Wednesday, January 24, 2024

How would you design your life if you are young again?


When a group of uncles meet up to have a coffee session, we talk about how we will live our lives if we can be in our 20s again. This is an exciting thought experiment, not because we think there's a better way to live your lives for Gen Z, but because it reflects what we think we did right or wrong in our own lives.

What is surprising is that even with two Gen X guys who have many similarities, we would have drastically different answers to what we would do if we were in our 20s again.

A friend, a successful IT professional and landlord, thinks that if he's given a chance again, he will cruise through his 20s. He would work a bare minimum and save money just to travel worldwide. For someone who is actually one of the hardest working IT professionals, he would lie flat and do the bare minimum just to maximise the experiences he can get from the world. He may not even start a family.  

My answer is opposite his. 

My 20s are all about my chaotic energy, which I can bring to the table. I would focus on a remote and output-driven job. Then, I will actively break the employment contract with HR to take on another remote job to get paid in crypto and stack at least two jobs to become over-employed. If I get caught and fired, I will still have another job that pays the bills. 

As I would have no time to spend my money, I would double down and try to reach FIRE before 30, and then I would either join the JET program to go to Japan or take a tourist visa to pick apples in New Zealand. Only after I travel out of my skin will I return to get a tedious, conventional 9-5 job to start a family. 

I invite readers of this blog to share how they would design their lives if they were in their 20s again. There isn't a need to consider whether Gen Z will find this approach feasible - Gen Z grew up in a much different environment.  

You'll be surprised at how much it highlights the regrets and achievements of your own life. 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

What about the JC Experience?


When the O-level results are released, it is typically not a good time for JC students because the media machine is subtly trying to play down the option of taking the A-level exams via the JC route. As I read the articles, they seem to have painted a very negative picture of the JC student. A childish imp who still needs to wear a school uniform. Someone who does not know what they want to do but has a parochial vision of what success is like in Singapore. And someone bereft of practical skills.

As I'm only really trying to understand the new education system as I now have a child in secondary school, the best I can do is offer some of the more significant experiences I had in NJC in the 1990s. Some of these experiences are good, but some are bad. Overall, they are exciting experiences I would not trade for anything else. 

Even today, when I was feeling down last year, my JC pals from Computer Science got me out for dinner to cheer me up. I even had one JC pal attend my classes last week, whom I had not seen for many years but is a loyal reader of this blog. As most of my clique went separate ways in University, I felt the only issue I had with JC was that it was too short. For folks from NJC, many of us come from neighbourhood schools and saw how an effectively run education institution feels for the first time.  

Here are some of my experiences in a nutshell:

a) A fairly uncharismatic guy was running for the JC council, but he had the misfortune of offending the girls from MGS and the convent schools. Because he wore blue pants for the first three months of JC. The ladies hatched a rumour that he loves lying about being an ACS boy. The story worked, and he got the lowest votes in the election, much to our amusement.

b) We had a school band that was much hated because the lead singer threw a throw into the audience. WTF!

c) A schoolmate of mine did not know what smegma was, that cheesy discharge below the folds of his penis. I told him to ask that girl who took biology in her subject combination. And he did.

d) My friend wrote a rant essay arguing that education is destroying the environment because of the amount of paper used. He was sent for counselling by the worried GP tutor, who thought he had finally snapped and dug himself into depression.

e) Someone slipped a science essay full of sexual innuendo into the school magazine, which had to be recalled. Students were reluctant to give up their copies, so teachers had to beg us to do so in class. The teacher in charge of the magazine was in tears. 

f) Sex education classes conducted by Mr. Clarke were so hilarious that they were better than some episodes of Monty Python. Unfortunately, he raised the bar for a generation of confused adults by talking about swinging from chandelier to chandelier.

g) A few top GP students decide to play a horrible prank on their GP tutor. They independently invented a Korean philosopher and attributed various quotes to him. Because multiple students did this and Google did not exist to fact-check Park Chun Mong, these guys got away with it. 

h) A student trolled Mr. Whitby so hard in class that he told him he said he'd quit and appointed the offending student as GP tutor for the next session. In the next session, Mr Whitby sat down as a student, and the student came prepared to conduct a tutorial session. It ended when the student pointed at Mr. Whitby and said, "Hey, who said you can dye your hair blonde?"

i) I got a bunch of classmates to cheat in a stock market game organised by the Economics Society. We wanted to demonstrate the intellectual superiority of Computer Science students, so we engaged in off-market transactions to consolidate winnings in one championship team - something organizers should have anticipated. There were many complaints, but we knew that the rules did not mention what we did was wrong. Eventually, we were disqualified for insider trading. The ruling needed to be corrected even by today's securities regulations. The president of the club was quite traumatised.

j) I was showing a junior from secondary school on campus when the joker of the senior year walked through the school gate. I told him, "This guy is the funniest guy on campus". At that exact time, that guy scratched his crotch and my junior burst into laughter. He came to NJC the following year. 

k) Some of us needed to gain access to JC facilities to participate in a Micromouse competition during the weekend. We climbed over a gate and broke into the college campus to prepare for it. My classmates will commit a crime to win a Micromouse competition.

l) At one point, students were spreading this rumour that a Physics teacher had a vasectomy over the school holidays. 

I should remind readers that NJC could have been a cooler place to study in 1991. We were labelled stoners by the CJC and ACJC folks. We even have installed a "Stone Garden" in the old campus. I hear of folks from my batch who experience a much more depressing NJC, one that gives more privileges to minister's children. In practice, though, I enjoyed my JC days as part of a crew of fellow lunatics in an asylum and still am grateful that I still have good friends from those two years.

Though we were hard-working as hell when it came to the crunch. I never experienced that level of kiasuism, dedication and conscientiousness until I went to SMU Law School many decades later. 

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Personal update on my eye health


I've been receiving a lot of messages from well-wishers, so I'd like to provide another update on my thyroid eye disease that has caused double vision and is now treated with special prism lens stockers on my spectacles.

After waiting for a few weeks, I was able to get treated by a government doctor at TTSH, and my previous update on my health has predicted totally different suggestions on what I should do next.

To recap, I panicked when I discovered that I was seeing double and took some urgent steps to get treated in the private sector. I spent a ridiculous amount of money to see three different ophthalmologists. Out of $3,000, about $1,700 was spent on an MRI; the only outcome was that I could get poorly made prism lenses to mitigate the issue. 

The suggestion from the private doctor was to get me into a hospital for three days and get an intravenous injection of steroids into my body. But this will be expensive as I steroids can interfere with my diabetic control and there's a possibility that I have to repeat this regularly if there is no improvement of my situation. I playfully suggested that my budget was only $50,000 as I do not have private insurance, and it seemed this option would blow my budget quickly. 

I consulted some doctor pals, and I was told that outpatient options are available, and this was likely suggested so that most clients with integrated shield plans would end up getting insurance companies to overpay for extra checks. In fact, a promising new drug called Rituximab exists that can help with my eye disease and would not wreak havoc with my blood sugar control. 

With $3,000 down the hole, I was not about to just submit one suggestion from a private doctor, so I booked an appointment with TTSH to see whether I could get a second opinion.

As I have guessed, once the incentives change, the treatment takes a 180-degree turn!

The government doctor considered my case extremely mild and gave me new lenses, fitted professionally after a lengthy process, which improved my eyesight dramatically from my previous lenses from the private sector. He instructed me to observe symptoms if they worsened but suggested no medical intervention. I would have gotten all this for just $275. My only disappointment was that the doctor still needed to attend a conference on Rituximab but promised that I would be considered if a trial was conducted locally.

In the end, I had to pick the option that was gentler for my wallet. Informally, the doctor told me I could do some eye exercises, so I started doing them to see whether they could speed up my recovery.

I do have a third option in reserve. I have two specialists in Malaysia I can contact to see whether I can get some out-of-the-box ideas, but this involves travel and risk. The idea that I can talk some Malaysian doctor into administering Rituximab is really tempting, but what if I get into trouble and need to enter A&E in a local hospital?

Anyway, I'm writing to warn of two extreme suggestions for treating my problem. One is to blow a large wad of cash, get myself hospitalized and take something that affects my blood sugar control with the odds of doing this again if nothing happens. The other option is to just let my eyes heal naturally. 

I wonder if both doctors can be correct.

Government facilities and staff to fit prism lenses to patients are vastly superior to what I experienced in the private sector. I even have evidence as to how badly cut my lenses were. 

( Just don't ask privately for me to share the identities of the private clinics. )

That may be why Benz Hui commented that HK doctors are terrified of Singaporean patients because they tend to do a lot of research before seeing them. 

If you look at my situation, what other alternatives do I have?



Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Next ERM/AWP Community Webinar will be on 17 January 2024

I've not conducted a Community Webinar as I've been busy fighting off ailments and stabilising my side gig teaching law subjects in an institution. After prepping a battery of courses, including a cybersecurity module for legal executives, updating my usual investment materials, and debugging my code to provide investment advice, I'm ready to conduct a seminar for alumni and public members. 

The next Community Seminar for the Early Retirement Masterclass and All-Weather Portfolio will occur at 7.30pm on 17th January 2024. 

I will be speaking on the following topics:

a) Invest like a Gambler 

In this theoretical segment, I will discuss how we can use techniques gamblers employ to break casinos to assist us in asset allocation.

b) Introduction to Quants Cafe 

We will walk through a new portal built by Evan Koh of the Stocks Cafe fame that performs screening and back-testing. This will be featured increasingly in our programs that already include Stocks Cafe and Pyinvesting.

c) ERM Portfolio review of 2023 results and outlook.

d) AWP Portfolio review of 2023 results and outlook.

e) How to sign up for a refresher course for alumni.

You can click here to register for the event:

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Seedly Personal Finance Festival 2024


I will speak at the Seedly Personal Finance Festival 2024, Singapore’s largest personal finance festival, on Saturday, 6 April 2024. I've yet to begin planning for the event, but my topic will be related to FIRE. But I hope to introduce a new twist to my presentation that differs from my usual spiel. 

What has been agreed on with the Seedly organizers is this:

How to Achieve Financial Independence & Retire Early (F.I.R.E.) 
What steps are needed to reach F.I.R.E.? 
How does investing play a part? 
How much do you need to F.I.R.E.?

The festival, which is a ticketed event, will be held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Hall F. Each festival ticket will grant you:

Access to ALL stages and event booths
A Goodie bag worth S$68
A chance to participate in lucky draws and giveaways worth over S$17,300 in total.

Get your ticket at and enjoy an additional 20% off the early bird price with promo code: <20OFFDRWEALTH>