advice for folks planning to get married. 

One approach is to use a prenup but there are simply too many complications to make it work here with the Woman's Charter. But the best advice squares with my short stint in Family Law. Divorce only if it is profitable to do so. In other words, ask yourself whether you hate the other party so much, you have to lower your standard of living by, say, 35% Another tip is to agree on the standard of living post marriage. then work towards that number involving as few lawyers as possible. 

I don't see warring couples doing this in practice, so good luck to you.

Anyway, I noticed that singles have been too quiet on VD. If you have nothing else to do, better don't visit a watering hole, they are playing a lot of sad songs by Air Supply today according to my single friends. 

But this book and read it!  

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Spinning the Wheel of Misfortune


Some readers may notice that there's a certain radio silence coming from me. The first reason is that I don't have to market my next ERM course until March 2022. The second reason is that I'm busting my ass trying to complete building my cryptocurrency course that is targeted at conservative investors. You can expect the first preview in about a few days on 16th February 2022 and I must say that if you want to catch me while I am still raw and may cock-up a course preview, there is really no better time to catch me. 

( Sign up in this link ! )

Today I'm going to talk about two scenarios. Which scenario do you prefer?

A) You earn a bit, other people earn a lot, and get in your face about the whole matter.
B) You lose a bit, other people lose a lot, and you have the option of getting into their face.

If you have been doing local stocks focused on dividends, then for the past 10 years, you are experiencing (A). But recently, because of the Tech Rout, you may be going through (B). 

My recommended single stock United Hampshire REIT  in a Dr Wealth event last year did not do well since the recommendation was made when it was $0.75 and it is now only $0.625. But since putting up that position,  it earned about $0.03 US cents in dividends, so it's a 13% loss. But another stock recommended in the same panel was Palantir which was a Tech crowd favourite that got a recommendation at $24 and it's now trading at $14. 

That's a 42% drop. And I am elated. 

The truth is, for most dividends investors, our characteristic portfolios have a heavy dose of mean reversion, we do bounce back, short-term is fine and I'm even leveraged above x2.

As dividends counters recover with leverage, something interesting happens, your collateral increases while technology stocks drop. This is compounded more aggressively if you received leveraged dividends at the same time. 

I call this The Wheel of Misfortune. 

Imagine a wheel with different investing possibilities: Cryptocurrencies, US Tech stocks, Chinese Tech Counters, local Tech, local data centre REITs. When SG Banks began to climb this year, leveraged investors get to Spin the Wheel of Misfortune. 

I think some of us are playing this game wrong. I'm seeing more messages congratulating dividends investors for their wisdom and no one seems to be rubbing it into the STI recently. I think trying to emulate dividends investors is the dumbest thing to do right now - I have millions of dividends counters accumulated over the past 15 years and it produces an MP's allowance every month. 

To play the Wheel of Fortune, you need to see who is bleeding the most. Who is the quietest on social media after months of non-stop flexing and bragging on social media with their magical ability to find growth stocks or alt-coins. The kind of beta males who go on a Tinder date and then, with no career to speak of, spend hours regaling their dates with stories of their cryptocurrency trades, earning a blacklist from the ladies.

Now is the hard part.   

As much as you may disagree with their flexing and self-aggrandisement, you need to take this latest round of dividend payouts and shop for counters that are producing the biggest amount of hurt for their investors.

I've got a lot more collateral on my Interactive Brokers account and after spinning the Wheel of Misfortune, I think Palantir seems to be hurting the most. I went in on IPO day and I paid $10.50. Now it is trading within $12-$14. I did overpay sometime ago for $24 so my average price is only $15. 

So I've been buying Palantir up throughout this week, from $12 to $14. I've quadrupled my position so far and I'm likely to go further over the next few days. These days, I'm less afraid of a margin call - I have enough stablecoins farming yields that I can withdraw to avoid liquidating my leverage portfolio. I'm also supplemented by dividends from an unleveraged portfolio. Do note that I know very little about PLTR, IMHO, it's impossible unless you've handled their Gotham or Foundry software yourself. I doubt the gurus know anything about the counter.

I think it's time the reader spins the Wheel of MisFortune too. Other candidates for me include ETH or HK Tech ETF 3067.  

At least when the kuailan comes back in a few months ( and you know it will happen), I've got a credible tech and cryptocurrency portfolio to share the joy of these flex bros. 

This blog will reduce its update frequency until I complete my work to launch my Cryptocurrency for Conservative Investors programme.

Wish me luck !


Friday, February 04, 2022

Your attention is an asset that needs to be allocated well


Even as you attain FIRE, you will still have 24 hours a day. If you are unable to manage your time, you will spend the rest of your life drowning in Netflix series and computer games which will never end. This makes Indistractable by Nir Eyal relevant self-help for folks who don't really need self-help books anymore. Ultimately, your attention is your most valued asset and needs to be allocated with a lot more care than maybe even your financial capital.

I will share three ideas that can make an immediate impact on your lives.

a) Timeboxing your day

The first idea is to timebox your day and allocate your hours to perform specific tasks. Because we get interrupted quite easily, allocating your time to a specific appointment or job, would not only make you more efficient, it can also make time for tasks that involve rest and relaxation.  The author even has templates, but I think Google Calendar should suffice.

b) Turn off desktop/tablet/mobile notifications

 I was beating myself up for not figuring this out earlier. Notifications can be a time drain we don't appreciate how annoying they can be until we realise that your life is being run by them. You can get more stuff done if you disable notifications on your desktop, but this should extend to messages and Whatsapp on your mobile phone. I'd also like to point out that if you need to be notified of the price level of your investments, you're not investing right.

c) Use Pocket or Instapaper to read an article later

I actually don't use this hack because I read RSS Feeds with Feedly so I'm ahead of the curve. But sometimes a friend sends me an article to read and I should have a system to push it offline so that I can read an article in batch. This is probably a worthy investment of money to get an app to do this. 

To wrap up all the tips and tricks in the book, the author proposes a fairly effective idea to make these interventions stick. One way is to create a personal identity and see yourself as someone who is 'indistractable'. 

But I think crafting your identity this way lacks ambition.

I think if we can accept that crafting an identity can make positive and permanent changes in our lives, I would prefer to see myself as an "expert in asset allocation". We are not just good at putting our money into different securities to earn a good return, we are also really good at allocating our time. If you extend this idea that financial capital is just the tip of an ice-berg and there are other forms of capital like social and cultural capital, then this expands the power of your new identity quite dramatically and you can think of some tips beyond just reading this book.



Tuesday, February 01, 2022

虎 cares ? I do ! Because Grand Duke of Jupiter !


If I believe the Feng Shui Masters, I'll be experiencing a tough year as those born in the year of the Tiger will come under the influence of the Grand Duke of Jupiter, which is sort of like having a very fierce celestial auditor looking over your shoulder for the entire year. The year is not totally a disaster, and Joey Yap even said that this is not the year to be passive and low key. By taking bold action, the year can pay off for folks like me for years to come. 

It is no accident that things are already shaping up to be rough. As the lockdowns get more sustained, we find that investment training has gone online and it has attracted a lot of newcomers who want to give this career a try which creates a larger supply. This has turned the entire industry into a red ocean with my own revenues dropping over the past two years. 

So this has to be the year things turn around. I will launch an online programme to show conservative investors how to incorporate cryptocurrencies into their existing portfolios. I hope to bring the quantitative framework and candid approach to cryptocurrency investing that will be different from other programs. 

To make this happen, the articles on Dr Wealth will change slightly and will be pivoting to more crypto content and my ERM previews will cease until around March 2022 after I complete designing the new course. 

I suspect I have a different way of creating training material. I start with a skeleton of my slide deck and add material whenever I find something useful in my readings, I have read quite a number of cryptocurrency books already, but naturally, slides need one more level of refinement to capture the current state of the crypto markets. 

Right now the material I will include in the programme is still fluid as I'm still in the business of slide building. I also have no idea how pricing will be done because this is designed to be very much hands-off.

I'm also facing multiple challenges getting this programme out, while there is enough material to get things up and running for an older investor who wants to get into crypto, I think my personal reputation as a trainer will not survive if customers conclude that it's possible to google everything I teach which is why I treat this almost like a final year thesis to write my stuff.  Another question is whether I will hard fork or soft fork my ERM community, which I treat like my closer pals. 

Finally, I won't launch a course without a real portfolio of my own. Right now, I'm still building my own cryptocurrency reserves and a significant amount of dividends will be channelled in that direction based on the materials I build. In this sense I am lucky - the crypto crash opened up the possibility of bargain hunting and I'm definitely not buying at ATH.

Anyway, enjoy the preview of my personal notes, they are not ready to be lecture slides (yet) and you decide for yourself whether the opening GIF made by the trolls of Dr Wealth accurately portray the lives of their trainers.