Investing FAQs

In the past month, I had a couple of conversations with some of my friends who wanted to start investing.

Many of them know that I have been buying shares for 4-5 years but I rarely speak of it when we meet up, reason being that I don’t see the point to do so. It is only when they are interested in investing and seek to find answers on what they should do, and that is when I will try to advice them on what I think is the best based on the options available to their situation. Unfortunately, my advice usually falls to deaf ears or rather, I get responses from them that I find rather amusing. I thought I would share with you the typical questions that they will ask and how I will try and answer them with some amusement as well to get my point across.

Hopefully, you may also find my experiences entertaining as well, or could help you if you have similar questions.

Should I buy an ILP?

Earlier this week, one of them was interested in buying an ILP which was very similar to what I bought before. I have requested for the policy details and surrender values for each year based on projected returns of 4% and 8% in the brochure. Premiums were quoted to be $750/month and all returns are non-guaranteed. Expected break even to be at 13th year based on the the 4% projected annual return. Any withdrawal before the 13th year would be subjected to penalty.

This was a rather straight forward analysis, as with many other ILPs that I have analyzed before. After sending over my calculations to him, he asked me this.

Question : The surrender value indicated is not guaranteed. It is a projected value but high possibility to attain in Singapore. Money will be invested and allocated into different types of funds. High risk high returns. What is your opinion?

Miss Niao : The funds that they invest in are their company’s own mutual funds. Typically, mutual fund annual fees are 1-2% of your original capital. Whether the fund outperforms or underperforms the market, the company will still deduct fees from you. 1-2% may not seem like much but a projected 4% annualized return will become 2-3%. Compounded over a long investment period will significantly eat into your overall returns. Due to this reason alone, the net returns from mutual funds will rarely beat the stock market index. Past annualized returns of S&P500 are about 7-10% over similar holding periods including dividends. Opt for a much lower cost option like an index fund/ETF with expense ratios as low as 0.03% per year.

If you would like a more disciplined approach, there are many DCA options like POSB Invest Saver plans that will make automatic deductions for you monthly. At the same time, it offers much more liquidity since you can sell your holdings more easily than if the money were stuck in the ILP.

Should I buy Tesla stock?

Miss Niao : It is ultimately your choice, but I did not. Because as of writing, at $600/share and PE of 900, I did not bother to even go to Tesla’s website and open its annual report. >.<

Friend : Ok, but just to let you know I buy already. Lol.

Should I use robo-advisor?

Question : I saw on Youtube ad that now robo-advisor can track other investors buy and sell trades automatically! That means that someone do the job for me sia, I just follow!

Miss Niao : Ya lor, then if he go to Holland, you also follow lor.

In my opinion, I think robo-advisors are a really good tool in helping to automatically allocate your funds into your “risk profile” while offering low trading fees. I found out from my friend that they will even do portfolio rebalancing, meaning you can choose how much of your portfolio you wish to be placed into stocks or bonds (e.g. 70%/30% ratio) so that you can get a little bit of both worlds – something that might not be easy to do on your own due to limited time and capital.

Personally, I do not use it because I don’t really diversify my portfolio that much and I have a relatively different investing approach as to what it can offer. I guess I find having to analyze a stock fundamentals quite fun to me. I like reading annual reports and earning release every quarter/half yearly. Every stock I hold have its own story and journey to growth behind it. Being able to be a shareholder and follow the company’s journey is a privilege.

At least if I reach Holland as my final destination, I would know that I took the MRT there instead of GrabCar.

Do you buy bitcoin?

Miss Niao : No.

Friend : *Continues with all the Lite, Eth, etc jargon and I just stare at him with a confused face*

What did you buy during market crash?

Miss Niao : CCL, FIZZ, T12, etc. *whips out phone with StockCafe profile*

Friend : *looks through list with frowning eyebrows* Why you never buy Singtel or FB or Amazon!!! What a waste sia.

Miss Niao : Beats me! 😦

Quick 2020 Review

Well hello there! I have abandoned this blog for the entire 2020, and I didn’t type a single thing about my finances. It wasn’t that I was busy, but I just made blogging less of a priority in my current time management. I always try to keep myself busy, even with unimportant stuff sometimes. I still log in once in awhile, and scroll through my blog whenever I need some cringe-worthy reads.

I would say that 2020 was a rather fulfilling year, though it could have been better in many aspects of my life.

For one, I have officially crossed 30. There is a strong disparity of how I view things as compared to when I was in my mid-20s. Although it is just a mere 4-5 years apart, but much have changed. I try to be as liberal with my thoughts towards issues and people in general, although it may not be easy sometimes. Maybe it’s because the social circles and friends that I have also progressed into different stages of life. Back then, I could have more people around me wanting to hang out for after-work dinners, plan for short holiday trips, etc. Nowadays, seeing them once a year would be considered a luxury – and probably an escape to some from family duties.

I do still have quite a lot of single friends, which I now hang out more often with due to aforementioned reasons, and I think it is getting more and more common nowadays with people around my age group to stay single, and actually be contented about it. Generations have changed and women are getting more and more independent. In fact it’s not uncommon to know that many of my female friends are earning, or have the potential to earn more than their male spouses.

Getting happily married or staying happily single are different choices or the paths that life has led us to, and I believe both can be as fulfilling as the other. I personally don’t really see a need for 2 people to get married unless they can continue being happy living together, or for the sake of procreation. Having a relationship, let alone getting married, is literally like having another full time job, without having the option to resign as and when you like.

Everyone has a limited timespan in life. It is ultimately what you choose to do with it. At the end of my life journey, I just wanna look back and say that I did do my best and have as little regrets as possible. After all, I will have nobody but myself to answer for my own actions.

Before this blog post turns too melodramatic, I should steer it back and reflect on the positive things that happened to me in 2020. And nothing excites me more than to review my finances. It makes me happy because there is always progress. I am always in a better financial position than the year before.

Stocks portfolio performance

Time-weighted returns : -5.23% against ES3 -8.83%

XIRR : 5.28%

Dividends received : $5747.62 against $3359.77 (FY2019)

Dividend yield : 3.8% (estimated)

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I have dumped a lot of my liquid cash into the stock market during the COVID-19 crash. Some of my readers and StockCafe followers will know what I have bought and sold throughout those volatile times.

Despite having a lot of the companies cutting their dividends, my portfolio still managed to generate an increase of 71% in dividend payouts as compared to the prior year. So you can imagine how much my portfolio would have grown just based only on capital injection. It is also the reason why the XIRR has also become positive even though TWR is negative.

Something to take note here is the decrease in dividend yield. It is but expected given that some of the counters have decreased their dividend yield, and especially for those which I did not manage to average down on.

Taking a deeper look into my portfolio, I realize that I have also held many stocks that fall into “defensive” industries. I am beginning to wonder if I have subconsciously taken the investing approaches of the defensive investor as mentioned in TII. It was not my intention to follow this style of investing but perhaps have better suited my appetite over the course of my investing journey.

If you have not followed me yet, consider doing so if you are interested to know. Hit “Portfolio” on top of my blog to get the link and sign up for a free StockCafe portfolio tracker if you have not done so. Trust me when I say that it is God-sent for all your portfolio needs. (Not paid, in case you’re wondering haha).

Income & Expense FY2020

Total expenses : $24,194.35 against $26,686.40 (FY2019) [-9.34%]

Total passive income (Div + SSB + Int) : $6391.59 against $4548 (FY2019) [+40.54%]

FI ratio : 26.42% against 17.04% (FY2019)

Savings rate : 58.46% against 55.29% (FY2019)

*Note: FI ratio = Total passive income / Total expenses

I no longer hold any SSBs. The market was too tempting to have everything at a bargain. DBS Multiplier interest has also reached all-time low like COVID-19 crash. I still use the saving accounts due to convenience – it’s too much of a hassle for me to be holding so many credit cards and having to call the bank whenever I need a free waiver on them.

Savings rate have increased just slightly due to a decrease in spending. Being in lockdown and having to work from home for many months really was the only reason for that. I am also a few more steps towards FI when my passive income can now over roughly 1/4 of my expenses. My portfolio is expected to receive more dividends in FY2021 as projected, but I am not putting too much hopes especially for recovery stocks like CCL, that is far from recovery.

We’ll just have to see how the economy recovers for these few years. Hope everyone is healthy and well.

Miss Niao xoxo

A Dynamic World

Change is the only constant, and the only normal.

How things change within a span of a few months every time when the stock market is concerned. Suddenly, my portfolio has been pushed up a few notches and I am close to breaking even on my paper P/L. In fact, now XIRR and TWR have both crossed and went above the zero line.

The US election probably helped, but I’m not sure for how long more. I found the news regarding the working vaccine rather timely, and thus exuberated the excitement of investors worldwide. A new tax policy could probably be implemented due to the change in reign of the democratic party. I guess we’ll see how things play out in the coming years.

Now, back to the COVID-19 situation. When I go out on the weekends in the streets and malls of Singapore, I don’t see an ounce of fear from anyone. In fact, sometimes it gets so crowded that social distancing is just impossible. How do I stand a metre away from the kan chiong (anxious) auntie that is queuing behind me to get her value deals from the value store? Asking her to take a step back would just ensue a verbal tsunami that would otherwise expose me to more viruses. Any sane person would choose to stay quiet.

It feels as though things are back to normal, pre-COVID levels. In reality, at work, and in the stock market. Places are starting to open up and people have started socializing again. The only exception is that everyone has their faces half covered, and I kinda like having the literal option to hide your emotions sometimes behind the mask. :p

Will the economy return back to normal, as well? My opinion is that it should stay low for a while, for a few years at least for some industries. People will think twice of wanting to buy a new house, a new car, or taking a holiday trip to a nearby place if their incomes have been affected. The hit would real hard to those who still have families to feed. I hope if you are reading this, you are doing fine.

Actually, there were a couple of people who reached out to me during the past few months. During the crash and also after the crash. I have received some messages from people that they have been holding on to huge losses and emotions got into their way of things, and made them some stupid mistakes. Or in some cases, missed opportunities. Sometimes when I get these messages, I don’t know how to respond to them. Of course, I will never want anyone to do badly in the stock market. But to hear such news that happens to people who I may or may not know in real life is just upsetting. I wish I could have done something to help, but unfortunately it is beyond my control.

I haven’t been blogging, and I had to come back to this space to do some mental decluttering from what has been going on in my personal life. And yeah well, it’s the year end and performance appraisals are coming. Recently, I’ve been trying to deal with a difficult colleague at work, and it even lead me to read Sun Tze’s Art of War. Translated version, of course. It is indeed rather thought stimulating, though I would say that some famous parts of it have been reiterated from time to time by people, the application of it is a totally different story.

I have also been taking some time to catch up on shows, and I’ve completed watching Queen’s Gambit. The character of Elizabeth Harmon is impeccably identical to my own. A female wanting to stand out in a male dominated industry. Deep within me, I was always rooting for her and could even find how similar my personalities are to her, just less talented in chess. :p

This year I turn 30. It’s been 3.5 years since I started to take a change in my financial life. I’ll do the final portfolio review for 2020 next month as tradition. Hope that you had a great financial year as well.

Miss Niao.

My Thoughts This Year

It’s been 6 months since my last blog post. I managed to set aside some time to review my portfolio again, as I do every month, and as do, to blog and share how I was doing amidst this turbulent and uncertain environment that we are living in.

I have so much pent up thoughts but I never managed to cough them out in words. I just survived my very first stock market crash this year, and although I should have been excited about my portfolio going down 10 – 20% per year, and seeing all the greens becoming double-digit reds, I wasn’t actually really so. Not in a bad way, but in a “I kinda expected it” way, you know. 2019 was the year where all the stocks were breaking their records of 52 weeks highs, and who would have guessed that in July, the same thing is happening despite everything that has happened.

I had a little bit of understanding about where things were going before the crash, and I guess the timely COVID-19 had just made matters drastically worse than necessary. My previous company was in a cyclical industry, and there were already signs of cost-cutting being implemented to make up for their quarterly earning reports.

My heart goes out to whoever who has been furloughed or affected someway by what has happened, but it was inevitable, and the only thing we can do as individuals is to be prepared for what is to come.

And being prepared doesn’t mean that it’s only for this year, or this event, but basically anything that you can’t predict. Just like how you should have some cash on the sidelines, waiting to be deployed.

I had a stash of funds in the SSB and I withdrew all of it to deploy into the market. In March and April 2020, I was aggressive, and I pushed >30% of my current portfolio value into the stock market. I was also experiencing first hand when they say that the stock market is driven by greed and fear. 

I also understand now how long term “safe” blue-chip dividend stocks that everyone relies on during thriving economic times can no longer be “safe”. A great example would be ComfortDelgro, that has released a net-loss as guidance in the recent month. This dividend stock was giving out around 5% due to its beaten down price prior to the crash, and the stock market gave it and its investors a more painful lesson by beating the stock price down another 50% after the crash. CDG is selling now at $1.47 per share, down 37% from my original average price of $2.33.

Because of this, I have also begun to appreciate the economics of how things change during recession times. The spending habits of people will change, and thus, this affects businesses directly. When I think about it, 99% of it is really just common sense, but sometimes, we are so blind to see the answers just right in front of us.

So if you invest in cyclical stocks, such as the airlines and tourism-related stocks, you gotta have a strong heart. Because, how do you put a valuation to a company that has negative earnings? It is not easy to have the conviction to say that you will invest in a company with net-loss that might persist on for the next few years until the economy recovers fully, but if you manage to choose the right one, you could reap what you sow handsomely, or, prettily.

In order to save myself some heart ache, I have made 2 changes to my portfolio in exchange for a better peace of mind.

Invest in companies with strong balance sheets

As of writing, I currently have 7 companies, out of a total of 13, in my portfolio that are in net cash position. Either long term debt does not exist on their balance sheet, or it does but has enough cash on hand to pay all their debt. That’s pretty much >50% of my portfolio having almost 0% chance of going bankrupt.

Invest in companies that are “recession proof”

I would like to point out that this was a mere coincidence that I happened to have 2 of such stocks who are doing resiliently well, and if not, better during this COVID 19 situation. These 2 stocks are namely Kraft Heinz and British American Tobacco.

Both belong to quite huge market caps and the way I expect them to generate profits will be somewhat different as to how I would with the smaller caps.

Now okay, what about the other stocks who are still generating decent profits during this time period? Are they considered recession proof? I would consider some yes, to a certain extent, because of our needs now.

A good example that I have in my portfolio with decreased earnings but still very profitable is Valuetronics. These belong to the contract manufacturing sector, which in my opinion, will hardly be affected at all if they have a diverse range of customers serving different industries. Valuetronics did announce a reduction in dividends this year, but they still maintain highly profitable and I have also more than doubled my investment in them. They also belong to one of the 7 “great balance sheet” companies.

So overall, where is my portfolio at now?

Time-weighted returns: -15.27%

XIRR: -15%

I am very red this year, due to the fact that I have placed quite a big position in CCL. The stock price is far from recovery, which is why my portfolio has been pulled down because of it. Ultimately, we still have 6 more months to know how I finally did overall. Maybe more updates on my expenses for the first half of 2020. We’ll see. 🙂

Till then. And thanks for reading.

Miss Niao. xoxo.

2019 Income/Expense Report – Reaching FI by 40

It kinda seems like I’m always blogging during the holidays, with Chinese New Year just 2 days away. This year started rather slow for me, and I hope it stays this way because I’m not very excited to be changing the first number in front of my age. Just trying to delay the inevitable in my dreams, I guess.

I had some time this week for self reflection and I read through some of my old blog posts. Generally, my goals towards being financially free hasn’t changed, but I think my personality was a little altered because of a shift in priorities in my life. My old blog posts were raving with creativity on how to maximize returns while spending lesser. In fact I did a lot of research and spent most of my time thinking about how to make passive income in the right way, and the best way possible. Continue reading “2019 Income/Expense Report – Reaching FI by 40”

Portfolio Update – Winners and Losers of 2019

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you if you’re reading this during the holidays! I celebrated my Christmas by having a really satisfying nap in the afternoon – though not as satisfying as the dividends I’m going receive from LSE:BATS going XD this month. Hehe.

And that pretty much wraps up 2019 for me. Another year of investing awaits me, but I have much more to reflect upon before I continue my journey in 2020.

I love how bloggers make investing look so interesting and motivating, especially those who manage to beat the STI ETF every single year. I guess I was enticed by how well these people had done, and thus the birth of Miss Niao. And it was only when I started my own journey that I realize that investing isn’t that rosy, or exciting. Continue reading “Portfolio Update – Winners and Losers of 2019”

The Value In You and Me

I don’t know if we’re on the verge of recession. We can’t ever predict such things to happen. Just when the stock market is doing rather well this year (at time of writing, STI ETF time-weighted returns are at 8.32%!), I have also received a few pieces of bad news from a bunch of friends and colleagues.

If you’re in a similar industry with me, then you’ll know about the ongoing retrenchments around a few MNCs in Singapore. So far, I’ve personally known 3 friends who are affected by this this year, and they are only in their early 30s and 40s. Continue reading “The Value In You and Me”

My Passive Income for 2019 – Portfolio Dividend Yields!

I’ve got great vibes for blogging at the end of the year. It has been the 3rd year since I’ve been tracking my financial health, and the 3rd year’s always a charm. I guess it has become more significant now what style of investing I am more comfortable with, which is why I decided to start the year-end blog posts with my passive income. I’ll give the readers a little headstart at Miss Niao before they scout around at other financial bloggers and check out how they are doing. And well, because the passive income part of my portfolio is more predictable in terms of numbers, rather than something like my expenses that varies every month.

So I was scouring through my past blogs and it took me like 5 seconds to find my FY2019 goals. Hmm, I wonder why that was so. :p Anyway, just a recap. Continue reading “My Passive Income for 2019 – Portfolio Dividend Yields!”

I’m back for a while!

Okay… So I kinda went on a pretty long hiatus on my blog.

I do have some reasons why, but excuses are just excuses, and I know that people still read my blog, for some reason.

Title is pretty self explanatory, and it really means that I’m back to give a quick update on my life so far. And well, to keep my blog “on track”. And probably myself too.

I actually contemplating on not blogging, like forever. Continue reading “I’m back for a while!”

Goals and Expenses Review – Q1 Y2019 (+ Free Template!)

It is time for my expenses review again for the first quarter of 2019. Also, I decided to make this year’s goals more visible by arranging them into a nice table. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make them easier to achieve, just visually more appealing. 😀

Goals review

expensereviewq12019

I blogged about my financial and expenses goals and there are five particular goals that I wanted to strive for on my financial journey 2019. Continue reading “Goals and Expenses Review – Q1 Y2019 (+ Free Template!)”