Saturday, 2 November 2019
Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I was told the way life should be lived by my parents: go to school, get a good education; find a job and then get a job and work your way up. For the vast majority of folk this makes sense. That said, over the past decade bloggers (mostly from the US) have been mapping out alternative ways to live life, ones in which good old Victorian ideas of thrift combined with savvy investing, have culminated in people retiring in their 30s and 40s. This post looks at some of the ideas and if they are all they're cracked up to be.
Something I notice when reading random FIRE blogs is how easy it appears to be to achieve financial independence. All you have to do is save, tighten your belt and dump your money into index funds. Done. Life for me hasn't been so clear cut. How many of you reading this have had times when your bank balance took and unexpected battering: there could have been a health emergency, a family issue that required a lot of travel, redundancy, a car accident, bad investments etc. etc. The list goes on. As I rapidly approach forty years of age, I know never to underestimate the unpredictability of life. Shit happens when you least expect it - as a wise man once said - and these are words to live by.
Many FIRE bloggers that I've read seem to be content with getting by on a thousand dollars or so a month of passive income, but life is a slippery fish to hold on to and I wouldn't be so confident that this cash is enough (4% Rule or not) You never know what's round the corner. I suppose it's fine when you are in your twenties, glowing with confidence and health, but as the decades roll past, fate may have an expensive surprise lying in wait. And, when it rears it ugly head, you better be ready to delve deep into your savings.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that FIRE fails to prepare for future emergencies, but I do think as the sands of time continue to fall, a person's idea of what constitutes the good life changes too.
In your twenties and thirties, investing in bog standard healthcare probably seems like a good idea. You know, you eat well, you exercise, you feel great, so why shell out a fortune on fully comp insurance. All this extra money saved should be invested in your value dividend portfolio after all. But as a person begins to approach forty years of age, life no longer feels like a endless game.
How quickly does a decade slip past with with barely a care? Fast eh? For sure, and a man approaching this age begins to look towards the horizon and think 'In another decade I'll be fifty, and then again 60 and...then what.'
When I was a kid, my family used to drive to my cousins' house in a town an hour and a half from our hometown. About halfway through the journey we passed a large clock tower which has an inscription in large black letters just below the clock. It said 'Time is Short'. I'll never forgot that tower and the impact those words had on me. Time is indeed short and for the unlucky among us shorter still. Thus, faced with life's uncertainties is it a good idea to live so close to the poverty line as some of FIRE exponents appear to do? Of course, the counter argument to this point is why take life so seriously when it is so short? If we're here one minute and gone the next, surely we should leave the job we dislike and live a little.
I understand this point 100% but how many FIRE proponents live the dream lifestyle they like to display on Instagram? I'm sure there are quite a number of them who live on the breadline with drastically reduced options as a result of their tightly pulled purse strings. Again, I'm not saying all members of the FIRE community as this way, but when so much idealism and optimism froths up around an idea, I start to get cynical. It's one thing painting a beautiful picture of life on social media, with pool side snapshots and vlogs on the way to the gym, and then coping with the financial reality of a terminal illness or tragic accident. Life isn't all sweetness and light, but after reading various bloggers work you might be left wondering why all the good stuff is happening to them and not you.
Comparing yourself with other people and their idealised lives on social media is a wider problem, and we have seen depression rates among teens (especially girls) sky rocket over the past decade as they compare their body with app enhanced photos of their friends. I feel the same way about some bloggers within the FIRE movement as they propagate online the version of themselves most gratifying to their fevered egos.
I'm sure you'll agree this type of shameless ego massaging is not only undignified but also corrosive to the mental well being of all involved. Having enough passive income to live on is one thing, but gratuitous displays of what other people don't have (time, happiness etc) are bilious to say the least.
If your a FIRE blogger and you've achieved your goal of financial independence (which is about as nebulous a phrase as you can get) then fair play to you. Well done. But I'd leave matters there and get on with life rather than writing about it and making others feel inadequate with plastic smiles and self-congratulatory posts about the good life.
I want to add a caveat at this point in case some people feel I'm anti-FIRE, I'm not. If a person can earn enough money passively and live well, that's amazing. Some even use their new found free time to do more charitable work etc. and this I admire. But what's shitty is when this is broadcast to the world as if the heavens have opened and divine gifts have fallen into their lap. This in turn causes many people to feel even worse in their jobs and lives that inevitably last the same spark.
FIRE is amazing for many, for sure, but how many of its proponents are bluffing themselves about its infallibility?
Saturday, 28 September 2019
Singapore Dividends for Financial Freedom - Portfolio Over $1,000,000 with the help of Trusts and REITS
|From Yahoo Finance|
The market has been kind to the Trusts and REITs in my portfolio this year with all of them doing nicely. Here's a breakdown:
AIMS APAC = up 8%
Ascendas = up 24%
Ascendas H Trust = up 27%
Ascott = up 20%
Cap Com = up 26%
Cap Mall = up 33%
Fraser Com = up 16%
Keppel DC = up 98%
Here are the Trusts and REITs in my portfolio not doing do well...
Accordia Golf Trust = down 18%
First REIT = down 6%
Overall, the portfolio now stands at $1.084.121.15 with the help of the above counters.
Other counters are doing OK too. Here are some notable mentions:
SATS = up 43%
SGX = up 26%
Sheng Shong = up 24%
Thaibev = up 10%
Wilmar = up 15%
And here are the counters not doing so well...
Keppel - down 30%
Global Investments = down 6%
Kingsman = down 20%
Singpost = down 34%
Singtel = down 20%
Starhub = down 63%!!!!
So as you can see, the portfolio is a mixed bad really. Overall, though as an income investor I'm happy enough. Should be generating close to $40,000 in dividends in 2019.
With the long awaiting crash not a million miles away, I'm going to sit tight and keep reinventing my dividends and let compounding do its thing.
All for now. Have a good day.
Saturday, 21 September 2019
|Photo from mindful.org|
Can meditation help us invest better? Many including titans like Ray Dalio say it can.
So what are we all to do, just drop the financial pages and adopt the full lotus position? How many of you have thought the following words?:
"Look, I simply don't have the time to sit and do nothing"
"I feel guilty when I try - I could be doing something else!"
"I know many people say it's good for the head, but I could be exercising instead."
Have you ever uttered any of the above when asked about meditation? It's weird isn't it? Most of us have time for some form of exercise, but when it comes to mental health care, we drown ourselves in excuses. Why is this I wonder?
The Buddha said, "We become our thoughts; we become what we think."
Swami Vivekananda said, "We are what our thoughts have made us: so take care about what you think."
These are wise words. So why do we neglect our minds in favor of work, social media, chit chat and the millions of other deflection techniques that prevent us looking inwardly?
This is a question that has been on my mind of late; in fact, it's been one that has been bothering me sporadically since I was in my early 20s. Let's jump into a time machine for a minute and travel back to the heady days of the early 2000s.
When I look back at myself, I barely recognize what I see. My behavior was reactive and wild. I lived to read, drink and dance to strange grooves. Travel and mind altering substances excited me as did pushing the boundaries of what was socially acceptable. I had no time for tradition, rules or custom and convention (I still don't actually) I saw myself as a rebel, an outlier, someone who had something to say both politically and socially, and after a few beers I would tell you my theories (and my goodness they were nonsense) I would sit with friends discussing political theory and philosophy until the blue light of a new day pierced the tightly drawn curtains of the living room. Nothing was of bounds: Marxism vs Capitalism, Anarcho-syndicalism, Temporary-Autonomous Zones, the Stoics, the pre-Socratics, Schopenhauer, Hegal, Wichenstein and this list went on and on... My God, flashbacks of 4am conversations flash thorough in my mind, conversations so full of inconsistency and plastic intellectualism it makes me glow with embarrassment now.
But, hey, isn't this what life is all about? Don't we all look back on our behaviors in the decades past with an uncomfortable smile? Sure we all do, for there are few of us who have found our true voice by the time we're in our 20s. Life is about discovery, uncovering new aspects of ourselves that are shaped as the sands of time run their course.
How many of us would say we are the same person as we were a decade ago? Think about when you get an email from an old school friend saying he'll be in town in a few weeks and would love to meet for chat. Of course, initially, waves of positive emotions flood your system:
"This is going to be amazing! I haven't seen this guy in 15 years.'
Then, when the day comes, you're on the way to meet him and ripples of anxiety start lapping against the core of your being.
"Should I bother? What if we have nothing in common, for it was a long time ago. I wonder if if people still call him 'Haze' or if he calls himself Richard now... or Rick or Rich...I wouldn't like to piss him off! Maybe this is a bad idea after all; I might just text him and tell him I'm Ill."
This indeterminable chatter, this continuous, monotonous interior dialogue - and how to counter it - is the true purpose of this post. We all suffer from it, and, it makes us behave frantically, irrationally, reactionary, and, above all, it makes us miserable. The weird thing is that most don't ever realize this internal mumbling shapes how we live our lives. These conditioned ways of thinking, picked up largely in childhood, added to in our teenage years and compounded in adulthood, form the basis of how we identify with ourselves.
"Sorry, for shouting. I've a bad temper. It's what I do when I'm stressed.'
"I always get anxious at this time of year."
"I'm conservative at heart; I don't like to take risks."
We all fall into the trap of identifying who we are with the thought we have, don't we? Well, what makes meditation so dam interesting, and important for that matter, is that quickly you begin to notice that that thoughts are transitory, they come and go like the smell of coffee as you walk past a coffee shop. One moment they are here and the next...gone. Nothing persists except the noise in our heads. Nothing is permanent including happiness, wealth, relationships, fitness etc etc no matter how much we fret and struggle to make them so.
As an investor, it's easy to get caught up in the madness. The advent of the internet has given us endless amounts of information about the companies in our portfolios (and those on our watch-list) Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms spit out a continuous flow of investor data from rumors to updates from conferences to financial report analysis to whatever. The list goes on and on, a never ending deluge of data, some useful some not. As humans we crave this data and try to make sense of it into an digestible narrative. It's these narratives that inform our investment decisions. This constant flow of information is simultaneously liberating and imprisoning.
You don't believe me? Look a Twitter for example. Let's say you follow all the companies in your portfolio as well as some of their CEOs etc., this amounts to tsunami of data popping up in your account everyday. Now, of course, you don't have to read every article and watch every video recommended to you via the feed, but it's difficult not to. What if you miss something important? What if not reading the latest projection or bit of gossip could result in your financial downfall? The temptation is always there, isn't it?
Never before have humans been so addicted to the intravenous drip drip drip of dopamine, the naturally occurring brain chemical so manipulated online these days. We know the second we sit down on the train or stand in a queue, there'll be information of interest just a click away. Thus, our brains are flooded with dopamine and we click and let the good times roll. The question is, as investors, how does all this flicking and scanning do to our heads? It is helping us become better investors or is it blurring the line between knowledge acquisition and procrastination? From what I witness daily I would lean more towards the latter. Yes, people have more access to more quality information than any point in our species history, but is it more than we can handle? Also, are we processing this information in a deep and meaningful way, leading to enhanced analysis and evaluation, or does this frenetic need to scan (as opposed to read) as many articles per day muddy our overworked minds? Again, I gravitate towards the latter, and this is what got me thinking recently about meditation and investing.
In order to pull the investment trigger (as the Yanks say) we need to be thinking rationally. The more we are driven by fear or excitement, the greater danger there is of making a decision we'll regret later. This, of course, doesn't mean we have to be cold as steel, emotionless investing robots, void of spontaneity and humor. Far from it. But we do need to be able to pause before we invest and re-consider if we are indeed doing the right thing. This, in my opinion, is were mediation plays a role for the investor.
The problem with social media news feeds for the investor is that is clutters our mind and means we never get a break from investing news. Of course, it's important to read about the companies we are invested in, but many people become obsessive. I'm sure you all know people like this, or perhaps you are one of them yourself. Can you go without reading financial news for one train journey? Do you read financial news on the toilet? What I'm saying is that we need to take a step back and reassess our relationships with our devices - especially us investors. What's the worst that could happen if we didn't read the news while eating dinner with our friends? I believe it's high time for us all to ask these questions and take back control of out time and the information we digest.
I'm a big fan of the 10% Happier Podcast presented my Dan Harris. For those of you unacquainted with the show it's about meditation, self-help and generally becoming a better person. Dan Harris is an NBC news anchor in the US and comes from a background a far cry from the usual soft voiced, bead-wearing mediator. For me, this is one of the show's big appeals. As a listener, you get candid advice from a man who has - on the surface - no business in the hippy-dippy world of meditation. Anyway, Dan Harris states that "if we all do a few minutes of meditation almost every day" the world would become a better place. This may to some sound ludicrous, but those within this camp are usually people with little to no meditation experience.
I've been practicing a few minutes almost every day now for quite some time, and I feel the benefits: I'm less likely to fly off the handle at people; I think more before I act; I breathe more deliberately and try to stay in the moment more; I sleep better... and the list goes on. And I feel these positives help me as an investor, too. What investor wants to fly off the handle with clients? What investor wants to think less before they act? What investor wants to breathe without thinking and be riddled with anxiety? What investor wants to sleep less? None is the answer to all the above.
Thus, to wrap up this post before it morphs into a mini-novel what I'm trying to say is that mediation's benefits can help us all as investors. It only takes a couple of minutes per day, time that we probably spend scrolling down out Facebook feed and clicking thumbs up for reasons we can't explain. So why not give it a go folks and see what it can do for you?
By the way, I recommend a free app called Insight Timer to get started.
If you have any comments of questions, please leave them in the comment box below, and I'll be happy to further the conversation.
Thursday, 18 July 2019
I've been invested in Keppel DC for some time now.
It's IPO is December 2014 was a first for data center REITs in Asia, and from the off I liked it. Since 2015, I've picked up shares in bundles and at the moment I hold around 52,000 of them.
To date this counter has been good to me. Currently, it's up about 80% and for the first time I'm feeling that perhaps the time is right to take the cash. As I've blogged about before, I try not to let emotions influence my investment decisions, but in this case I am wavering...
I should be! It's 80% up in the port. and this is a ton of cash that could be thrown somewhere else for a hell of a lot more yield that DC is currently offering (3.1%) That said, everything does seem to be stored on cloud these days, and I can't see this changing soon.
So what's a man to do when there's a recession on the horizon?
In cases like this I like to follow what I will call for the sake of chit chat and sounding smart: 'The Emotive/Rational Approach'.
What the living bejesus is this I hear you ask?
Well, as investors, unless we have the mind of Buffet. Lynch or any of the other investing greats we're pretty much doomed to let emotions rear their ugly heads and reek havoc sporadically in our portfolios.
This has happened to me a couple of times.
For example, late in 2018 I was reading tons of stuff about block chain technology etc. and got a bit freaked out. I had lots of DBS shares, and, of course (in my freaked head), they would be doomed once this new technology took over. I've still no idea why I acted as I did but I sold 90% of my DBS shares in a whirlwind of speculation and brow knitting.
'The big banks are fucked, I tell you' my mind screamed this at me, urging me to take action there and then.
And that's what I did. I sold almost all of my DBS, and you know what... I got lucky. This was in Oct 2018 when it was trading at $106. Thus, I exited with a large paper gain, but screwed up my long term plans to use DBS as a key blue-chip dividend player over 20 years.
So there you go... Probably the most stupid thing I have have done investment wise, but thanks to positive market sentiment I got away with it.
So anyway back to 'The Emotive/Rational Approach'. As you can seen from my horror story, acting on emotion is ridiculous and dangerous in investing. I learned an important lesson from this blunder and will not ever again allow myself to act like a man who take investing advise from a 14 year old.
'So son... This is the deal. Listen a minute. Blockchain is going to take over soon and banks will be made irrelevant in our current economic system, what do you think?'
'What...? Eh...? What's... Yeah, dad whatever, sell them and relax. All will be sweet.'
What I find works better is allowing emotion to guide me towards certain sector/area. For when there's hype and emotional charge around something, it acts as an impetus for me to be bothered reading about it.
As I've blogged about numerous times, I don't find investing particularly interesting, especially reading annual reports and other heavy waffle. My interests lie more in literature, meditation, music, art and the history of ideas... Forgive me if investing isn't my first love; it's merely a means to an end - a comfortable retirement.
That said, once emotion guides us towards something (as it has with me and gold recently) it's important to take a step back and think clearly and rationally. This involves reading loads of boring stuff, watching suits on Youtube throw their hat into the investing ring and, of course, breathing in the goodness of http://www.sginvestbloggers.com/ which is, if I'm honest, the best place to spend your time in blogsphere. Big up to the sginvestbloggers!
Reading and digesting various opinions about a stock allows the emotional fizz to dissipate. Then and only then are you in a position to think about buying - or selling - a stock.
This bring me back to the big question... Should I sell DC REIT when it's up 80%
Emotion whispers into one ear, 'Yeah, why not.'
Rationality whispers into the other, 'What! Sell! Are you crazy? Think about the future of cloud over the next 5-10 years; think of the tailwinds my friend.'
Anyway, what will be will be...
What do you all think? To sell or not to sell?
Wednesday, 17 July 2019
June was a bumper month for dividends that's for sure. Being a blog that circumnavigates the area of all things dividend, I though I'd share a few details with you:
Total dividends collected in June = $12,226
My biggest contributing counters were as follows:
-Ascendas H Trust
-Accordia Golf Trust
I'm confident in all these counters moving forward bar one - Starhub. I really don't think it can sustain their dividend at the current rate, but as things stand, I'm in too deep to let go of the counter. Thus, I'm just going to ride the waves and see if the CEO can wave his magic wand and make wonders happen. I'm well aware this is not sound investment chat; however, Starhub is the only share I have which I speak about in this way, so forgive me.
Overall, I'm happy with June's harvest and it goes along way to pushing me towards beating 2018 dividend total of almost $40,000. Read about it here and here if you have a moment.
After the first 2 quarters of 2019 my dividend grand total stands at $22, 522 meaning that I'm on track to beat last years total as things stand. By how much requires a mathematical calculation that is beyond me at this un-Godly hour of the morning. In this spirit, let's sit back and let time do its thing. Let's wait and see if this compounding gig, aided by mother time, will caress my nest egg in the the right spots. I sure hope she does.
Until then, have a delicious day folks.
PS: Would anyone else in this community of folks be interested in starting a monthly podcast of all things investment etc.? I've been looking for podcasting opportunities for some time now. If any of you would like to give it a crack, please leave a comment below and perhaps we can get the ball rolling.
Saturday, 13 July 2019
Aha! It's 05:50 in the morning here in 'X' and I'm typing like a man possessed. I don't now what it is about early mornings, maybe it's a combination of a clear head and the cool air, but whatever it is my finger don't half go tippity tap.
I just noticed it has been a year now since I first started this blog as an experiment. So happy birthday to me!
What kind of experiment is this blog and why did I start it?
This is a good question. The reason is I need something to force me to read about finance.
You see, not only am I a lazy man at heart, my natural reading inclinations, if left to their own devices, drift towards fiction. Fiction, in fact, is my first love, and if I'm honest, reading about stocks etc. comes way down the list. Thus, I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog from the prospective of an investor who doesn't enjoy investing. From the perspective of a person who needs coaxing to pick up the finance section of the newspaper. In the past, the finance section was what I used to clean the windows and to wrap fragile objects. The thought of reading it sent numbing chills through my entire being.
This is my position.
This may shock some of you out there who are new to my blog, but for those of you who read it every week, this will come as no surprise.
I force myself every Sunday to blast out a post whether I've got sometime to say or not as I find writing to be a meditative exercise, one which after a few minutes of grappling my thoughts, I usually follow through on.
Getting into the flow like this feels good and calms me down. Now, this is not to say that the words themselves are worth reading - far from it. I once heard the late, great Christopher Hitchens talking about his latest book at the time 'God is not Great'. In the interview the journalist said 'Everyone has a book inside them, don't they?' Hitchens, in his own smooth and wry way replied, 'Yes, perhaps they do. But for most this is where it should stay.' This is true of this blog for sure, but fuck it. Blogging is a self-indulgent practice, so if you think it's crap, that's okay by me. If, on the other hand, it makes you giggle or - God forbid - you get something from it - then that's okay, too.
The words I see on the screen in front of me are not really for anyone else. This could, in fact, be a personal diary, for I act anonymously and have no purpose to achieve recognition or fame. My motives are pure. I type because I like to type. I need a reason to read financial articles, otherwise my dosing rods will point me in the direction of Charles Dickens or David Foster Wallace (I joke you not) So without this blog I would have little or no interest in investing, and actually I need to keep one eye on finance. My portfolio is worth about $1,000,000 Singaporean, so it's safe to say - like the Yanks do - that I've got some skin in the game.
I wonder if I'm the only blogger in the http://www.sginvestbloggers.com/ community who writes for this reason? Probably... Anyway, who cares? I write because I write and what more is there to say?
Since this is my blog's birthday, I thought I'd get back on track and talk a little about the stocks on my radar etc. because otherwise I'll have no readers at all. In fact, if you have read this far already, hats off to you. You're an avid reader, one with patience outstripping your peers in this frantic world of skimming and scanning we inhabit.
I'm currently looking at Wilmar, ITV (UK), Tracker Fund of Hong Kong and Accordia Golf Trust.
Wilmar is defensive and solid. Is a growth and dividend play in the long run.
ITV (UK) this stock pays a good dividend and would diversify my portfolio. Also, I think market sentiment is overly pessimistic on it considering the good things it's currently doing.
Tracker fund of Hing Kong as I would quite like to get some exposure to China over the next 5 to 10 years.
Accordia Golf Trust because of it's dividend and I think it's a good long term play.
Okay, now that's all from me this week. I want to once again say happy birthday to me and this strange blog.
All the best, party people.
Sunday, 7 July 2019
As my regular reader know, I have a dividend portfolio made up of mainly SGX listed stocks and REITs that generated almost $40,000 last year.
When my account has $15,000, I deploy this back into the portfolio rain or shine. I feel that by not trying to time the market over a minimum 20 year period I should have a big enough pot to retire.
Presently, I'm having trouble decided where to allocate the latest bunch of juicy dividends. These are strange times in the markets with blue chip REITS overvalued, blue chip stock largely the same, gold is pricey and, to top it all off, a global recession is on the horizon. So, what to do in this situation?
I don't want to sit on he sideline holding cash, for this goes against my investment plan. I
d rather be in the game than out no matter what happens and collect dividends. But at this particular juncture, I'm really stuck.
The best I can come up with is defensive stocks such as Sheng Siong or Thaibev. That said, I'm already heavily invested in both.
Any thoughts people?
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