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Without specific reason, I was prompted to update my blog. While deliberating for a topic, it struck me that my last H2F3 updates was 3-4 months ago. 

Refer here for what does H2F3 (Health, Hobbies, Family, Finance & Friends) means.


Refer here for Q12019 H2F3 update.

So here I am, writing to update 2019Q2 H2F3. At the day of writing this article, I was reading Ray Dalio’s Book “Principles: Life and Work. One section of the book told about the “first principle of life”. It is summarized as.

·      Think For Yourself to decide:
1.     What do you want,
2.     What is true,
3.     What should do to achieve #1 in light of #2.

You can also refer herefor my previous blog on Ray Dalio’s video.

I added these principles into my H2F3 priorities.

Health

Generally good with no sickness. Nonetheless my son is sick lately, but thank God, his health is restored completely now.

What I want: Maintain my BMI 23-24. Standing at 178cm, this will require me to be ~75 Kg. I am currently at my heaviest at 80Kg. Time to slim down! I had been exercising regularly all my life. So the physical exercise part is not so difficult. I still frequent the gym for reasonable muscular exercise. For aerobic part, I played table tennis and swim regularly. The most challenging part for me is controlling my diet! Dinners from work commitments, and late night suppers does not help. Time to resist these temptations! For my spiritual health, I read the bible and pray daily. But lately, due to lack of time, I am not devoting as much time as I will like. Quite frustrated with that too. Last but not least, rest and sleep is lacking since the start of the year due to work! Yes, I yearn to catch up with that too.

Family

Family always takes precedence over my work.  I am thankful for my beautiful family. And then, my wife has priority over children. It is obvious to me that, without the husband and wife in unity, the kids will not be taught well.

With both of us parents working, and huge household members of kids, parent-in-law and helper, it is uphill task to juggle so many things smoothly. Every family has problem, mine is no difference. The difference we can make is the need to learn how to accept and deal with family-friction righteously. Forgiveness is so important in order that small friction will not become big problems. So far, I must say we are doing really well as a family. Although emotions can be elevated occasionally, but all is still very well managed.

As for husband and wife relationship, it is important to spend quiet personal time together without the kids. My wife and me will apply leave once in a while on a Monday afternoon to go for nice lunch, movie and KTV. And occasionally we will go for late night drinks when kids are asleep.

Parenting is always a big part of my life. Seeing your kids growing up is pure joy. Teaching and disciplining them is not easy but essential. For the last months, I had been working on PPT slides to summarize my previous blog writings. As I mentioned in my blog’s purpose (refer here), my blog will be a diary of teachings for my children when they grow up.

Separately, I also spend time regularly to train all my kids in table tennis, and my primary schooler is improving really fast to the satisfaction of her school coach. With her focus in sports, somehow her school work and discipline level also improved as feedback from her school teachers.

This week Monday is Youth Day holiday. While my wife is working, I took a day off to bring my kids out for movie. They were overjoyed. I am overjoyed too, when they are!

What I want: Wife to be able to stop working eventually or in an environment with more time mothering our kids. Implement my PPT teaching slides as a regular home class with my kids. Say at least 3h per week at different levels. I wanted my kids to build continuously a very strong character with love, peace and joy. They must honor their parents, love and help their family members, at least be average in studies, have fantastic relationships with friends and excel in cca. Then with these “fruits” shown, expand my teachings to relatives/friends’ kids.

And I need to keep on learning to be a Good Husband and a Good Father! This, to me, is more difficult and more important than being rich and famous!

Financial

Career
I am still in the same company. Group is not doing well, but locally we are still ok. I got a bigger role recently with expanded co-workers in an expanded regional coverage. You can call it  promotion without salary adjustments. But, it is not really what I want, but I have to accept it professionally due to the circumstances the company is in now. Time management in my life became more critical nowadays. 5 years from now, I hope to have a change in my career to do something of my own. We shall see.

Investments / loan
Portfolio wise, I target to grow 7-8% per annum. This growth is steady in the last years. Last quarter, Bitcoin has been my stellar performance. It grew from 2% of total portfolio to 6% due to BTC tripling. I also added more silver and shares of Raffles Medical. Currently,  I am 39% Cash, 37% metals 6 % crypto 9% shares 9% bonds. CPF and properties excluded.

In 5 year’s time, I hope to have with returns to sustain 50% household expenses. I also wish to pay down mortgage loan to less than 15% of property market value in 5 years’ time, with mortgage covered by income from other rental flat(s). Reckon it is achievable, as long as I am still working in the next 5 years.  

Teaching syllabus for kids
As mentioned earlier, I will like to finish my PPT Teaching Syllabus for my kids and perhaps within 5 years, expands the teachings for the benefits of others.

Charitable acts
Continue to apportion a part of money for charitable acts each month. Lately, I committed to contributing for my niece overseas education monthly expenses. My sister use to support me during my university days, and when I mentioned I will support my niece, my sister is so touched.

Friends

Friends are very important to me. Gatherings with relatives and friends are taking place regularly. No matter how busy I am, I will find time to initiate catch up with my good friends.  My social circle expanded with my involvement in the table tennis circle. Due to the expanded role in work, I will also get to be closer with more new colleagues.

Hobbies

Signed up for the Singapore Table Tennis League competition in Div 4 of the 7th Div. Will try to play at least once a week with friends, and once a week training for my kids. Similarly, once a week for gym, and once a week for leisure swimming. Reading bible is daily. Will try to read at least 1  book per quarter. Continue to blog at least 1 article per month.

Conclusion

Health - Not as good as I wanted. Grow heavier and more restless. Time to slim down.
Hobbies – Good to pick up table tennis again for myself and also for coaching my kids.
Family – Not too bad, as we still spend lots of time together.
Financial – Not too bad as my job seems pretty secured, but tired at times.
Friends – Not much changes. Still catching up with friends frequently.

Ok, enough said. I prayed for the blessings of love, peace and joy be upon all my friends and readers here. Bye for now. :-)






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As I am writing,

Gold price crossed the $1,400 an ounce mark in 5 years and Bitcoin crossed the psychological $11,000 mark per coin. 

GOLD
The increase in Gold price is likely to due to several factors mentioned below, but often related to uncertainty and low interest rate. If economy is good and looking good, with rising interest rate environment, then Gold price will fall. Vice versa.

- increasing tensions in the Middle-East primarily reflected by the attacks of two tankers in the Gulf.
- global uncertainties from US-China trade wars.
- USD weakened while its 10 year yields dropped below 2% is another factor.
- countries like China, India, Russia, Kazakhstan, Poland and Hungary accumulating gold.

I am holding on to Gold and Silver as my biggest portfolio. They are not for yield, but just a hedge.
If economy is good, G & S price dropped, but I am not worry because then, business will be good, everyone will be optimistic and jobless rate will be low.

BITCOIN
The rise in Gold price pales when compares to the price of Bitcoin. Price of BTC rose from US$4k in Jan to now US$11k, almost 3x!

Why is it rising so fast.... I do not know.

I heard someone saying, Gold is God's money, Crypto is People's money and Currency is Fiat money. Maybe this is the reason!
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Which country can benefit from the trade war?

Definitely not Singapore.

We are very dependent on trade of these two countries and it’s going to be disruptive to our economy.

But one country that can benefit is Vietnam.



Background of Vietnam

Vietnam is a country that is very similar to China few decades ago. It is a communist country gradually being more and more open. They are very friendly to foreign investors. People are getting more and more educated. Labour force is still extremely competitive in the manufacturing sector, with GDP per capita in Vietnam is fairly low at 2.6KUSD p.a., from 100 million population. Vietnam’s economy grew consistently 6-7% yearly in the last decade or so. Nominal GDP of Vietnam reached ~250 BUSD end 2018. Vietnam's Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is between 3-4 BUSD and not exceed 5 BUSD in the last decade. There is definitely enough rooms to grow in terms of GDP and FDI.

My experience in Vietnam

Since 2007, I had business relationships with many Vietnamese companies and making many trips to Vietnam, whether its Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi. Thereby, also making many good Vietnamese friends there with decade-long relationships. In the last 2-3 years, I also made many trips to Vietnam each year.

Clever people
My first business trip to Vietnam is in 2007. I was already impressed by the people there. They are very clever, but of course wide-spread corruptions are making business extremely complicated. It took me close to 3-4 years of lobbying in the country before securing my first contract there.

Complexity of business
Most big companies are state-owned, like China. Smaller companies are often set-up to be the trading / importing arm of the bigger state-owned companies. Therefore, many business contracts are dealt with the middle-man companies, while technical discussions can be done jointly with the state-owned end-user and trading companies. It is all about relationships and who you know in Vietnam. Being a foreigner, it is unlikely to know first time, who has a better relationship with the end-user and, or who is telling the truth.

Progress, just like China
Despite being country where business dealings are not the simplest, it has progressed a lot in the last decade. Each time I went to Vietnam over a few years, I see improvements. Economy continue to grow. More and more buildings. Infrastructure has improved. I remember in 2008 from HCM to Vungtau, the roads are so bumpy. But nowadays the roads from HCM are great. Reminding me very much of China when I use to travel from Shanghai to the outskirt provinces. The capital of Vietnam is in HCM with state government in Hanoi, likened Shanghai and Bejing respectively.

Debts’ headroom
Most Vietnamese still purchase property without leveraging on bank’s borrowings. Typically, in the City, a 100sqm apartment can cost approx. 150-250KUSD. I remember asking friends there how much down-payments and how much bank loans? They were confused because they paid 100% of the property with cash. One reason is the mind-set of debt-free for the older generation, and the other is the high mortgage rate >5%. Gross savings rate was measure at ~25.5% in Dec 2017.

Education and open mind-set
Vietnamese are getting more and more educated and in general those in the 40s are driving the business environment with very open mind and well-mix of knowledge outside and inside the country. Lots of emphasis is placed on their children’s education with majority of the younger generations being proficient in English.


Conclusion

Foreign investors already considered Vietnam’s factory districts as alternative to China. But Vietnamese government need to balance between FDI and the effect of trade with China worsening.

Vietnam is definitely like a mini-China of the past. I think if Singaporeans are smart enough, they can benefit from Vietnam’s growth going forward. For those who does not know, flight from Singapore to HCM is 2h and flight from Hanoi to HCM is also 2h. This makes Singapore strategically placed in terms of distance also.

I told one of my very good Vietnamese friends who is a business man in Vietnam, that the next time I am there, I will definitely extend my trip to discuss potential investments together. My friend is welcoming. I am definitely positive about the future of Vietnam.




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Bitcoin more than doubled since Feb 2019.
Now at US$7.5K per BTC.

Read my post on Mar here.
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-->
Collapse of Laurel Tree and Sycamore Tree projects

Today business times reported two condo projects Laurel Tree along Hillview Terrace and Sycamore Tree in Joo Chiat under receiverships. Developer is vehicles of Tan Hock Keng. 
TOP supposed to be in Dec 2016, but had stalled due to insufficient funds.

Receiver told buyers either: 
1) cough up extra premium to ensure completion of project or 
2) receiver to sell the property and return money to the bank. 

Then normally there is no more money left. The buyers were of course the victims.  

Investment knowledge is vital

Therefore, whether to invest in stocks or for HDB upgrader to buy condos, knowledge is so important. Cheap does not mean good.

Back then when I was searching for private apartment upgrading from HDB, the first thing I do is not just to visit property websites. It is to visit to the bookstores to look for books on property purchase.

I learnt that one top criterion is to look for a reputable developer with track records, aside from the usual price, size, location etc. So it’s a no-brainer for me to go for CapitaLand developed properties back then.

Frequent times, smaller and less reputable developers may use cheaper pricing and better instalment plans to attract buyers, but please reconsider. Situations like Laurel & Sycamore Trees do happen. You can just be the unlucky ones.

If the developers are listed companies, you should also check their financial situations from their annual reports. This is where investment knowledge and ability to understand balance sheets are so important.

There are many companies often only appearing “pretty” on the surface with good topline but accumulating incredibly huge debts, and top management only cares about sucking in unjustified huge salaries for themselves and the last thing they are bothered with is the investors/or their clients.







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It's been awhile since any changes to my investment portfolio, except that lately, I splashed out some monies into:

1) Bitcoin (BTC)

Refer to my post last month, here.
At current pricing, I continue to put my belief in BTC's upside.
I started accumulating at US$3-4K, although now its US$5K+, it is still 400% down from its high of US$20K


2) Raffles Medical

A stock I owned for many years. Pricing had dived 50% since 2015, despite little changes in fundamentals, except that a huge part of the cash is dashed out to invest in new hospital in China and expansion of hospital in Singapore. Thereby, also incurred borrowings in the hospital growth which is essential for growth in my opinion.

Refer here for my past posts on Raffles Medical.
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The Maritime and Offshore exhibition Sea Asia took place in MBS this week and I was there. It is my 17th year in the industry. I met many old pals, although the number of them still active in the industry has significantly declined. Had many chats and below are some of the key takeaways?

The big question: "Has Marine and Offshore Industry Recovered?" 

Still at Bottom!

I am not too sure if the industry is recovering? But one thing I am certain is “we are still at the bottom of the cycle”. Obviously when you hit rock bottom, the only way next is up! That said, it is unlikely that we will not be anywhere near the glorious days for the foreseeable future.

The sentiments from the show is definitely not that rosy in my opinion. News of recent retrenchments and pay cuts are not unheard, and it is very difficult to new jobs. SMEs who survived and still enduring the ordeal, are very cautious with cost overheads. Most are also striving to diversified into other sectors.

Many companies which failed to do so, are either liquidated or in process of liquidation. So what if they have decades of solid track records to speak of? Those once glorious local listed O&M companies with hundreds of millions/billions market cap are now languished with hundreds of millions of debts. Many had already filed for administrations or had their shares suspended. The rest are kept afloat because creditors have not much options but to provide more time.

I also met quite a handful of retirees who still want to have a sniff of the industry. On the other hand, I did see some old guards back into the industry again either being employed or acting as consultant. This is good news.

Mergers  

Big companies are either struggling or some sees opportunity. Either they continue to cut overheads or they merged. Norway’s Kongsberg Group completed acquisition of Rolls Royce Commercial Marine, one of the big names in the industry, for 500millions GBP this month. I have friends in both Kongsberg and Rolls Royce and I am sure they will face uncertainty as mergers always create redundancy due to positions overlapped. MacGregor also announced acquisition of O&M business of TTS Group but completion of acquisition has further delayed due to regulatory approvals from competition authorities.

Oil production sector is still good

On the other hand, upstream oil such as production side of the business is definitely doing much better. Floating Production Units (FPU) which comprised of FPSO, FSO, FLNG etc. are vessels for producing/processing, storing and offloading oil and gas to tankers. FPSO vessels are often in billions of dollars and chartered over 20 to 30 years.  

Many FPSO projects were planned in the pipelines with Brazil Petrobras having the most announced. One FPSO contractor with a huge setup in S’pore is Japanese operator Modec being extremely busy flooded with many projects. Other FPSO contractors are BW Offshore, SBM, Yinson, MISC, Bumi etc. Sembmarine and Keppel are basically the shipyards capable to convert or build the FPSOs. Both companies have FPSO orderbooks and are definitely eyeing for more ahead.

Rigs & OSV & Offshore Construction sectors still very battered

During the good old days, the sectors that propelled the market to a boom in SG are from Rigs, OSV & Offshore Construction (OC) sectors. E.g. Rigs are Keppel, Sembmarine, Ezion, Falcon, Baker etc; OSVs are Nam Cheong, Pacific Radiance, Swissco, Marco Polo, Vallianz etc; Offshore Construction companies were Swiber and Ezra in which both filed for administrations.

To understand more about the different sectors within O&G, please refer to my blog in March 2014 here.

These sectors are definitely still very much battered with huge oversupply. While there are few Drill rig orders lately, buyers dictates the margin and terms. Furthermore, contracts are often on the basis that Sellers have to finance a big part of the sale for the Buyers.

OSVs are without questions the worst of the lot with huge oversupply. Many vessels are still lying unfinished mostly in Chinese shipyards. Charter rates of OSV in most cases cannot even cover basic cost. Companies who are still with decent jobs are normally those with country’s protection or special relationships. Vallianz is one of them which is still busy with jobs thanks to their Saudi owner. Most of their vessels are operating in the Middle East region serving Saudi Aramco. Then there are companies with vessels serving Indonesia market which is with local content. But even so with jobs, margins are battered because supply exceeds demand.

Other sectors within the Offshore & Marine

Many O&M companies also look to diversify into sectors independent of oil and gas or with projects related to technologies or “environmental friendly”.

For instance, port developments will require Dredgers, Tugs and Barges. Keppel announced recently that they received grants from MPA for the development of an autonomous tug. And I also heard from friends that this is the sector where they still managed to sell. However, the value of tug boats are very small compared to OSVs or Rigs or OC.

The Dredging vessels are bigger in value compared to tugs and barges. This sector however is very niched and dominated by few companies, which essentially meant that new players often had to pay school fees of learning. Keppel has already forayed into this sector with few wins since 1-2 years back. Many other companies also want to have a bite of the pie.

Renewables sectors such as Wind especially in Taiwan and LNG sectors are also generating a lot of interests. But bearing in mind that these sectors are more niched and also many players are swarming in with limited projects to satisfy everyone. Renewable sectors are also dependent on Government regulations and hence progress will always be very much slower. Thus driving out many smaller players who are not financially strong to wait so long for a project confirmation.

The world also see a rise in internet data. And the most efficient way of data transmission is laying of submarine fibre optics cables. Therefore Cablelay of Fibre Optics is definitely a viable business looking forward. Again these are sectors with lesser and niched players and volume of business is also not as big as Rigs and OSVs during the heydays. 

Conclusion

The O&M industry is at its rock bottom. It was the worst ever three years since the Oil downturn.  

Oil price is still unstable. Last year, oil price was mostly above $60 and everyone started to be more positive until in Dec when it tumbled below $50 spoiling all good sentiments. Hence, banks are still cautious in lending or totally not lending at all. When financing is tight, not many companies can afford to invest in new projects using self-funding. The lack of investments spiralled down the value chain which explains why the industry is still in distress.

Nonetheless it is not gloom and doom. Many reckon that the worst of the downturn is behind us in upstream oil and gas. The pro-longed downturn cannot go on forever and upstream oil and gas still need to invest, and banks still need to lend. Companies or workers who are still in the industry today are likely to represent those who are more resilient forming the backbone of the sector. If oil price stables or steadily increases this year, I am sure confidence will rise and activities will increase. Besides, we already seen many projects sanctioned in the FPSO sectors.

For me, I am in a strangely positive situation where we still see growth in the sectors we operate in. Perhaps it is due to the niche in our product offerings and our core business is not all oil and gas related. I thank God for that and really hope that the industry will recover soon. My prayers extend to all those who suffered within the industry. 



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Over the last 15 years, I had several different cars registered under my name. They are either new or used-cars from 1.5L to 2.5L, from Japanese to continental cars and from sedan to MPV. No posh cars though. Cannot afford. I had also rented cars for few months, and even had experience of selling cars in the old days. That said, the one experience I do not have, until recently, is the renewal of car COE. Last week, I renewed COE of my Toyota Estima.

Initially I opted 5 years, but a friend of mine gave the rationale why 10 years is better if you can afford the COE upfront. I will explain why but before that you need to understand how COE works, what is Minimum PARF value, and what is Prevailing Quota Premiums (PQP). You can also find out more information @ www.onemotoring.com.sg.

COE
Basically, if COE is 30K for 10 years, if you decided to deregister your car at year 5, you get back 15K and at year 6 you get back 12K. So, it is a pro-rata basis costing 3K p.a.

PARF vs COE cars
If your car is still within 10 years, it is a PARF car. If it is more than 10 years, it is a COE car. You can read here what is the difference between PARF and COE car. E.g. a car has a PARF of 15K, if you decide not to renew COE, you take 15K back. If you decide to renew COE, you will have to forsake this 15K.

PQP
PQP is the moving average of the COE prices in the last 3 months and varies from month to month. Below is the table showing PQP of COE. My car 10 year period expires in mid-May, so I am allow to choose either PQP for March, April or May. You can see that there are differences in pricing. I am lazy to wait for May PQP (Cat B) to be out and quite sure it is going to be >35K, hence I chose the cheaper PQP in March which is 33K compared to April one which is 35.4K.


Source : LTA

So, 5 years or 10 years?

I opted for 10 years COE. Let’s see the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantage : Cheaper Annual Depreciation

Using my car 2.4L Toyota Estima as an example, i.e. PARF 17.6K, PQP 33K.

If 10 year COE
I am paying 17.6 + 33 = 50.6K for 10 years.
This means that annual depreciation is about 5K for the car.

If 5 year COE
I am paying 17.6 + (33/2) = 34.1K for 5 years.
This means that annual depreciation is about 6.8K for the car.

So we can see that 10 year has cheaper annual depreciation of 1.8K. This is because the PARF is spread over 10 years rather than 5 years.

Disadvantage : More expensive road tax and higher insurance and maintenance cost

Of course, you have to take into account road tax and insurance of older cars are more expensive. Basically, there is an annual road tax surcharge for COE car as per table below. And also, the maintenance cost for an older car is usually more expensive due to wear and tear.


Source : LTA



E. g. PARF car of my model, road tax will be S$1,682 pa. COE car road tax will be with additional of surcharge. Using road tax calculator here,
10-11 year = 1,682 + 170 = 1852
11-12 year = 1,682 + 338 = 2020
12-13 year = 1,682 + 506 = 2188
13-14 year = 1,682 + 674 = 2356
14-15 year = 1,682 + 842 = 2,524
5 years surcharge is 2,530. P.a. = 506.

15-19th year = 1,682 + 842 = 2,524.
5 years surcharge is 4,210. P.a. = 842.
Therefore road tax difference of S$336 p.a, if you continue to drive the car after 5th year.

Advantage : 5 year cannot renew to 10 years thereafter

If you opt to renew COE for 5 years, once it expires, you any time you decide to de-register your car and get back the COE pro-rata rebate, you can!

Advantage : Easier to sell half way through  

This is the reason where my friend explained to me and why I decided to renew for 10 years. For 5 year COE car, let’s say I driven for 2.5 years and sick of the car, I decide to sell. The car is only left with 2.5 years COE. It will be very difficult to sell, because buyer will go for newer COE car which depreciation p.a. is almost the same price. And also poorer family may want a COE car that they can drives longer years with a lower annual depreciation.
 This means that you will likely need to de-register your car rather than sell your COE car. Then the PARF you forsake will be more pricey because you only spread it over a period of 2.5 years other than 5 years.

If your COE is 10 years, then after 2.5 years, your car still have a life span of 7.5 years.

Using my car as example,
5 year COE : 34.1K
10 year COE : 50.6K.

After 2.5 years Deregister,

5 yr COE : take back ½ COE value i.e. 8.25K. So (17.6+8.25K) / 2.5 years = 10.3K
Hence, depreciation is 10.3K p.a for the first 2 years if you de-register.

If you try to sell, it is quite likely that you will not find a buyer, because it is left with 2.5 years and depreciation is impossible to be cheaper than 6.8K where we initially calculated.

In retrospect, for the 10 year COE, after 2.5 years, I am likely able to sell because the COE still have a 7.5 year life span and the depreciation is cheaper at 5K plus.  

Conclusion

I opted for 10 year COE for the reason that lower p.a. depreciation if I were to drive more than 5 years. And also possibility of selling is higher if I were to sell it mid-way.

The only disadvantage is I need to have 16.5K more upfront. But at any point of time, if I de-register my car, the amount of COE I take back is always pro-rata.

So renew COE for 10 year if you can afford it!






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Prompted by another blogger SI, I wrote this article. Addressing the question, there are always the push the and the pull factors. Let’s evaluate both sides of the coins.

PUSH

Current job is shitty. Lousy pay, lousy boss, lousy colleagues, low satisfaction etc. Time to move on to start my own. To take control of our own destiny where we are not answerable to our boss, and create something that can impact the world with abundance of self-satisfaction.

PULL

Excellent idea awaiting to explode. A good partner or investor already knocking at the door. Too good to resist because it’s going to be something even bigger than Apple, facebook or Alibaba...?

REALITY CHECK

Good to think big, but also need to embrace reality. Both hand in hand.

Ask: In work, why is everyone or everything is so lousy? Or why is every job so shitty even I changed several? Often times, we should also reflect about ourselves. Are problems from us too? This is what we meant by “do not escape”!

Maybe starting your own is even worst when we are not ready. You are no longer answerable to your boss, but you are answerable to your clients who may even be more detesting.

No income, no more colleagues to help, and if you are unlucky, an untrustworthy partner (over time). You may spend tremendous amount of time and effort, but still low return of income during the starting years. Worst of all, all the investment savings are all down to drain eventually due to immaturity and lack of wisdom.

I am a super positive person as friends know me. I myself aspire to start my own. Hence I am not being negative but pragmatic and evaluating both sides of the coin.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE

I had a business associate in his later year of life and career. Let’s call him Mr. S. He started his own business close to 40 years ago. Mr. S is experienced in his field, work very hard and has good integrity and name in the business. Few years ago, he told me to start my own because he started his own, and that is the best thing that ever happened to him. His business grew over the decades with good revenue and clientele list. During its peak, workers of close to 200. Things took a turn due to the sustained market crisis in the last few years, he is now facing bankruptcy, high debts accumulated and having re-pumped in all his personal monies into the company. Worst of all, I see the stress and despair.

What makes you think you will do better than Mr. S and not fall into the same situation?
It is not about the money anymore! It’s about the sweat and blood put in for 4 decades and the ending is “emptiness!” and opportunity cost of not having enough time with family and friends.

Of course, I also know many success stories. My very own sister is a businesswoman. My ex-boss who sold his business eventually leading to loads of millions.  

All I want to advocate is: THINK carefully and do the necessary checks before impulse come into play! Especially for those who have family burden.

HOW TO EVALUATE SHOULD I STAY OR LEAVE THEN?

I cannot advise for you. Different people different situation. But what I can do here is to share my own experience based on the circumstances.

Aside from the basis of “WHY”, “HOW”, “WHAT”, “WHERE” and “WHEN” to start which you need to decide for yourself, I also delve into several detail checks. Hopefully it can help  you and me. J

Check 1 –  Check if you do well in your current job?
If you cannot even do well in your current job, what makes you think you will do well if you start your own, which is essentially tougher. One person I will like to make reference to is John Lim of ARA. He was doing really well as a corporate employee when Lee Kah Shing spotted him. He took a leap of faith at the age of 45 to start ARA.

Gauge for me: Yes, I am doing well in my current job. At least for my standard, or at least my boss, colleagues and people within my market are telling me that. I have been in the same market since 15-20 years ago. Know the products well and know many people within the industry all over the world. SO YES, I pass this check!

Check 2 – Financial Health
A friend of mine quit his job when market is still down and tell me how excited he is because he is starting his business, because he is getting out of the shit in his current job. Then I asked him if he is financially ready? He said yes, because he is without kids and have some savings and at most can sell his car. 3 months later, he panicked because of no income and lots of work expenses! He is still without a job after more than 1 year and savings are all draining and worst of all, he is straining with stress.

It is important not to just consider savings as our lifeline for starting a new business, unless your savings is so huge. But then again, if your savings is really that huge, why start your own when you can possibly invest. Anyway, my point is, it is better to have a transition of income reduction. E.g. your salary is your 100% income. To start your own, you will suddenly start with $0. This is “No No” for me. At least my income reduces to 50% or to a stage where my expenses can still be paid for from other source of income. E.g. rental income, investment income, freelancing income etc.

More important for me is, I will start in a business which is without huge cash outlay upfront and able to generate cashflow for even during the initial part. Most café owners invested heavily upfront and find out that cashflow is not coming in reference to invested and operating expenses, that soon they folded.  

Gauge for me : If I were to start a new business, it will definitely be something I am good at for already many years. E.g only... perhaps I can first become a consultant (sign a 1-2 year contract) for a foreign company I know well working 2-3days a week, or they know me well within the market I am familiar in. This will keep cashflow coming in, and yet, I have excess time to work on developing my own business bit by bit. First being an intermediary, then developing my own product etc. Then I also have my property rental income to sustain some of my expenses. Wife is still working to also sustain burden. And possibly investment returns. Only in desperate measures, I will allow to drain my savings. But this is already very serious

Actually, I been approached a few times in such situation from foreign company who knows me well, but time is not ripe because I wanted my financial situation to be even more stronger. Remember: Savings will always deplete faster than you think. Better to have a transition reduction in income when you resign from job and start your own!

So NO, I am not comfortable. Check failed.

Check 3 – Family Burden
This is for those who are married with kids. If you are having young kids, and cherish the time with them, then it is quite unlikely you are able to juggle between time of starting your own and time spent on them. Opportunity cost! Most will want to think that “who says I cannot have enough time for my kids when I start my own”. Yes you can, but for sure you will not do as well for both areas. You are creating a “LIE” for yourself. Starting your own is always most difficult in the first few years. So it is certain that family time will be sacrificed. Are you willing to do that? Is your wife ready to take the family burden?

Check 5 – Right Ideas + Right partners
Fantastic ideas are always essential for good business. But that said, we often always start with crappy ideas, and learn from there to develop better ideas as we have more experience. So unlike many people who think right ideas are all important, perhaps a right partner is even more important for a start.

Ideas are not as ideal without fantastic partners. Finding the right partners are not easy. Recently a friend of mine split with his business partners because of “trust” issues. My brother in law had been doing his own business for ~25 years, and his best partner is my sister (his wife)!

In my work experiences, I also see success in partners who one is commercial and the other one is technically inclined. I also know 2 partners who are best friends and both have equal share in the company. I asked them, “what if Mr. A say “YES” and Mr. B say “NO” to a proposal, so what’s the decision? They told me if one disagree, then “NO GO”! They will only go ahead with decision when both agrees. And because they know each other as best friends, so far it works for them for the last 15 years.

John Lim and Lee Kah Shing started ARA. To Lee, it is an investment he has no problem losing if it fails, relative to his net worth. For John Lim, it is a must win, because he depended on it. And Lee trusted Lim because of his capability as Lee already had a working relationship with Lim. Hence Lim (capability + hard work + cannot fail) + Lee (wealth + connections + experiences) = success!

Gauge for me : No partner identified for now. I will probably start myself first, then start finding partner later. “Trust”, “friendships”, “loyalty” and being different from skill-set I have is important criteria me to find a partner.

Check 5 – Timing
Is it the right timing? This links to almost all of the above points discussed.

Gauge for me : I still love my job travelling and meeting people and making deals, despite the politics which I manage reasonably well. My priority is to serve the Lord as I work. I am able to do that in my present job. So no complains. I prefer to have my mortgage cleared within next 5 years. Should be able to do that in 5 years time, hopefully. I have children who are still young, with the youngest at 2 years old. I prefer to spend more time with them in the next couple of years. To start my own now, its huge opportunity cost not having sufficient time with my family.

John Lim started ARA at the age of 45. It’s not too late for me then. And as my blog wrote, its better late than never! I reckon I still need couple of years ahead before I start my own! I have to be patient and sensible now to be successful in a godly manner later!








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THEN

Towards the end of 2017 early 2018, the most talked about investment topic was the buying of crypto-currency. The news of Bitcoin is everywhere. Even aunties and uncles talked about it. My wife who knew nothing about investment told me about Bitcoin (BTC) and how her colleagues and friends mentioned to her.

Another friend of mine back then, ask if I should start looking into investing in the Crypto mining business as his uncle is quitting his job and poured in close to S$200k into the Crypto mining business.

I also have clients from abroad telling me how excited they are because they were into ICO (Initial Coin Offerings), and were destined to make big bucks. They chose to put aside their core business to focus on ICO. During our conversation, I knew that they do not really understand how crypto-trade works, as their only interest is to make money.

NOW

Rarely you hear any aunties and uncles talk on the streets nowadays about crypto. My friend told me this year that his uncle lost all the monies he invested in the mining machines and are no longer in the business. I also met with my overseas clients this year and asked if they earn big bucks from Crypto, the topic was cut short with an awkward grin.

So the frenzy about BTC died down just as the price was sent tumbling down from the high of US$19K in late Dec 2017, to US$3-4K per BTC now. ~500% down.

source: www.buybitcoinworldwide.com/price

LOVING THE UNLOVED

So in my opinion, Crypto-investment has become the unloved, un-talk-about, or even possibly under-valued? Ok, forgive my opinion about under-valued. I am by no means a Crypto guru, even if I did my own research about Crypto & blockchain before. 

But all I know is I can afford small portion of my portfolio to "experience" BTC ownerships. So I went through all the troubles to find out how to own Bitcoin having already understand it, created my CoinHako account, did few verifications and managed to purchase couple of BTC unit.

And yes, I am a proud owner of BTC now when no one is talking about it! 

Anyway, I am a believer that the mainstream is normally almost always wrong over the long term. I wrote about that in this article. Refer here.

To support my point, I was talking with my child’s classmate’s parent recently. He was interested in investment and I mentioned how about buying BTC, gold and silver etc? The BTC topic raised a few eyebrows as he told me he was burned from it and will never touch it again. I highlighted that now BTC is unloved and perhaps good time to buy? Moreover, price dropped a lot. He shook his head and the topic goes to gold and silver...

LOOKING BACK

On 14 Dec 2017 when BTC is at its peak value, I cut and paste a joke of Bitcoin onto my Blog titled “Monkey Business”. Refer here.

Towards the end of the joke states: It will make a lot of people bankrupt and a few people filthy rich in this monkey business.”

And indeed, all I know is my friend’s uncle is sort of bankrupt with his life-savings wiped out. And perhaps many more out there whom I do not know. Undeniably,  there will be some of those out there who will eventually get rich via investment in Crypto, but they still remain the minority. 

Everyone always think that they are the minority who will win, but most of the time, their actions already tell us they are not.  

So the joke has some truth in it and it does not mean Monkey business is no good. End of the day, you must understand the Monkey business and know how and when to use the value of the Monkey.

For e.g if the market crash, one sort of company I will invest in is Bitcoin technology company. 

Don’t ask me why I don’t invest now then….

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