A series of video tutorials to help you get started! (In collaboration with TradeHero & SGX)

Interview: If You Had $250,000, How Would You Allocate it?

Recently, during an interview, I was asked this question, to suggest a possible portfolio allocation for people (Singaporeans) in their early 30s, with $250k of investible cash to start with. Here is my answer in full:

If you only have $250k to start with, I would suggest a diversified approach of various asset classses to maximise returns.:

  • 25% allocated to cash (war chest)
  • 10% to wild bets
  • 20% to trading account
  • 20% to commodities
  • 20% to businesses, startups, angel investments
  • 5% to stocks, REITs, ETFs

Currently, the bulk of the holdings is in cash, since the market is pretty “risk-on” at the moment with much political and economic uncertainty about trade wars and real wars. Hence, I only included minimal stock holdings, as the stock markets (S&P 500)are at 8-9 year highs, so I will wait to buy in at a lower price should the opportunity arise.

One important factor is the 20% allocation to trading account, as this generate monthly cashflow from stocks/forex trading to continue growing the total portfolio size aggressively, which can then be allocated to other asset classes within the portfolio.

10% to cryptocurrencies is considered a “wild bet” which could be a zero or hero; lastly 20% to businesses is for people who have some prior experience to invest directly in businesses, or start their own. Personally, my portfolio includes several businesses, including a cafe and pub.

I have allocated 20% to commodities, as commodities are likely at their cycle low. The GSCI (Goldman Sachs Commodity Index) is one of the main benchmark for commodity prices, and the (GSCI/S&P 500) is used to measure the prices of commodities relative to stock prices. Currently, this measure is at a 50-year low, which suggests cheap commodities as a potential investment.

I have excluded real estate from this sample portfolio, as I do not include “own stay” property as an investment asset, and $250k is too small for any major property investment. For my own portfolio, i have invested in several properties as I feel that the Singapore property market will continue to rise for the next 5-10 years.

I have also excluded fixed income, as for Singaporeans, the CPF (SA account at 4%) is pretty much similar to a “risk-free” high-yield bond, hence it serves well as the fixed income component of the portfolio. For my own portfolio, i have hit the minimum sum, which will provide a good safety net for retirement.

I hope this has provided you a good template to start building your portfolio, but do keep in mind that ideally you should be looking to rebalance your portfolio every 1-3 months.

Cryptocurrencies & The 50-Year Kondratiev Wave Cycle

About 2 weeks ago, I attended a talk by one of my former professors (SMU), and it was on the topic on cryptocurrencies and the upcoming technological disruption. She mentioned about Kondratiev waves and the 50-year cycles, and I went on to do some research on how Cryptocurrencies fit into this wave, and how long it is likely to last according to this model.

“In economics, Kondratiev waves (also called supercyclesgreat surgeslong wavesK-waves or the long economic cycle) are hypothesized cycle-like phenomena in the modern world economy. It is stated that the period of a wave ranges from forty to sixty years, the cycles consist of alternating intervals between high sectoral growth and intervals of relatively slow growth.” – Wikipedia

 

After the global financial crisis in 2008, the market bottomed in 2009, and since then we saw the start of a new major cycle, which could last till 2050/60. This means that we are still in the early stages (fast growth stage) of a big long-term trend. This trend consists of not just cryptocurrencies, but also things like blockchain, AI, VR/AR, machine learning, etc.

 

Will it Crash Like the Dot Com Bubble?

In every phase of innovation, it will start off with radical innovation, where a new technology is introduced. This will be a period of experimentation and flux, as many new products come into the market. Cryptocurrencies are currently in this stage, which is why prices are so volatile.

As you might be aware, there are 3 main types of coins: currency, platform, and applications. Some people also include a 4th type called privacy coins, like Monero and Zcash, which are meant to allow completely anonymous transactions. Some examples of currency coins include Bitcoin, Litecoin & Bitcoin Cash, and their main purpose is to serve as a virtual currency. However, Bitcoin behaves more like an asset rather than a currency now, since people are buying it for capital appreciation rather than to use it for transactions. Platform coins refer to ones like Ethereum, which do not directly provide a function to the consumer, but allow applications to be built on their platform. Lastly, applications are like the iphone apps, which serves a particular function for the end user.

After the market has gone on long enough to enter the bubble stage, the next phase of innovation is the “shake out” phase, where the market gets rid of “useless” or bloated/weak products. This will typically be the part associated with a market crash, but it is also possible that the bubble deflates slowly instead of bursting.

In an early stage boom, the application coins will tend to proliferate, and there will be a lot of them. This means that this class of coins would be the most risky to invest in, because a lot of them will be the first to die out when the market crashes.

 

 

After the dust settles, the ones who survive will likely become the dominant players (Facebook, apple, Amazon), and it is worth noting that the best products/technology may not necessarily be the ones that survive, rather it is the one with the widest adoption. Do keep this in mind when building your Crypto portfolio and deciding which coins to invest and hold for the long-term.

After the crash, the trend may take a while to resume, but it will be more majestic than before. The next phase involves incremental innovations, where products are further refined, such as improvements in the products, or new applications for existing products, etc.

So Should I Buy Now?

Although we know we are at the early stages of a mega-trend, we also have to keep in mind the “shake out” phase which has not occurred yet.

If you are willing to hold through that and capture the subsequent big upside, then you will not need to worry so much about timing the market now. But if you prefer to take a more cautious approach, you can wait till the “shake out” is over before entering the market.

And lastly, if you prefer the best of both worlds, you can use swing trading to capture the short/medium-term moves in the market, while waiting for the “shake out”, and then going all-in when the dust settles. Whichever approach you choose, just make sure you don’t miss out on this 50-year wave, because it is literally once in a lifetime. 😀

Why I am Planning to Liquidate my Full Portfolio of Singapore Stocks

 

It has been a while since my last update on the Singapore markets (as well as my SG portfolio holdings), largely because the market doesn’t move much, so I only check on them once in a while.

Interestingly, I noticed that the STI has had an impressive run, coming off a low of 25xx to break past the 3000 level in the past few months. However, is this move sustainable?

Taking a closer look at this weekly chart which shows the historical prices over the last 20 years or so, one thing which stands out is that the market has been in a 7 YEAR sideways stagnation.

If we look back at the whole history of the index, this is somewhat unprecedented.

Which could explain why popularity in this market (as well as trading volumes) has been waning. In short, it does seem like a dying market.

Not to mention that during this same time period, the US stock markets have been steadily creeping up.

If we look at the most recent red shaded circle, that is where the current price is, and it seems to be running into massive headwinds. This means that the potential upside could be quite limited.

If we observe the large sideways range that prices have been moving in, the price is now at the top of the range. And we know that the best strategy in a range is to “buy low, sell high”, which means that the odds do not favour much more upside, unless there is some new strong positive price catalyst.

However, a cursory glance at recent news headlines seems to be painting a rather gloomy picture, with muted growth forecasts and ominous employment statistics. This tell me that downside catalysts are more likely that upside ones. In other words, there is more chance of a negative shock rather than a positive shock for prices.

In light of all these factors, I am planning to cash out most or all of my profits, and wait for more favourable odds to redeploy my capital. As a trader and investor, timing is always key.

Good luck, and trade wisely! 😀

3 Biggest Financial Regrets of Retirees – And How to Avoid Them!

Every person has regrets, and as one gets older, it is inevitable that one would start regretting certain things. And when it comes to finances, what exactly do our seniors quip about? What decisions did they make that they regret the most? And most importantly, what crucial advice would they give to those looking to retire comfortably in the future?


REGRET #1: NOT SAVING MONEY WHEN YOUNG

This is one of the most common regrets that is universal to all seniors across the world, with older folk lamenting that they should have saved when they were younger. In fact, saving $10,000 in your twenties adds up a lot more than saving in your 40’s or 50’s. Compounding works to your favour the earlier you start. Expenses also start to rack up as you age, therefore it is much harder to save when you are older.

1

Property, health spending, and raising a family take up most of your money, and saving money gets a lot harder when the children are begging for you to get the latest mobile device  for their birthdays.

Gambling and entertainment eats away at your nest egg, so stay clear of them! It’s never too late to start getting your money habits sorted out.

 

REGRET #2: NOT INVESTING TIME WELL

Back in the 1980’s, investing was a lot harder to learn without the internet. Now, it is an excuse to say that it is difficult to be financially educated. With kids these days being able to build a website from scratch (without supervision), I’m sure you will be able to find something to do that will bring you dividends in the long-run.

Most people complain about not knowing what to invest in. That is a reasonable complaint, but…

The reason why most people can’t invest money, is that they don’t even invest time to learn how to invest.

timeTime is sacred; use it wisely, and use it on what matters.

If your financial vocabulary includes any of the following:

  • buying blue-chip stocks for the long-term
  • mutual fund investments
  • investment-linked insurance policies

…you are missing out on a large chunk of the pie. A good diversified portfolio includes much more than just stocks. In fact, holding just stocks can be very risky, as seen during the 2008 financial crisis where most blue-chip stocks plunged by 60-80%.

Multi-asset class, multi-instrument investing is the norm now. If you’re not involved, it’s time to get started.

Another common misconception is that learning how to trade or invest is very time-consuming, but that is actually not true. Like any skill, it might take a while to learn it at first, but after a few weeks, you will soon get the hang of it and it will only require a few minutes a day to manage your finances and investments.


REGRET #3: SPENDING TOO MUCH ON THE CHILDREN

Many parents will look back on their days as young parents and quip that they should have spent less. Some of the bad outcomes include spoilt children, children who expect a lot but don’t contribute, and many more.

Among the many unnecessary expenses, parents could do well to reduce spending in any of these areas:

  • Extra-curricular lessons, like ballet, music, swimming (especially if the child is not enjoying them!)
  • Tuition lessons (the school system in Singapore is honestly quite robust)
  • Expensive pre-school education (they won’t remember what happened anyway)
  • Expensive holidays (we don’t remember them 1 year from now)
  • Toys that are thrown away 3 months later (we prefer iPads, honestly)
  • Expensive food at fancy restaurants (food, is still food)
  • Overseas university education (a local degree can be equally profitable for your child)
  • Expensive child-care services (reasonably priced ones will do the same)
  • A domestic helper / maid (teaching the kids to take care of the house makes more sense)

1We sometimes put too much of a premium on university education. Pay what is fair and reasonable; don’t go about spending half a million on a university degree.

Many parents have money but very little time for the children. Ask any child and you would know that he/she would much prefer spending time with their parents than having expensive holidays in Paris, Dubai, or Tokyo.

On hindsight, you would always know better. But hey, take the advice of our seniors, and spend what really matters; our time.

For what use is all these cool stuff, cool experiences, premium lessons and holidays, if we don’t get what truly matters?

Here are 5 Reasons Why You May Never Get to Retire Despite working Harder

As the cost of living continues to increase year after year, you probably would have spent some time pondering about your financial security. You probably would have heard stories of or personally experienced a company downsizing, a pay cut, the loss of your job, mounting expenses, or just a sudden realization that the world isn’t such a stable place.

No matter when you discover this truth, it is critical that you come to terms with it. Only by knowing the truth can you deal with the reality of financial troubles ahead. Last year was marked by uncertainty, and it probably is just the tip of the iceberg of what can happen going forward.

1For most people, wages will never be enough to sustain their lifestyle at retirement.
Source: media.cagle.com

Talk to any taxi driver and he will probably complain to you about any of the following:

  • Rising healthcare costs
  • Rising petrol costs
  • Rising food costs
  • Rising housing costs
  • Instability in the economy

These money issues are real. However, before we go into the solutions, we have to understand where these problems come from.

 

1. Low Interest Rate Environment

A low interest rate environment means that you need to go beyond your bank deposits to preserve your wealth.

However, despite having more mobile phones than people in Singapore, we are painfully ignorant in financial matters. We are educated, but not wise; we are connected with each other, but disconnected with reality.

Truth be told, most people have no idea how to even match up to the bank interest rate, much less beat the bank interest rate. The average level of financial literacy in Singapore is still shockingly low. To be a decent investor, it would be necessary to at least understand basic financial instruments, financial asset classes, methods of speculation/investment, and simple risk management.

Financial literacy is the first step to fighting inflation. You don’t necessarily need to know exotic strategies like statistical arbitrage, premium collection on SPY options, futures pairs trading, spread betting, or betting on changes in the yield curve. But a basic understanding of market cycles and trading principles will make a large difference in one’s investment results.

2. CPF Alone May Not Be Sufficient

In years of economic boom, Singapore tends to experience inflation of 4-5%. The CPF ordinary account grows at 2.5%, which means your money’s losing value when the economy grows. Counting on CPF alone may help you get by, but would it really sustain the lifestyle you desire? Even if the inflation rate falls to 1-2% a year, very few Singaporeans can say they are able to retire comfortably.

It is more prudent to have something besides CPF to fall back on.

Some solutions include:

  • being willing to downgrade your apartment
  • holding structured deposits (can yield 4% or more)
  • holding high-dividend stocks

However, these strategies will probably only help in wealth preservation, not wealth creation.

For wealth creation, you need far more investment sophistication and dedication.

Doing a refresher for the setups before we embark on live trading! ??? #tradingarcade #realtraders

A post shared by Spencer Li ?? Synapse Trading (@iamrecneps) on

 

3. Zero Inflation Could Be the Norm

A world of zero inflation is good for the average consumer (he thinks he won’t be paying more for his food/car/house/petrol), but it’s bad for wages.

Truth be told, when inflation suffers, it is normally a terrible situation for the economy to be in. Remember the productivity drive a few years ago? The government aimed for 2% productivity growth every year, because inflation was terribly low and the country had to do something about it.

sgInflation has fallen and fallen, and has even turned negative in 2015 and part of 2016.
Source: tradingeconomics.com

Stagnating or falling wages can become the norm. With wages in peril, it is even more essential to generate additional streams of income, or risk falling into financial destitution.

Examples of shrinking professions include:

  • F&B services
  • Marketing professionals (yes! because the supply has caught up with demand in recent times)
  • Insurance Agents
  • Property Agents
  • Logistics professionals (yes! because the supply has caught up with demand due to the euphoric onslaught of e-commerce firms)

If you have children, the best thing you can do is to advise them regarding these trends. Don’t be so concerned about their math scores, science scores, or whatever score; look to give them training in these skills, and to explore their interests in these areas.

 

4. Persistently High Property Prices

This is good news for existing property owners, but bad news for new property buyers. Singapore will continue attracting rich foreign buyers because that’s our value proposition as a nation. This problem keeps worsening as long as our property is affordable to wealthy investors from overseas. The government is likely to step in if property prices start falling.

The issue with high property prices is that most people end up taking 20 to 30-year loans and live with debt for most of their adult life. This keeps the economy stagnant and unable to experience growth like we’ve seen in the 1980s and 1990. A debt-ridden adult is much less likely to splurge. With an entire generation of people living with huge mortgage loans, we won’t see fantastic growth in a very long time.

Opening speaker for SMART Expo SG 2017! Thanks to everyone who came down to support! ? #suntec #property #guestspeaker

A post shared by Spencer Li ?? Synapse Trading (@iamrecneps) on

 

5. Rising Medical Costs and Falling Government Support

Take note: it’s not the government’s fault; blame it on falling birth rates. With a smaller workforce, tax revenues will fall and Singapore will be less able to provide for its elderly.

Singapore will age, and more and more sick people will depend on a smaller proportion of working adults in this country. It’s inevitable that the government cannot support the large number of elderly who will reside in our hospitals and hospices. It’s the same ‘graying’ problem that Japan is facing.

Falling government support, along with higher demand for doctors and strained infrastructure will cause medical bills to rise. Sure, it’ll be great for healthcare stocks, but healthcare spending on the elderly is not expansionary. Basic health economics would differentiate between healthcare spending that improves economic well-being (vaccinations on children, basic sanitation etc.), and healthcare spending that does not improve economic well-being. We’ll be seeing a lot of spending that does little to boost the economy.

 

So, “What Should I Do?”

The fact that you’re reading this shows that you are concerned for your financial future. Keep learning, reading, and exploring ways to combat this reality. After all, people perish for the lack of knowledge, not the lack of determination. Acquiring the right investment skills, financial management practices, and general knowledge will help protect you and your family from financial destitution.

My greatest hope is that you, the reader, would be motivated to start educating yourself financially, and to get your hands dirty in the investment world.

Cheers, and see you all soon! 😀

 

RESEARCH SOURCES & REFERENCES

www.blog.linkedin.com/2016/10/20/top-skills-2016-week-of-learning-linkedin
www.cnbc.com/2016/10/20/the-top-10-skills-that-will-get-you-hired.html