Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Bridging the mating gap between men and women


I would not ordinarily read Motherhood on Ice by Marcia Inhorn, as I have bigger fish to fry like picking up quantum programming or maybe signing up for a ChatGPT prompt engineering course but I've already written a number of articles on this blog on egg-freezing and the book came under strong recommendation from my sociologist buddy.

For a married guy who is not vested in technology, but actually has two ex-eggs running around the house, the book is too much information for a dude to process. Not only do I need to be introduced to egg-freezing technology, I have to read sob stories from very successful professional women, who lay much of their dating woes on men. Ultimately, egg freezing is not so much about single female professionals, but it is also about the fathers, ex-husbands and boyfriends who often have to pay for the procedure. However, I did come off a bit more positive about approving this technology broadly here, but it would not fulfil the wishes of many professional women in Singapore because the problem is that men have better things to do, and, thanks to dating apps, younger women to date. Egg freezing is, therefore, more akin to insurance, something that gives professional women some peace of mind. It will not arrest the decline of our fertility rate.

If egg freezing is going to be more like insurance, then we can expect the medical industry to sell it as a form of female empowerment or a passport to focus on a woman's career. This is while some branches of feminism are actually against egg freezing, and in the sample, almost no one froze their eggs for career reasons.

The big elephant in the room, according to anthropologists is the mating gap. The pool of eligible, educated and egalitarian men is very rare and, channelling the other book I read Generations, adults are taking a long time to get their shit together. 

This leaves two groups of people on the shelves - professional women and low-status men. 

So every society has an imperative to change the way humans mate and get professional women to marry and form families with blue-collar men. 

In this case, anthropologists are warming up to the idea of mix-collar marriages. Now we have Phds lamenting the idea that if RGS marries an ITE guy, she is labelled as "settling". 

This is something as a blogger I'm really proud of as I have been blogging about this issue for years.

Some kind of agency needs to be launched, in fact, a whole of government effort, should be launched to address this mating gap. My projection is that we have to admit men into more degree programs, failing which, we need to make viable better non-degree tradesmen paths for men. Maybe even cut NS down to 1.5 years and pay NS men's Army regular salaries. 

My money is on Singapore succeeding in this effort after a few GST rises.

I think the bigger challenge is getting white-collar women to accept blue-collar men as life partners.

The idea of a dating agency that caters to professional women and blue-collar men has been mooted by anthropologists, but when I broached the idea with friends, both men and women are disgusted by the idea as we are an Asian after all and female hypergamy / male hypogamy is still largely the norm. Even guys who, on the surface, fantasise about the great life as a househusband, they get upset when I say what if their daughters support their husbands financially. One reply from a guy is that if his daughter does this, it would mean his failure as a father. This sums up most men in Singapore, they actually want some degree of financial independence, but get angry when their daughters provide for it some another guy. 

I think this mixed-collar dating agency catering to professional women - working-class men is currently the best idea there is. It may take a generation for a mindset change to come about, but we need a catalyst to generate some positive stories about these marriages. It may take a few high-CEP scholars to succeed in coming up with a first attempt. 

How do we sell this to blue-collar men? Off the top of my head, I would sell it this way - they just need to show up for a buffet spread where some mysterious women might try to engage in conversation with them. This sounds so good, even professional men want to do this ( but they are not invited )

I leave it to fine brains who read this blog to brainstorm ideas on how to sell this to professional women. 

This is too hard for me, let me get back to my Quantum computing texts.


Tuesday, May 30, 2023

New Preview Launch : All-Weather Portfolio Masterclass

Conventional wisdom probably does not support the idea of launching a new course in such a bleak economic backdrop, but I owe it to myself to grow professionally and all that coding on Python needs to be channelled into something that benefits everyone. 

So tomorrow will be the inaugural preview for my new course entitled All-Weather Portfolio Masterclass.

This is a program where I show students how to run and operate their own robo-advisors and construct well-diversified ETF portfolios that will generally do well in all different market conditions. 

I will be sharing a little bit on :

  • My views on the macroeconomy.
  • How a great investing strategy is like a good marriage and why poor profitable strategies can turn beginners off.
  • A brief summary of four uncorrelated strategies that can be built using computer code and how you can have not just one, but four robo-advisors running on your system with no coding knowledge required.
  • How we intend to teach this program, pricing details and timings.
Like all my previews, this new preview is a free mini-course that will add value to your lives even if you don't sign up with me. We've been quite good at this freemium model for a number of years.

I guess the fun part is that I am still quite raw so my presentation will not be as polished as m ERM product. 

You can sign up by following this link :

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Actually Gen X is more cursed than Millenials.


MissFITFI has just launched our latest collaboration on differences in Generations. You can listen by following the link here

A couple of days after doing the podcast, Jean Twenge wrote possibly the most comprehensive book on the differences between entitled Generations, and this has caused me to do a double take on the material I shared and in some cases, I cannot be more wrong. I hope that more objective readers will use this article as a guide to the podcast and if actually work in education or HR, this book is mandatory reading.

The first thing I'd like to point out is that there's an easy way to analyse all generations all at once. Generations are shaped first and foremost by technological changes that impact them. Secondly, every subsequent generation is becoming more individualistic and communitarian. Finally, adulthood for every generation is delayed further as adolescence gets stretched as it takes longer to train a person to be productive in the economy.

With this framework in mind, a few things I said in the podcast is wrong.

a) Actually Millenials are doing quite ok financially

As a highly educated cohort, Millenials actually earn well compared to Gen X by pure virtue of educational levels. The problem arises if you are an American millennial who is saddled with educational loans, for these folks their net worth is 11% lower than Gen X at the same age. The good news for Singaporean millennials is that they are not struggling to pay their educational loans, so I might venture to say that the gap in net worth may not be as bad as reported in the books. 

Gen X's biggest advantage here is that they get to buy homes when homes were well cheaper, but this cannot compare to the prices Boomers get. 

b) Millenials whine a lot because of social media 

If Millenials are doing better than Gen X or Boomers, then why are they such whiners? The answer is social media. As Millenials live in the age of Facebook and Instagram, they get hit by images of people having beautiful holidays and ridiculously picturesque lifestyles so it's harder to avoid envy. 

The fact that most folks don't share the harsh reality of life creates the impression that one's life can be better. I'm still waiting for Naomi Neo to share her household bills with us so that we will know what's required to live that kind of life.

Being bombarded by images of success (many inauthentic) create a generation with weaker mental health. 

c) Millenials do mature later and take a longer time to reach life milestones

We will definitely notice that Millenials become adults much later than Gen X. This is because it takes a longer time to train them to contribute to the economy. Take, for instance, reaching the CPF FRS. I was able to hit this target before I was 30 because the target was about $80k. Then compound interest took care of everything else. I don't think it's even remotely fair to expect a millennial to do the same.

Millennials will marry later and retire later than Gen X. I suspect over time, the sheer educational training MIllenials get will have them generate more wealth than earlier generations. 

d) If Millenials are cursed, it is because they are more individualistic than Gen X

We should expect Millenials to be more individualistic than Gen X. We should also expect the gender-fluid Gen Z to be even more so.

While it means being any gender or ay belief system, it also means the ultimate decay of religiosity and with it, avenues for building social relationships. I predict Singaporeans becoming less religious and community centres in their current form would become a waste of tax payer's money.

More millennials will die single, more will be lonely, and more corpses found next to gaming consoles.

Still, I can't argue that Millenials are cursed because Gen Z will be even worse!

All this being said, there are some harsh realities that Millenials face that Gen X does not. For one thing, most of the economic benefits for Millenials accrue to degree holders, specifically those with local degrees. Private degree holders face quite a big gap with their local degree counterparts. For Gen X, degree holders are a smaller part of the population so even if such a gap exists, it will grate on us this much.

Furthermore, as a younger generation, they could not participate in Singapore's miraculous growth into a wealthy city-state. Older generations will always seem like they are sitting pretty on the best real estate.

Still, as Gen X, we should also take a good look at our own generation. We are the CECA generation. One prominent IT professor called the technical professionals the Garbage in Garbage Out generation. We weathered the dot-com crash, the great financial crisis, and the pandemic. As our numbers are quite small compared to Boomers and Gen Y ( in the US ), we will find that businesses, pop culture and political groups will tend to ignore Gen X as we don't make the numbers.


Saturday, May 20, 2023

Letter to Batch 30 of the Early Retirement Masterclass


Dear Students of Batch 30,

It’s been a great honour and privilege to conduct a 3-Day Early Retirement Workshop for you.

The 30th batch of the Early Retirement Masterclass faces a challenging financial market. China’s recovery from COVID-19 has stalled, and the US faces gridlock as Republicans and Democrats begin a political dance to raise the debt ceiling. Singapore’s GDP growth enters negative territory as inflation remains stubbornly entrenched in the 5% territory.

There’s much to fear in this market.

Consequently, we conducted the smallest class in the history of the program. The cosy atmosphere and skilful student body still allowed us to build a 17-stock portfolio despite each student doing independent research without a teammate. The portfolio we will track will also halve its size as I try to fit the 17 stocks into a tight budget of $10,000. A high yield of 6.5% helps.

But there is hope.

The equity risk premium we track is over 6%, and we have proof that students who conduct bargain hunting will be rewarded in the future. We are also seeing substantial discounts in the REIT space.

Whoever farms the most money into the markets over the next two years will reap the rewards in oversized returns when the market recovers.

The Early Retirement class will stubbornly cling to its survival. To ensure decent class sizes, we will conduct Batch 31 in October 2023 as I make way for an entirely new course in August.

Lastly, I hope Batch 30 will participate actively in the FB group. On 24 June 2023, we will meet face to face in our ERM Networking Session!

Hope to see you then!

Christopher Ng Wai Chung

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Personal Update

It's time for another personal update since I am in the middle of graduating from ERM's 30th batch of students and want to leave the heavier stuff for next week.

a) Left the Government Healthcare orbit

I've finally decided that the best option to manage my health would be to pay more and transition into private healthcare. I've since learnt that there have been many lapses in my diabetic and hyperactive thyroid management. According to records, the government system stopped monitoring my thyroid levels about 9 years ago and mixed two diabetic medications that would not ordinarily be administered together by the private sector. Consultations have also been draggy with long waits thanks to a really horrible IT system roll-out in TTSH. 

While I still respect government healthcare for being cheap and affordable, I no longer have the energy to read up and micromanage my own ailment to constantly be on the watch for lapses. At the end of the day, I'm not a medical professional and can't keep second-guessing whoever is providing medical care for me.

There are serious consequences when I make this decision because to maintain a low cost of management, I will have to spend more time getting medication from "cheaper sources". This means spending more time on bus 950. Government pharmacy dispensaries do not entertain prescriptions from the private sector. 

b) With my thyroid problems under control, I need to finish my story on regular employment

It felt weird to start legal practice feeling tired even at 9am in the morning after fighting normal traffic. I also did not do well canvassing files for my business. This will remain one of the most monumental and humiliating failures in my career, but at least I know that my energy levels were out of whack not because of middle age, but because I was ill.

But now with my thyroid hormones under control, I can take a long walk in the mornings, go for a swim in the afternoons, and then have enough energy to attend SME conferences.

While I'm going to look after my health moving forward, I should continue to pursue a full-time gig if the opportunity shows up. I was discussing with the FI telegram group that I am not like them. INTJs can just find more exotic interests and leave a trail of hobbies in their wake after financial independence. If an ENTJ like me is not working on getting more Money or more Power, we will languish. I still have an interview going on since early this year and see this as a good opportunity to finally push my CPF-SA to ERS levels. The bear market is also making it very lucrative to hold multiple gigs to stocks at a ridiculous discount.

Maybe 2023 is the year I succeed in doing well in multiple gigs.

c) ERM and the new All-Weathering Investment course is going to proceed

Even though I may entertain the idea of returning to regular employment, I am going to put in a lot of effort to launch my new course which will take place in August. We are aggressively going to push forward the new preview by the end of May. There are so many questions I want to answer about my new course as some folks are asking whether I am trying to become the next Ray Dalio. 

To make way for so many priorities, ERM Batch 31 will be delayed slightly to October for us to see whether my new ETF-based program has any legs to move. An investment course centred on computer code will be the first of its kind here. 

d) Markets will get worse before they get better

If you get a gig wearing a maid outfit but need to regularly get slapped by your mistress for $27k a month, this is the right time to do it. 

Market equity risk premiums are exceeding high and may even hit 2020 pandemic levels if China remains sluggish. This can generate a one-year discount window to just keep buying equities until recovery can be seen. The probability of Singaporeans entering a technical recession is no longer low. 

There is also the US debt ceiling wreaking havoc on Singapore portfolios right now. 

A safe factor to invest in would be to focus on value.

e) Reading and hobbies

I hope to be sharing more books I am reading as I've recently been reading fairly decent books. I have a podcast coming up talking about generational differences, but I felt it was really bantering without informed research, when the podcast arrives, I will be putting up an article to supplement it here. 

As for gaming, I no longer see myself as an active participant, but a distant observer. I will still go to games bazaars this June and will read RPG rule books as a hobby. As I enjoy training people, all my residual effort will be put into my jobs instead. In particular,  I am obsessed with all the latest playtesting documents of the D&D ruleset.

I still buy abstract board games to play with my kids.

All in all, 2023 has not been going my way, but now at least I have a handle on my health problems and can make headway to restore part of my revenues. The struggle will still go on and if I play my cards well, I can be rewarded when the economy recovers. 

f) Friends

There are times when I wish I had more friends to have a coffee with. I have regular friends but they are busy, so my newfound energy needs to be directed somewhere and I still put a huge premium on good conversation.

As I have emphasised before, Early Retirement is a networked good. It's only useful if more people around you are Early Retired. Waiting for your friends to retire is like watching the paint dry. 

But what I realise is that my students form an extended acquaintance network. Beginning next week, I will begin to promote a gathering of ERM Alumni quite aggressively, just to see how my students are doing in this nasty bear market. 

Monday, May 08, 2023

The Joy of Unsafe Rates of Withdrawals


There is a lot of talk about safe rates of withdrawal. I would venture to opine that discussions on the safe rates of withdrawal in this blogosphere are enough for more than a lifetime!

I think the problem with this train of discussion is that we don't spend enough time discussing the opposite of a safe rate of withdrawal and taking a leaf off Charlie Munger's page, I wish to invert this topic so that we can glean some insights on retirement planning.

Today I want to talk about why I prefer unsafe withdrawal rates and why most readers should agree with me more than anyone asserting a safe option.

Specifically, an unsafe withdrawal rate applies to an intermediate investor who builds a decent dividends portfolio and spends about the current yield annually. In today's market, if you successfully replace your expenses with dividends, you may withdraw about 6-6.5% of your portfolio, which would be mathematically unsustainable based on long-drawn studies by academics and my Monte Carlo simulations.

Here are the reasons why I prefer rates of withdrawal to be unsafe:

a) You need to be unsafe first before you can be safe.

One way of looking at the problem of creating a sustainable retirement is that, unless you are an inheritor like me, you won't leap from being a new entrant into the working world to having a sustainable pension. If you need $2,000 a month, with a safe rate of 3%, you need $800,000. If you live on 6.5%, you only need about $370,000. 

So regardless of what happens, you will reach the unsafe stage before you can even be safe. Consequently, you are more likely to reach the unsafe range than the safe range.   

b) Easier to convince someone to be financially independent than to be retired safely

If I propose a target of $370,000 instead of $800,000, I would have a lot of traction because it's not just about freedom from an earned income. It's actually solving a bigger problem in the Singaporean workplace. If you attend my preview, I'm not just selling dividends higher than personal expenses. 

I'm selling freedom away from a toxic work environment. 

This can get many millennials and Gen Z to sit up and listen.

I've gotten feedback from my students and readers of the blog that $300,000 is a lovely spot for them.

c) People need to anchor themselves to success

During sports day, my 7-year-old son won a medal even though his team was last in a running competition. Even though his team came last, my son bragged about his award, would wear it all day, and even wore it to his piano lessons. 

In my earlier article on my existential crisis, it's essential to have significant achievements to fall back on when you hit a mid-life crisis - medals in life matter. Generating enough investment income to cover monthly expenses is one possible anchor to your personality. It is a formidable achievement and is consequential to your life.

Most investors should not be bothered to double their portfolio targets mentally to hit a safe withdrawal rate. You work on getting there unsafely first, and $370,000 is definitely achievable for local PMETs.

So you live on your dividends first, then you find a way to secure your retirement plan.

d) So what if you are really unsafe

The weakness of promoting a dividends approach is that not everyone will continue to build up their wealth after reaching 6.5%. 

Having observed some people, I don't think it's anything that should be pinned on their "dividends mindset". They just hate working for other people. Another weakness is that addiction to current yields can lead to concentrated portfolios, which means diversification across different dividend sources do matter.

By this time, my Monte Carlo simulator can pull ETF data from Yahoo Finance and simulate what happens if you run down a SPY/AGG portfolio using high rates of withdrawals. This table lists how long the portfolio will last for the worst 5% simulations. 

This means we can sort of estimate how long your money will last if you decide to throw caution to the wind.

So for a 60/40 portfolio with a withdrawal rate of 6.5% and average inflation at 3%, we are looking at 14-15 years of fun living. 

But humanity is resilient.

People don't lie on the bed and draw down their portfolios to 0. 

People can cut back on expenses, draw from CPF Life, or join the gig economy. They can downgrade their homes.

Finally, does it mean we avoid attaining a safe withdrawal rate once dividends are high enough? 

It depends on your personality. 

As an ENTJ, my withdrawal rate is around 3%, but I still want a day job to supplement my trainer fees and hit ERS CPF-Life. Because I can't sit still and want to contribute to society. I've got training revenues and Graves Disease, and I'm still interviewing!

Most other personality types will run the risk of quitting if they hit 6.5%. Singapore's corporate culture is toxic. If someone wants to live on their dividends and see their portfolios go to hell in 15 years, maybe we should examine the kinds of workplaces they function in.

IMHO, only the INTJ strategists who dominate the finance telegram group ( and every ERM intake ), will precisely quit when they reach the target rate. This is about 2% of the male population and 1.5% of the female population.

Finally, if I had not done some unsafe acts in the past,  I would not be a proud dad of two kids today. 

One just won a medal.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Money is Sexual Energy !

A week ago, I was invited to have a friendly banter with young podcasters. The colourful parts of the discussion did not go into the podcast, because I don't want to get censored, but came when I got everyone coffee later. As there is no need for self-censorship anymore, everyone's guard was down.

One of the coordinators was a young man who just got out of a relationship, he's at this stage where he does not really give a damn anymore and wants to focus on his work. Being an older guy, I began to congratulate him - I told him that in making the decision to move on in a relationship and focus on himself, he has put himself in a position of great power - he can now sublimate his sexual energies on.. well... whatever he gives a damn about. 

Maybe it's my accidental choice of words, but folks found this hilarious, so perhaps I want to talk about the idea of sublimation. Sublimation is basically directing your energy into doing something creative. It is a solution to resolve the existential crisis we face. I did an article on this before. 

You can follow this link to learn more about mid-life crisis and sublimation.

Recently, there's been very deep discussions on the use of first principles, but there is insufficient discussion on what these first principles are. For dividend investors, compounding is often the first principle quoted. For the ETF asset allocation folks, the first principle is diversification as a free lunch.

Podcasters who worked with me for a while have noticed that I have this habit of always relating money and finance to mate acquisition from the male perspective. So I think the first principles to me are not finance related. In fact, my first principle is this:

Money is Sexual Energy

When a guy is looking for a mate, he has a certain amount of energy at his disposal and can invest it to make himself more attractive to women. If a woman, in most online dating surveys, unanimously reveals their preferences for educational qualifications and income, then this sexual energy will be invested in the accumulation of economic resources. This is not right or wrong, this has evolutionary origins. 

Civilisation will not exist if women are not choosy.

I find two very useful applications of this theory :

The first phenomenon is when crypto was at its peak, bros were bragging about their crypto trades during Tinder dates. Even when the risk that they can be engaging in a Ponzi scheme is high, crypto was a good way to signal economic resourcefulness, often this is the only way to show it if the crypto bro did not have a local degree. If you understand that crypto schemes reinforce the mate-worthiness of a segment of the male population, then you will conclude that crypto will never be destroyed and folks will come up with more insane schemes in the near future. Only coordinated worldwide regulation can kill crypto.

The second phenomenon is the large number of single financial influencers who attained FIRE. When I first appeared in the Sunday Times, I attracted a lot of hateful posts on EDMW and many critics said that I was able to FIRE because I was a single guy. I think that's not a sufficiently nuanced criticism because many single guys never attain FIRE ( Instead, many Gen X single guys go Fire disco ). 

It takes the ability to make a decision to channel the sexual energy somewhere else ( in my case, dividends ) to meet the FIRE objective. 

Once you understand that money is sexual energy as a guy, then there are some self-help ideas for you.

a) Giving up on relationships is a power move

As a guy, you need to realise that your bargaining power increases with time. In your 20s, you might be just a small engineer in a server room. This same engineer can become a landlord in his 40s. 

We guys are like Pokemon, we evolve into a higher form! Of course, we have different evolutionary paths.

Where your bargaining power is weak, you have the option of just giving up - becoming a Sigma male. A dude who does not give a damn and just wants to focus on your work and hobbies.

This frees up a lot of sexual energy for you to pick up investing, climb the corporate ladder, start a side hustle, and of course, attend investment courses. 

Do this when the women are the most emotionally demanding. 

b) Financial independence is the first step to returning to the dating game

Now, if you are pursuing a dividends strategy, you can start to replace your bachelor expenses at a withdrawal rate of about 6.5%. That's way more unsafe than what a retiree can accept. But you are not a retiree, you are a single dude happily living on your dividends.

At this stage, the FIRE movement can become a crutch. Because dividends are so seductive, you will keep trying to reduce your SWR and ignore the dating pool of eligible women. When you don't need your salary, you would be able to project your confidence as a mature and worldly man,

So take the plunge and start dating casually. Further advances in the financial front can come later. Most of the younger guys and the unsavvy ones your age cannot match up to your sexual power!

c) Continue the accumulation of investment income as your family grows

It is not realistic to try to get investment income equivalent to median family expenses when you are single, but with the right spouse, you can do it together as a couple. This stage of wealth accumulation is very important because being married unlocks the BTO option that can supercharge your wealth at a later stage of your life.

I found that journey to allow another person to FI in the family much easier than getting FI as an individual. 

With that, I have thrown my hat into the ring to introduce a new first principle in finance. 

I look forward to defending this idea publicly and rigorously. 

Saturday, April 29, 2023

I Hope Your Heirs Want to Manage Your Dividend Portfolio


If you have been following what's going on in the financial blogosphere, I had the pleasure of rebutting every single point except one that was made in Investment Moats on the Dividend income approach. I strongly suggest that you go read that article if you wish to appreciate this post. 

You can follow this link.

I left the final point for a full-blown blog article because it is a good point that simply cannot be refuted by a well-written Python program or a stream of data downloaded using APIs. 

Points like this are what make personal finance personal. Readers are free to see whether the point resonates with their personal experience.

Logically, the ninth point of the original article does not really make a real point. 

When an investor dies, the beneficiaries of his will get control of their assets and will deploy their assets in any way that they please because it is now their money. As it is now their money, they will find a way to manage it using whatever means that they already have. This can mean putting it with an investment expert, or financial advisor or punting it in the cryptocurrency markets.

The real point Investment Moats is driving at is that a stock-based dividends portfolio has many parts and idiosyncracies, so it is more likely that the heirs will not be able to manage it in its current form.

If we take this as a real point, then I think Kyith successfully touched on one of the fears of a real-life dividends investor. In such a case, I don't even need to talk about my kids, I'm pretty sure my wife and my mum will struggle with this if anything happens to me.

This is what I think a dividends investor reader can do if this point really scares you:

a) Don't Die

The first point is obvious, if you don't die, you don't have this problem. 

But your days being alive need to be put to good use. The moment your kids turn 18, you open a CDP account with them and train them on dividend investing. If they want to shift strategies then they should educate themselves first. For me, as early as any family can get a CDP account, they need to know how dividends work.

( IMHO, Dividends are not the best way to pass things down, I think a residential property is better. But I don't want property ownership to prevent my kids from getting an EC next time they start a family! )

b) CDP is quite good if you know how it works.

Your heirs should know your CDP number and allow themselves to be guided by lawyers on how to transfer the stocks out of your account if you do die. When my dad passed, I moved all his stocks to a joint CDP with my mum. The transfer fee was $10.80 per counter and we had 50+ counters. I remember it was really smooth and the counter staff said I was one of the smoothest clients they had ever seen.

I think this technical detail from probate to CDP stock transfer is very smooth and elegant, but I am open-minded to understanding how funds managed by an FA can be moved in a similar way.

c) Nothing wrong if your dividends counters get sold by your heirs.

Every generation works differently when it comes to managing money. I was the one who shifted my dad from real estate to dividend stocks. My kids will have a different way to look at wealth. 

Just because you like dividends does not mean that it's the best for their generation. 

Similarly, your heirs should be free to sell any property to deal with more immediate lifestyle needs.

My wife should sell the house to educate my kids.

d) If there is anything to pass down, prioritise financial education first

I'm not trying to sway readers to send their heirs to attend my training, but there is definitely room to pursue a financial education in a tertiary institution if they are expecting to inherit wealth. But they need to know that they will eventually inherit wealth.

I was an only child who lived on landed property most of my life, my priority after my first degree was the CFA. My secondary priority was to get as much overtime as I can in my first job so I use my CFA knowledge.

To me, there was a lot I had to manage and I can't just outsource it to an FA. This DIY mindset is what I consider the most challenging value to pass down. My kids need to know that a 1% annual fee is the real thing that will really hurt your safe rate of withdrawal.

Lastly, I like to address the point Investment Moats made about CreateWealth8888. In the financial blogging circles, there are murmurs that Jacob's kids were not fully aware of Jacob's approach to trading. I absolutely do not think that there is anything unusual about this when wealth needs to pass on. If anything, Jacob successfully sent all his kids through a local degree program. 

That is the more important thing. 

It will take some time to figure out Jacob's finances, the final outcome may not be dividends driven.  

But I won't count his kids out. 

Friday, April 21, 2023

Q1 2023 - ERM Community Webinar - 27 April 2023

I know that I'm late with the planning and coordination of the Early Retirement Masterclass webinar, but I've been held up not just by the planning of my new course that is supposed to be out by this year, but my voice, which has been ravaged by a dry mouth caused by a hyperactive thyroid,  has just recovered.

So it is now time to conduct our next ERM Community Webinar which is customised for course participants but totally open to members of the public who want a glimpse of what we actually do.

Date: Thursday, 27 April 2023, 8pm

Registration Link : 


We will be discussing the following topics:

a) How robust is your retirement plan?

Showcasing a new Monte Carlo Retirement Testing tool that will be shared with the community. This will lead to my greater ambitions this year to introduce more Python Jupyter Notebooks into investment training. 

b) Update on the economy and what investors should look out for

I will also be updating everyone on the economy and what I think the community needs to think about over the next 3-6 months.

As usual, I will be showcasing a lot of tools that I have created for my new course launch.

c) Performance Review

ERM portfolio performance review. We look at some of the not-so-good investment decisions we made so that we can improve in the future.

d) The ERM Q2 Community Face to face Meetup

The most important announcement details how to sign up for the ERM Community Q2 Event which is a face-to-face meeting in Raffles Place. This is a sponsored but paid ($20) event for 50 ERM Alumni where refreshments will be provided. 

I will be previewing and conducting a full chapter of my All-Weather Masterclass course, so it will be a substantial learning session, but the real aim is to see how everyone is doing since the pandemic.

So if any alumni members are free, why not come down for a friendly chat on Thursday !

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Will ChatGPT disrupt the retirement planning space ?

When a pal heard that I'm developing an investment course focused on exploring finance through Python code, he expressed scepticism because he knows a trader who uses ChapGPT to craft basic code to make investment decisions. I did not bother to refute this argument because even with the best code, you still need to make the best trades, and programmers don't make the best investors.

I was unable to verify the argument yesterday until someone on the forums tried to use some keywords to generate some Python code on ChatGPT. His claim is that the code is able to simulate Monte Carlo portfolios and give a percentage of the number of portfolios that make it under an assumed withdrawal rate.

Perhaps this was a great moment for learning for me, I took the code for a test drive and it was horrible.

  • First of all, the cut-and-paste process in Facebook lacked indentation, so I had trouble with the different loops in the program. Nested loops can become consecutive loops if the Python indentment was lost. I lost maybe 15 minutes sorting that out.
  • ChaptGPT programs also produced stub files like a CSV file containing historical returns without really telling you how to find them. The contents of these stub files are very consequential in retirement planning, but ChatGPT does not supply them. I had to inject my own code to download data from Yahoo Finance in real time and generate annual statistics to resolve that issue.
  • The next problem was logic errors in the code even after correcting syntax issues. The code would grow the portfolio using, say, 10 years of returns every year. So every retirement portfolio works in 10,000 different alternate universes because they could be getting 90% returns annually. Worse, the code sees an annual withdrawal rate as a percentage of evolving portfolio value and not as a fixed expense moderated by an inflation rate. Theses are fatal flaws.
  • Finally, after troubleshooting everything, the code would still provide an uneasy number to bring confidence to any investor. I had to add an inflation generator to bring the success probabilities down. 

Ok, now let's look at the positives. ChatGPT wrote a fairly bad program, but it can be corrected to work with better prompt engineering, and about 2-3 man-hours and I'm not even a professional software developer. This can be a huge productivity multiplier for many software engineers. 

But, as it stands,  I don't think someone without a basic understanding of the domain in both finance and IT can petition ChatGPT to come up with something that they can run to make fairly important investment decisions and there should be revenue in my upcoming course.

For now, the software engineering types will have serious concerns about how ChatGPT will change their working landscape. Eventually, some untrained manager with a general degree will pretend that he can issue a prompt to ChatGPT and then he will dump the entire source code to you, claiming that a huge bulk of the work is already done on your behalf. All you need to do is to 'operate' it. 

This is going to be a real problem in the workplace because many MBAs are poets.

Getting to run is already a chore. Troubleshooting the business logic will take more time. Enhancement to make it viable as a product will take even longer. 

This nifty Monte Carlo tool will be refined and given to folks in my ERM Community. Hope this can provide them with a new tool to test the effectiveness of their retirement portfolio.

Using 10 years of data, a 60/40 portfolio has a 34.2% surviving 40 years based on the 4% withdrawal rule.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

The value of being consoled in market downturn

As I've been writing code to turn trading ideas into an advisor that any student can be trained to run, it is now time to review some financial advisory practices. 

For this new course, I've chosen a fairly high bar to beat. 

The 60/40 portfolio is a hard benchmark to beat and, in reality, more clients should be actually put into this portfolio rather than expensive products like ILPs. Bet recently as interest rates have gone up, the 60/40 is not a good place to be. I think at this stage, even the reputable FAs will kick in a process to up the level of hand-holding for the customer who is seeing double-digit percentage losses in otherwise safe bond ETFs.

For those who hand over their wealth to experts, maybe they actually enjoy the hand-holding, I will not fault that. 

But what if you expect more from the industry? 

Well, the truth is beyond hand-holding, the best advisors would rather you stay put. There are strong financial incentives to sit this out. There is a strong belief that the 60/40 portfolio will rebound.

For folk who DIY, there is no one trying to stop your funds from fleeing, so there is the possibility of learning about market edges that can do beyond the 60/40 portfolio. 

Based on my investigations, traditional portfolios are 60/40 and can produce one unit of return for two units of risk, which is admirable. But armed with a number of market edges, it is possible to do better, maybe 1.5 units of risk to 1 unit of return, or even 1 unit of risk to 1 unit of return. This would generally higher ETF turnover, but these days we have very cheap online brokers to play with. 

Even if you do not achieve these gains, you are in essence earning your own commissions and fees, which is not insubstantial.

I won't spend too much time talking about what sorcery I am working on. I'm still writing out the preview of the sales workshop.

I like to leave you with some final thoughts about financial advice with respect to the value of empathy and consolation. To do that, I subscribed to ChatGPT and got it to write a consoling email to a client who lost money. I added a nice touch on interest rates.

Dear [Client], I'm sorry to hear that your portfolio has experienced losses over the past year. I understand how frustrating this can be, and I want to assure you that I'm here to help you navigate these challenging times. While short-term market fluctuations can be difficult to weather, it's important to remember that investing is a long-term game. Over the long run, markets have historically rebounded from downturns and provided investors with solid returns. While we can't predict exactly when this will happen, I believe that we can remain optimistic about the future. In addition, it's worth noting that high-interest rates are unlikely to last indefinitely in this economic climate. While they can present challenges for investors seeking yield, there are signs that interest rates may begin to decrease in the coming months or years. This could present new opportunities for investors as market conditions shift. In the meantime, please know that I am constantly monitoring your portfolio and making adjustments as needed to ensure that it remains aligned with your goals and risk tolerance. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. Thank you for your continued trust in me as your financial advisor. I look forward to working with you to achieve your financial objectives over the long run. Best regards, [Your Name]

Monday, April 10, 2023

Farewell to CreateWealth8888


I've always believed that if I ever achieved REAL retirement, where I no longer have any hustles, I would reinvent myself as a troll on CreateWealth8888's website. He's always had issues with my investment ideas and this was apparent to anyone who knew us both. But he never articulated these ideas in depth so I was never able to rebut him.

The truth is this: He did succeed in irking me quite a big deal, but in his own passive-aggressive way, he never provided an opening that would be making attacking his ideas look good. 

So over the years, I have fantasised about giving him a piece of my mind:
  • He lived in a different generation and should not compare his circumstances to younger bloggers. If anything he needs to be benchmarked against others his own age.
  • His ridiculous fixation with Keppel Corp flies in the face of prudent diversification and would set a bad example for younger folks who can apply his technique to Tesla or even LUNA in the future.
I don't think that if a clash were to really occur, I would be assured of winning the hearts and minds of the public. I might have an edge in logos, but he will hands down win in pathos. I remember speaking in the same panel as him under BIGS and admit that his pull as a speaker was very strong because of his earnestness and emotional appeal. This is one man sharing his investment story totally unbiased by the financial industry. This almost never happens in a financial seminar.

When I visited his wake yesterday, I realised that CW8888 was vindicated by several things which make him a great role model at the end of his life :
  • While it is imprudent to focus on Keppel Corp, it did perform fantastically in the final years of his life. 
  • All his children have managed to earn local degrees and have grown into successful adults.
  • He disengaged from work at 60, was unapologetically so, and enjoyed managing his investments right up till the very end.  
Jacob Ng has departed the world a big winner.

If the cosmos is willing, I will definitely clash with him if we ever meet again.

Friday, April 07, 2023

I may need to plan for Involuntary Retirement

One medical issue I'm grappling with is that I have dry lips, which means I'm not producing enough saliva when speaking. Dry lips make every lecture I present a chore. Beyond one hour of speech, I have difficulties as my throat becomes dry. The use of lozenges like Fishermen’s Friend can backfire as it makes your throat even dryer. 

I do not know whether my dry lips come from Graves' disease or poor blood sugar control, but I can say that I'm already on medication to resolve this problem. The question is when these dry lips can be solved which can take a month.

If I can't resolve this within a month, I must retool how I conduct courses. If I fail to restructure how my class will be conducted, it's game over for me, and I will ironically be involuntarily retired. I won't be able to teach my ERM class anymore. I also can't find a job that relies on my tongue, which I spent decades honing on public speaking platforms. 

I want to discuss some steps I am taking in case the worst scenario happens this year. 

As expected, my finances are the least of my problems, but I have already started planning for having no income since the end of last year. I've expanded my cash reserves to hold one year of expenses and extended it by three months using the dividends earned this month. For me, the problem is not eating into my capital but being unable to grow it for the following year. 

I can return to the D&D gaming circuit, but sadly the hobby is undergoing massive changes as a new edition is launched next year. The bigger problem is my social life. If I no longer work, what kind of hobbies will I need to fill my time as I get my voice back? I'm also not sure whether I am as sociable when socialization comes without any agenda other than having fun. Nevertheless, the demand for DMs is as strong as ever, and so long as I'm willing to run games, I should be fine. 

The final point I want to make, my biggest fear is what kind of books I will read and what frontiers to explore when I no longer earn anything from work. My favourite books are those on office politics, wielding power, and climbing the corporate ladder. As an employee, I used to devour any of the management books I could get my hands on. It gave me a competitive advantage as I could anticipate changes in management work like the Balanced Scorecard. 

You can guess what happened after that - Financial Independence was the best power move in any office environment as you no longer need to suck up to anyone or fight for the best appraisal. 

You may think that I can subsist on finance books. That is actually quite hard. A lot of finance books are not written with the real objective of helping the reader make money. Value investing, when badly written, are tales of investment victory using esoteric knowledge of specific companies that cannot be transferred into another market context. While I prefer quantitative works, they are pages filled with equations and rarely supplemented with source code that allows verification of the authors' assertions on the stock markets. As an investment trainer, I help clients bridge theory and practice. 

Going beyond one finance books is a big challenge because a good book will give your some direction to code a back tester to verify what the author has said. So reading is really just the easiest step in a long journey to understand how markets work. 

If you leave the realm of money but still wish to engage in personal development, all that remains is self-help. These books are touchy-feely, and I've already read most of the ones which are backed by research. 

This leaves me with philosophy and books where the author engages in intellectual masturbation. While I try to read as many philosophy books as the Economist recommends, I think some philosophers need help. Why do you need so much prose when the ideas can be condensed into a paragraph? Maybe I can get ChatGPT to help me with summaries in the future.

I guess if I really want a solution to my problem, I will need to read deeply into the history and biographies of famous people. I've not explored famous people's stories beyond Erwin Rommel and George Patton. 

And of course there is fiction, if only to finish the Game of Throne series if it ever comes out. 

Saturday, April 01, 2023

More medical misadventures


One of the better things I did was to become the resident troll of a BBS called Lothlorien. Basically, it was a gathering place for geeks and outcasts who owned a decent modem. 

Last Friday, we had a small gathering and they straight-up told me that I lost a lot of weight and this could mean that I might have cancer. Fortunately one of the gang is now a doctor and we reduced this to the possibility that my hyperactive thyroid has relapsed. This was really helpful as I have a medical appointment that afternoon to get my problem resolved once and for all. I've had dry lips and lost 4kg of weight and get tired very easily when exercising. 

Unfortunately for me, I was the last patient at the government hospital on a Friday evening and there was no way anyone could administer a blood test and wait for the results to be out. My doctor was apologetic and suggested that I go into A&E which I was highly reluctant about because of the long waits and the possibility of getting something else if I get hospitalised like pneumonia. So sadly, even though I suspected I had a relapse of Graves disease, I can't confirm it and cannot get medication.

It was at that time, I had an epiphany. I told my doctor that it may be time for me to go private and there is not much a public hospital can do for me at this point. My doctor kindly a very long letter to summarise the situation I was in.

The question is how can I get an appointment in the private clinic on such short notice?

I was desperate so I decided to pop in early in the morning without an appointment. The clinic is packed, but if any patient is late, I will get to see the doctor. 

The private clinics are truly very efficient. 

Within 10 mins of reading what my govt doctor wrote, she eliminated the possibility of Diabetic Keto-Acidosis, which was such a huge source of relief. They sent a runner down to draw my blood and I was out of the clinic with my thyroid meds by the afternoon.

Was this really expensive?

I think the $400+ plus consultation and blood test was cheap because it got to the bottom of what I've been experiencing for the past half a year, where I was feeling extremely tired for no reason and felt that I lost my zest in life.

I think what happened so far is really the power of social capital. I'm glad I have a doctor friend who can just help me narrow my problem just before my official consult. My introduction to the private sector was through my ERM student who is an insider in the private hospital system and has spent months asking me to switch to a private clinic.

I'm finally convinced that a significant part of my dividends will end up going to a private doctor. 

If my meds work and I get my smile back, I'll stop contributing to the queues in the public clinics.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Freeze eggs also men's fault ?

Some readers may remember that I wrote an article on egg freezing some time ago. You can read the article by following this link. In that article, I discuss how enabling egg freezing puts men at a disadvantage because it has the effect of making young women temporarily unavailable. When women are confident enough to freeze their eggs, they will leave the mating pool and reappear at an older age. In that article, I urged policymakers to approve egg-freezing, but make it easier for men to marry foreign spouses as a counterbalance.

Recently, a pal sent me this article to read (link). 

It is now time to review the concept of egg freezing.

Fortunately for policymakers, a medical anthropologist will be publishing a book that details the kind of person who will go as far as to freeze her eggs. Because the procedure is not exactly cheap, it comes as no surprise that women who undergo this procedure are high-achieving professionals. 

What comes as a surprise to me is that 91% are single or in tenuous relationships, with a significant one-third of women having no previous relationship experience. Egg freezing is, therefore, some kind of plan B. 

This leads to the anthropologist taking a potshot at men!

She blames egg freezing for this thing called the "mating gap".

  • Men are reluctant to marry high-achieving women.
  • Men are immature and not ready to start families.
  • Men are ageist. 
This blog is an apologist for men,  I am after all the BBFA Senator. 

Now, I'd like to refute each point one by one.

First of all, I admit that men are reluctant to marry high-achieving women. But you also need to note that women also despise low-achieving men. I'd like to argue that between men and women, women are actually pickier. You are free to enjoy my article on unusual pairings here.

Secondly, not all men are immature and not ready to start families. Only the men who are willing to consider a relationship with an egg freezer are immature. Maybe a women's desperation to start a family forces her to pick an unconscientious male. 

Thirdly, I think men evolved to prefer younger women, you can't socialise this away. It's ridiculous that a medical anthropologist will blame guys for rejecting older women when it's probably more likely that women will reject men with low economic resources.

Ok, now we need to see how all this new data changes my view on egg freezing.

I think egg freezing should still continue to be approved because it can generate new investment options. But we need to have a clearer view of the sorts of women who freeze their eggs - the odds of harvesting the eggs one day is very rare and it's not because of medical viability. If you can't get a relationship in your 20s, don't expect a relationship when you are older in your 40s.

Now there is also the fear that the medical industry will promote egg freezing as some kind of miracle procedure that will never solve the relationship issues. Instead of freezing eggs, it may be better to invest in some US Office RETI counters for double-digit dividends.

Finally, I hope that some people will find this an entirely ridiculous idea. 

There are men who are uneducated. 

There are men who are short.

There are men who have no money.

I don't see these guys masturbating into a Tupperware and storing it in the freezer. 

If no woman wants us, we just earn more, pick up some Thai, and try our best.

That is the BBFA way.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Personal Update

As I do not have much to write about, maybe it's time for a personal update.

a) Financial markets

As I stopped leverage aeons ago, I was unaffected by developments in the financial markets. As interest rates rose, my REITs and Business Trusts shrank, but my dividends were not hit that badly, so I can afford to hold. If I do have a worry, it's the US-based office REITs, but I'm well diversified and don't have double-digit yields this year. 

My interpretation of bank failures is that they may be a signal to the Fed to stop raising rates. As I'm not really vested in the US, my concern is about contagion to local banks. But that risk is also small.

I don't think local dividends investors will need to really be too concerned about the markets. 

Just stay calm and collect dividends this month.

b) Career

I'm ramping down my work in the law firm and focused on building my new program. I'll probably head to the office to buy everyone snacks before I go off. 

The funny thing is that I've tried going for a few interviews weeks ago and thought employers decided to give my profile a pass, but for one job offer, I seem to get into the advanced stages.  While monetising my time during the day is no longer my priority, I have decided to press on without really being vested in the outcome. 

c) New Course

 The bulk of my effort has been put here and the past 3 weeks have been exhilarating. As data can be fetched from Yahoo Finance, I'm not longer limited by the availability of Bloomberg terminals and built up 4 robo-advisors and 4 back-testing tools to optimise and review some trading ideas from various books I've been reading.

The outcome will be an investment course that teaches students how to create and tune Robo-advisors through the use of some code I've written in Jupyter notebooks. The backtests are very successful after some tuning and my all-weather portfolios can get a Sharpe ratio close to 1 in the tough period between 2018 and 2023. More interesting is that the four strategies are almost uncorrelated from each other. 

So I've basically been coding in Python and creating Power Point slides for the past 2 weeks. In time, I might do an ERM Alumni event that will preview one chapter from my new program. Some ERM Alumni are interested in a networking and makan session, so I might be talking to Dr Wealth staff to see whether this is financially feasible. 

Anyway, even if the new course may not take off immediately, I should be able to launch my personal hedge fund with a small portion of my capital in April. 

d) Hobbies and Leisure

I guess I'm lucky because I enjoy coding robo-advisors and back testers, so I have no real need to put in any work into my hobbies.

But I'm happy to say that I have watched the Dungeons and Dragons movie last night. I think the D&D brand was cursed with really bad movies in the past so my expectations were not high. The latest D&D movie was a blast that is fun for new fans but full of fan service for longtime D&D players.

There is some demand for DM work and some folks are asking me to run a game. 

I will see what I can do.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Pivoting from Wealth to Relationships

I consider myself extremely lucky, as after my last post, my old JC pals got me out to cheer me up this week. My mum has recovered, but this is a grand opportunity to review my priorities. 

Almost as if I needed another sign, I just received heartbreaking news that a secondary classmate of mine is currently in a fight against an aggressive form of cancer. 

One of the most challenging issues my generation will have to cope with is when we should pivot from emphasising our wealth towards pouting more effort into our relationships. In your 40s and 50s, wealth is a big deal as you need it to thrive in Singapore society, but you soon reach a stage where you find less need to flex your economic status but want deeper connections with loved ones because that’s the last thing that matters in the final stage of your life. The financial equivalent is when a person can begin the process of decumulation or the gradual spending down of wealth they have accumulated. 

As we think deeper, we realise that friendship is a complicated topic, because all relationships need cultivation and in earlier stages in our lives, there are more important priorities like financial security or starting a family. As a consequence, men suffer from the lack of friendships the most because we get penalised for looking vulnerable and tend to keep our weaknesses to ourselves.

When thinking about this pivot, the first question is when should we shift from thinking about wealth accumulation to the accumulation of rich personal connections? I can't help but think of confirmation signals in a trade. When creating my new course, I often have to backtest trading algorithms. One technique I employ to confirm a downtrend is to observe that a stock has been falling for the past year and also been falling for the past month. Dual signals are more robust than just one, and this can be easily put into programming code.

The general rule of thumb is if you see your parents getting older and becoming frailer or losing them entirely to old age, and you witness folks in your generation falling sick, it is time to consider a pivot. At least from what I have observed, both signals have come true many times over the past year.

The second question is how to pivot. Which relationships to cultivate? 

The book The Good Life, which contains research on the lives of volunteers, provides a very functional view of what good friendships are like. Friends are there to diminish your hardship and reduce the stress of existing in Singapore society.

This is an exquisite way to construct a filter and decide which relationships to cultivate. Which friends are there for you when you face a crisis? Which friends have a sense of humour and provide levity in hard times? If you have friends who can solve your problems and make life easier, you need to cultivate these relationships.

But note that if you agree with this utilitarian view of friendship, you should also try to be there for your friends while in a crisis. 

If you apply this idea to practice, you may conclude that the wealthy may struggle with their friends. People will always be available when there are free meals and parties. This is not a valid test. But only in times of crisis can you figure out which relationships are worth cultivating. 

[On a personal note, I’ve been grappling with building my new course and coding almost everyday. If you want to know my views on the economy, I guess you should be attending my course previews for now. ]