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

The 10 Financial Milestones that Every Millennial Needs to Aim For

Many people want to attain financial freedom, but most have little to no idea what it takes to get there. In today’s post, I will be sharing the 10 key financial milestones that every Millenial should be looking forward to, and it be a good chance for you to see how many you have achieved!

First things first…

Before one goes marching along the road of financial success, he has to get his house in order. Put it another way, he has to have a clean, honest audit of the current state of his financial health.

Also, the road to financial freedom is marked by progress. Overtime, as the person attains more and more milestones, he gets closer to his goal.

Some of these milestones are very critical; they can cause you to lose wealth in the future if they are not dealt with right now. Amassing wealth is great, but another key activity is preservation of wealth, which we are going to discuss in detail.

Here are 10 things that financial milestones that are often missed out in most people’s financial planning:

#1 HAVE A CLEAN CREDIT HISTORY

Paying personal bills on time is a great chore for many. However, the financially-free person has to attain mastery of this.

It’s quite simple really; don’t buy what is beyond you now. I’ve heard of startup founders who slept in basements to save on rent, bunking in with 4 other like-minded nerds who didn’t mind the initial shame for the future glory.

For many of us, truth be told, we are financially far-more secure. Even if we have debts, most middle-class families are able to get by and secure some savings each month.

Easier said than done; don’t spend what you don’t have.

Of course, business loans do not count, because they are much larger than personal loans.

Have you done a thorough audit of your personal debts? Getting a good credit rating is one big green tick on your financial health. Pay all your bills on time, avoid penalty fees, fines, and you can get a higher credit score on the CCRIS.

#2 LEARN THE SKILL OF BUDGETING

Before wealth is massed, one must learn how to manage small amounts of money. If he can be entrusted with little, he will be entrusted with much.

Budgeting is a simple skill, but truth be told, people don’t keep to their budgets. They adjust their budgets like their exercise schedule, their weight-loss plan, their study plan, and whatnot.

Budgeting without keeping to the budget makes budgeting useless.

The ability to keep to your budget is part of the skill of budgeting. No point having a great budgeting plan, but no resolve to get down to it. And you only have yourself to blame is you are unable to abide by your budget.

Parents have to instruct their children in this regard. If budgeting is taught to people when they are young, the attitude remains, and even when the amount of money gets bigger, the discipline keeps the person financially healthy over the long-run.

#3 BE A PROFESSIONAL TIME-INVESTOR

WRONG question to ask: “I have $10,000. What should I invest in?”

Anyone who asks this question is out of his mind. It’s not what you invest in; the correct question to ask should be “What skills should I acquire to become a proficient investor?”

Time is all you need to acquire skills. Many people complain about the lack of solid financially education in schools, but they remain at the complain stage. Being a professional investor of money requires you to first be a professional investor of your own time.

If you spend most of your time watching YouTube, great. If it makes you happy, great. But if that’s not what you want, do something about it.

Even after trading for many years, I make it a point to read good books, and stimulate my thoughts. They can be self-help books, trading-related books, or even fiction. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn from good, beefy fiction books!

#4 BE FINANCIALLY-INDEPENDENT

If you are still living off your parents, it’s ok. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, for all of us start that way. But you have to have a plan to get financially independent, where your livelihood is no longer dependent on who gives you money.

Many young people are truthfully still holding on to the security that their parents will save them if they mess up. That can be true, and no parent would want their child to suffer financial catastrophes. However, we all need to come to a place where we take responsibility for our finances, and keep track of where we are.

#5 ADEQUATE INSURANCE COVERAGE

As a responsible adult, your job is to not just protect yourself financially, but also the lives of those you love. You cannot compromise on insurance, because your life does not revolve around you alone.

Having a solid financial backing when something tragic happens will show your financial responsibility. It demonstrates that you have a clear plan for emergencies and know how to respond.

Investment-linked policies, in my opinion, aren’t really investments. Like I said above, invest your time, not in insurance policies. Take up the necessary protection, and that’s all you need. It gives you a peace of mind. You’ll be surprised by how uninformed most people are about insurance, and this is one key milestone that will set you apart from many others.

#6 HAVE AN ACTIVE PLAN TO KEEP YOURSELF FIT

Many people don’t even consider physical fitness as a key financial milestone. For what use is it to gain all the wealth you want, yet be unable to enjoy it?

Keeping fit is simple, but difficult to do.

Just like budgeting, many people know what to do, but don’t do it. Get yourself in shape if you want your financial health to be in shape.

#7 OWN THE ROOF OVER YOUR HEAD

Although there are stories of young people who’ve made it big, purchased a mansion with the $150 million they got from selling a company, most people don’t have that luxury. 

The majority of young people work their way to owning their first house, before getting anywhere major in life. When it comes to financial freedom, owning the roof over your head is the least you could do, because when an emergency strikes, you won’t be forced on the streets.

#8 MONITOR YOUR ACTIVE AND PASSIVE INCOME

Financial freedom involves having active and passive income. Monitoring them every 3 months or so is a good way to keep yourself up to date with your progress. It also gives a reality check every few months so that you won’t end up skiving.

A simple excel sheet will do the job. It’s just as easy as monitoring your expenses; most simple apps on the Apple Store of Android Store would do fine. It’s the discipline in keeping the routine that needs to be drilled in.

#9 KEEP 6 MONTHS OF EXPENSES IN CASH

Another defensive safety net; if you don’t even have a 6-month warchest, don’t even think about attaining financial freedom. It takes lots of effort and risk to achieve the goals that you want to set out, and the last thing you want to be worried about is whether there is bread on the table or milk in the fridge.

#10 MEET INVESTORS REGULARLY

If you are a pokemon card game fan, you probably spend most of your time around fellow pokemon addicts. That’s fine if you want to be Ash Ketchum, but if you want to be an investor, hang out around real investors.

Go to events, meet like-minded people, network like crazy, and find out what the scene is like. Know what is trending, what is out-dated, what people are interested in, and by spending time with these people, you will be in sync with the world of investments, and this expands your thinking greatly.

For example, when I first heard of options, it blew my mind; you can actually make money when prices do not move. You don’t have to bet on a rise or a fall; you simply collect premium. I won’t go into much detail, but this opened my mind when I was much younger, and kept me hungry to learn and explore.

Many people fall into a comfort zone once they reach their 30s-40s. It’s normal because the trials of life and the painfulness of toil takes a hit on people, but if you really want that fulfilling life you have, you got to step out and behave like you are going to live a fulfilling life.

Here’s a useful quote for those who are just starting out in the investment community:

If you’re 25, behave like you’re 35. Be mature, sensitive, patient, and be kind in your dealings with people.

On the other hand, if you are a seasoned veteran in your are of expertise, here’s a quote for you.

If you’re 55, behave like you’re 35. Be excited, passionate, willing to change, and accept young people for who they are.

In the past, I was criticized for spending too much time on my phone. Guess what? I now spend most of my time on the phone trading and analyzing charts, and I’m not confined to a desk in an office in Raffles Place. The things which society didn’t really accept, can actually become mainstream in a very short time.

stonesHave you got these 10 mile-stones laid out?
Image Source: Dimitri.co.uk

WHAT’S YOUR DECISION?

If you’re going to make any headway in the path to financial freedom, it had better start today. Make a plan. Go to your drawing board. Stop complaining about the past, and live a life of possibilities. Don’t know where to start? Look for help. Ask, learn, and seek.

But first, make sure you’ve got these 10 financial milestones set up. Of course, you could forgo a few initially, but to be really stable, you’ve got to build up your foundation very strong.

When the storm comes, would your financial house stand strong?

Here’s to a great month ahead, cheers! 😀

 

How Much Must You Save to Have $1M at Retirement? (The Answer is Surprisingly Low!)

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These days, $1M seems to be the golden figure that everyone aims to attain before retiring. I know there is this great debate about whether $1M is enough, but hey, $1M can get you by for many, many months.

Here’s a table summarizing exactly how much you need to save (or rather, invest) every month, in order to retire with $1M. Using some formulas from my finance 101 class in university,

tableThere you go. I tabulated the figures for easy reference.
Source: MS Excel

It’s one thing to know how much to save monthly, but the real challenge is to get down to doing it.

Here’s 3 tips I have to help you guys attain your own financial goals. They are simple, but you might be surprised how hard they are to actually follow-through with!

 

TIP 1: SAVE MONEY, REALLY.

Yes, save money. This is so easy to say, but difficult to do.

I remember that in my younger days, after receiving my first paycheck, I went out and quickly spent half of my salary on a ‘gift’ to myself, as a reward for seeing the first stack of cash come into my bank account. I quickly learnt that I did not actually need that gift, and that saving money was very, very difficult, especially since you know that your income is certain!

If there was one piece of advice on how to actually save money, it is this: PAY YOURSELF FIRST! It is surprisingly difficult to get yourself to do this, but you must learn to pay yourself first. Paying yourself first doesn’t mean buying something for yourself; it means moving money out from your paycheck into a savings account or investment account on a regular basis.

Perhaps its tough for the first few months, but new habits take time to form and when you actually get down to it, you see that it is a very useful habit to have. In fact, if you have children, it would be good to start teaching them this from a young age. “Pay yourself first, and then spend what you have left” is a good way to instill financial discipline in the younger generation.

Before you ask “How much do I need to save?”, why don’t we just get down to the first step, which is to actually start saving money?

Once you get in the habit of saving, it because second-nature. After doing so for some time, we can move on to the next tip:

TIP 2: BUILD A TRULY DIVERSIFIED PORTFOLIO

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of investing strategies:

FAST money: trading income, bringing in quick gains.

Trading is the way to quickly build up a portfolio and invest in dividend-yielding counters or REITs. Once you’ve stuck to a simple trading strategy, repeating it over time is bound to yield significant profits, much faster than you would in a fixed deposit or by holding the stock index for 5-10 years.

SLOW money: passive income, bringing in smaller but consistent gains.

For those with lots of money, they can allocate much of their portfolio to more stable assets, like dividend stocks, the stock index (it brings a dividend as well!), or other longer-term bonds.

Most people want to use fast money  all through their life, but it is unrealistic. As we age, we have less and less energy and time to continually engage the markets, so the goal is always to have a large war chest that brings in true passive income.

You might be surprised how few people understand the true meaning of a portfolio. Sometimes, the word ‘portfolio’ brings in the idea that you can only buy 5-10 stocks and hold them over 20-30 years. I beg to differ; in a portfolio, one must be truly diversified across…

  • All asset classes (forex, bonds, stocks, REITs, ETFs, commodities)
  • Time horizons (fixed deposits / buy-and-hold dividend stocks VS trading income)

Learning to do so requires some dedication and bumping your head in the wrong places at first. That’s why I always recommend that beginners take up forex trading; they’ll be exposed to market volatility, intra-day and longer-term trading, and also different asset classes by trading oil, gold, wheat, the stock indices, and bonds. Furthermore, you need as little as $500 to start with, and the cost of failure is very low.

 

TIP 3: STAY CONSISTENT

It is remarkably difficult to do something simple over and over again.

Want to lose weight? Exercise and eat healthy. But how many people actually keep to this?

Want to become better at socialising? Spend more time with people rather than with your phone or computer. But how many people actually keep to this?

Want to learn to trade? Stick to 1-2 trade setups, and repeat these trades week after week. But how many people actually keep to this?

It is very, very difficult to do what is simple and boring. In fact, it is the boredom that kills most traders!

One thing that experienced traders fail to do that knocks them out of the game is this: they fail to keep reading, reflecting, and honing their craft.

Continuous learning has to be part of your investing plan. After all, most people only want to invest money, but don’t want to invest the time to learn how to be profitable.

How much returns is good returns?

Well, that depends on your goals. There is a trading strategy for every level of returns. A conservative 10-20% returns as a trader is possible and you generally take a lot less risk than someone who wants 100-200% returns a year.

Depending on when you want to retire, you need to find out how much % returns you need a year, and look for a strategy that gets you there.

 

IT’S BORING, BUT YOU NEED TO TRACK YOUR PROGRESS!

how-muchWith a Google search, I found a useful table to track your progress, credits to businessinsider.sg! Source: BusinessInsider.sg

Suppose you want to save $1M, it’s extremely important to track if you are on target, and see if you need to allocate more funds to fast money or slow money.

If you are proficient with MS Excel, you should be able to come up with a table for your income, expenses, savings, investment returns, and projected net worth by whatever year that you are aiming to retire by.

I hope this article brings you to your feet and gets you started on your quest for financial freedom. Maybe for you, the first step is to actually start saving money! Starting where you are is all you need to do. With every step you take, you’ll be one step closer to your goals.

Cheers! 🙂

RESEARCH SOURCES & REFERENCES

businessinsider.sg/compound-interest-monthly-investment-2014-3/
businessinsider.com/retirement-savings-guide-2014-3?_ga=1.199140719.1988080035.1478087095

 

Top 3 Reasons Why You Should Start Investing in 2017

copy-of-copy-of-not-allthose-who-wanderare-lost

Brexit, Trump, Italy, asset bubbles all over the world… you name it, there’s probably some financial market jitters that keeps most people out of the world of investments.

On the flipside, the financial world often quips about some investment that has made xx% over a certain period of time, trying to entice visitors with a glimpse of the profits possible for anyone. In the world of investing, it is easy to find spectacular returns on hindsight, and salesmen go through great lengths to market what has already happened.

As traders, we live in a constant state of uncertainty. Every trade we make has the possibility of going wrong, and this is taken into account when a decision is made. It is the knowledge of this that gives power to a trader; if he can understand the math behind his investment decision, he can have a positive expectation and a positive traders’ equation.

There are three main reasons why trading is even more attractive these days. Indeed, with advanced technology, there has never been a better time to step into the world of finance, and grab a golden egg while you still can.

GOLDEN EGG 1: TRADING GIVES A HIGHER INTEREST RATE THAN BANKS

fdThe best you can get on a fixed deposit is 0.35% a year in Singapore, as at December 2016.
Source: moneysmart.sg

While inflation is a constant enemy for our savings accounts, most people do not know what to do to combat inflation. The most common quick-fix is to work harder and earn more money. While that does feed us and our families for some time, the need to build a war chest for emergencies becomes more and more real.

 

How much can you make from trading? Institutional traders bring in a success rate anywhere from 30%-70%. Why is this so?

The greatest insight into the markets that can make you profitable is this: 90% of the time, the odds are 50-50, while 10% of the time, the odds swing 60-40 (slightly in your favor).

That’s right. While most of the time, markets are 50-50, it is those brief moments when the market gives some opportunity, and prices quickly move to take advantage of this opportunity. That means that if you were to buy or sell randomly, you already have a 50% chance of success!

Another insight to know is that a high success rate (hit-rate) brings a lower profit target, while a low success rate brings a higher profit target.

What do I mean by this? Institutions trade using a combination of low-probability and high-probability trades.

Example: 40% (low) success rate, win = +2%, lose = -1%.”

low

In this case, if you were to make 100 of such low-probability trades, you would make +80% on winning trades and -60% on losing trades, bringing a 20% return on capital.

Example 2: 75% (high) success rate, win = +0.5%, lose = -1%

high

In this case, if you made 100 high-probability trades, you made 37.5% on winning trades and -25% on losing trades, bringing +12.5% return on capital.

It is impossible for the market to give high-probability trades with a high profit potential. This would be quickly detected by institutional traders, who have mathematicians, PhD staff, and computer science experts who can quickly make adjustments and profit from it. With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, these people would do all they can to bring profits for their firm.

 

That is why if anyone quips that they have a 80-90% success rate, they are probably having many small wins but a few gigantic losses. If you don’t believe me, try trading forex and planting random trades with low profit potential and high loss potential. The numbers indeed prove to be true!

That is also why it is important to understand the traders’ equation. With a reasonable success rate and an appropriate win-loss ratio (or risk-reward ratio, RRR), you would be profitable over the long-run.

I have had days where I ran 7-8 trading losses in a row, but because I trusted in the probabilities, the next 3-4 trades ended up profitable, as long as I stuck to my trade setups and didn’t let the emotions get the better of me.

GOLDEN EGG 2: TRADING DOES NOT REQUIRE LOTS OF CAPITAL

If you have $500 to invest: trade forex.

In the Forex market, you are entitled to ‘get a feel of the game’ by risking a few dollars per trade. By trading the smallest lot size (0.01 lots), you can learn to make a few dollars here, lose a few dollars there, and rack up trading experience and learn to trade ‘live’ without incurring hefty losses.

By learning to make many decisions and experiencing all the different conditions of the market, you would become seasoned enough to trade a bigger size, and fine-tune your own trading strategy.

Many traders discover they have certain characteristics about themselves that hinder success. In trading a ‘live’ account with a small sum of money, they are putting in some skin in the game, and getting used to the ups and downs of their account.

The best part about forex is that there are no commission charges. The broker makes money from the bid-ask spread, which is the difference between the buy/sell price, and most brokers charge reasonable spreads, allowing you to trade with almost negligible transaction cost.

If you have $3000 to invest: explore stock CFDs.

Stock CFDs have low commissions and can be bought in small quantities – a few thousand dollars can allow you to have a portfolio of 5-10 stock positions.

For people with less time and more money, stock CFDs can be a great way to learn to deal with commissions, spreads, fee structures, and the whims and fancies of the stock market.

The stock market is only open during working hours, unlike the forex market. Someone who is interested to take longer-term positions may be open to trading stock CFDs, risking small amounts of money, and yet racking up trading experience.

Some people quip that the forex market is more difficult to trade than the stock market. I beg to differ, because it is your circle of competence that determines your success, not the actual characteristics of the market.

If I were to ask you to drive a Formula 1 race car, you probably would kill yourself within the next few hours or so. However, if you were progressively taught how to drive the race car, it doesn’t become dangerous, and because of the progressive nature of your learning, the high speeds don’t come as a shock to you.

f1Driving this car is dangerous, only if you are not trained.
Source: wallscorner.com

Many people get shocked at the speed by which forex markets move during the Non-Farm Payroll Announcements and FOMC Interest Rate Announcements; prices can move 10-50 times faster than normal during those crazy periods! However, with practice, these sessions can become a profitable time for traders with experience and proper risk management.

If you have $10,000 to invest: trade everything.

People with more money have the luxury of trading a combination of stocks, forex, commodity, bonds, and index trades. These can be accessed through any decent forex broker, and you’ll be surprised to find that most forex brokers let you trade forex, oil, gold, the Dow Jones Index, the S&P, the bond markets, wheat, corn, natural gas, and more. These of course come with higher margin requirements, but exploring all the asset classes makes you a seasoned, well-rounded investor that can take any market condition.

Sideways in the forex market? Maybe there is a trending opportunity in the oil market. There’s always something to trade if you have the experience and know where to look.

However, in my opinion, the greatest investment is Golden Egg 3.

GOLDEN EGG 3: TRADING BOOKS ARE CHEAP AND EASY TO FIND

John Murphy: Technical Analysis of the Financial Markets. One of the great trading classics that builds a strong foundation.

John Murphy’s book on technical analysis reveals the fundamental nature of financial markets. Prices move in patterns and cycles, and understanding history helps you to cope with what is to come.

In my trading journey, I’ve read more than 200 books, and found only about 11 of them that are useful in my trading career. These books were either borrowed from the library, or bought only for $30-$50 a book, which is a very good price (since stock commissions can be $15-$25 already!).

Buying a few good trading books can completely change your destiny.

If you are starting out, why not invest in 3-5 good trading books, before getting your hands wet in the financial markets? These books would build a strong foundation, and you would start off with a better understanding of why things happen.

bookSome of the more famous online bookstores.
Source: Company websites

Amazon.com and bookdepository.com provide great options and they ship almost anywhere in the world. Personally, I found that bookdepository has the more exotic books, but it is a little pricey (yet still worth it since you can’t find the books easily!)

Second-hand books: Carousell if you live in Singapore! If you’re lucky you can find good books at a discounted price. Even though the books may be a little dusty and yellowed, it’s the content that you want to really absorb. You can always find what you want if you search hard enough!

TRADING & INVESTING EDUCATION IS WITHIN OUR GRASP

If you are still thinking about it, here’s why you should pick up investing education:

  • Historical chart data is free (we used to need to pay in the 1990s and 2000s)
  • Free resources are available
  • Books are cheap and easy to find
  • Starting cost is as low as $500
  • Cost of failure is low
  • Experience can be racked up with very little capital
  • There is a market for every type of investor

And most of all, it can bring higher returns in the long-run than placing your capital in the bank account. Sure, you might risk losing a couple of dollars at the start, but the cost of ignorance is a lot higher when compounded over the next 5, 10, or 20 years!

Wishing you all the best in your trading journey, and I do hope this article serves as a pump to start you on your quest for investment expertise!

Cheers!

 

RESEARCH SOURCES & REFERENCES

http://www.moneysmart.sg/fixed-deposit
http://www.lifehack.org/articles/money/15-best-online-bookstores-for-cheap-new-and-used-books.html

Credit Suisse Report: Is Your Net Worth Above the Average Singaporean?

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Here’s an interesting article I came across during the weekend: according to a Credit Suisse report, the average wealth of Singaporeans is the highest in Asia.

In the report, it states that the average adult has US$276,885 (S$395,000) in wealth, which is 1.4% higher than last year.

“The Global Wealth Report ranked Singapore number 1 in Asia, and when compared to the major economies, Singapore is ranked number 7.”

 

averageSource: Today Online

 

 

This is great news and I’m quite humbled that our tiny nation has managed to achieve this. However, remember that there are two main sources of household assets:

#1: WEALTH FROM FINANCIAL ASSETS

“Financial assets — which include items such as currency, deposits and equities — accounted for more than half of the average wealth per adult in Singapore at US$180,414.”

Wealth from financial assets accounted for >50% of the wealth of a singaporean adult. That means an average Singaporean has $130,000 in cash, foreign currencies, deposits, stocks, and other liquid investments.

Of course, the figure is just an average. I went to Singstat to get a visual of these figures, and here’s what I found: while the growth rates of household assets and liabilities have slowed down dramatically since 2010, net worth continued to climb every single year alongside liabilities!

householdThe growth rate for assets and liabilities slowed down in the past 6 years.
Source: Singstat

I recommend that you click the image above to expand it. Take a look at the details: liabilities have never exceeded assets, but the growth rates have plummeted severely over the past 5 years. It seems that low growth rates in household net worth is going to be the norm.

The average Singaporean has about S$130,000 in financial assets. Cash, stocks, deposits, and foreign currencies included.

That’s a very good figure to have, because most Singaporeans will be able to tide through a 1-2 year period of retrenchment before having to look for sources of income.

What about the statistics on Non-financial assets?

#2: WEALTH FROM NON-FINANCIAL ASSETS

“Non-financial wealth, including assets such as housing, accounted for US$151,239.”

I wanted to find out if this was accurate, and dug deeper to get the data. I decided to do away with Credit Suisse’s claims and check out the figures reported by the statistics department:

householdMost of the wealth is still held in financial assets, rather than in homes.
Source: Singstat

This gives a more accurate figure in my opinion. The data until Q4 2015 reveals that approximately half of every Singaporean adult’s financial wealth came from residential property valuation. The average Singaporean’s wealth in residential property assets could be anywhere from 40-60% of his/her personal wealth.

A casual glance like this might lead you to conclude that Singaporeans are well-protected, wealthy, and financially-savvy.

It is no wonder that even though Singapore has a great number of millionaires as a percentage of population, much of the wealth is held in property. I managed to find statistics on the total assets of Singaporean households, and these are presented in the tables below.

Note: The figures below are in millions of dollars.

householdNot counting CPF & Residential Property, Singaporeans have a lot less liquid assets as a percentage of total assets.
Source: Data from Singstat, Chart generated using MS Excel

In essence, the Singapore as a whole without CPF and Residential Property can be almost 65% poorer on average! That means the true amount of liquid capital that our country commands is much lower than the net worth figures reported. Take note that the data is in millions of dollars and represent the whole nation.

SIDENOTE: DEBT

“The average debt was US$54,768, or 17 per cent of total assets, moderate for a high-wealth country, the report said.”

The average debt was “moderate” for a high-wealth country, and I wanted to understand what this meant. To my pleasant surprise I realized we could actually get the data for our CPF, life insurance, pension funds, shares, liabilities classified by category, and many other statistics from our very own statistics department of Singapore.

excelWith data, in hand, much magic can be performed.
Data Source: Singstat

After downloading their data in XLSX format, I saw that there were several categories for liabilities. They are:

  1. Mortgage loans – to financial institutions
  2. Mortgage loans – to Housing and Development Board (HDB)
  3. Personal loans – motor vehicle
  4. Personal loans – credit cards
  5. Personal loans – education loans, renovation loans, hire purchase loans, loans for investments etc.

After putting them in a pie chart, this is what it looks like:

pieMortgage loans in both categories take up 75% of liabilities Singaporeans have.
Source: Data from Singstat, Chart generated using MS Excel

It was interesting that much of household assets include residential property, while much of household liabilities also include residential property. It’s understandable that most of the loans would be made with financial institutions since HDB has a fixed loan rate, while the FI’s have variable ones (good news for us in a low interest rate environment).

It is remarkable that credit card loans amounted up to almost the same size as motor vehicle loans!

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

The average adult Singaporean has $130,000 of liquid assets, has 75% of liabilities in housing loans, 19% of liabilities in education/renovation/investment loans, and, unsurprisingly, derives most of his/her wealth from CPF and Residential Property.

What does your balance sheet look like? It’s important to review your own finances periodically and see how they have changed over the years.

Perhaps it’s time for a financial health check-up as we round up and conclude the year 2016. Hope you enjoyed plowing through the numbers like I did!

Cheers!

 

REFERENCES & RESEARCH SOURCES:

http://www.todayonline.com/business/singaporeans-average-wealth-increases-us277000-credit-suisse-report
http://www.singstat.gov.sg/statistics/browse-by-theme/household-sector-balance-sheet
http://www.singstat.gov.sg/statistics/visualising-data/storyboards/household-sector-balance-sheet
http://www.tablebuilder.singstat.gov.sg/publicfacing/createDataTable.action?refId=1952

Will Higher Interest Rates Eventually Lead to a Stock Market Crash?

asJanet Yellen’s actions come into the spotlight once again.
Source: slate.com

 

After a slew of unprecedented events (Trump, Brexit), what has been troubling the world financial markets in recent days? As the FOMC announcement approaches, market participants have all eyes fixed on the almost-certain rate-hike that is coming up on Thursday. You probably have started to see Yellen’s photograph in news articles across all major financial newspapers.

Traditional economics theory teaches us that when interest rates rise, they are deflationary; businesses find it harder to borrow and affects interest-sensitive investment, while home owners find it harder to pay their mortgages. It all seems reasonable on the surface, but what actually goes on behind it?

In an economic climate such as ours today, traditional predictions have fallen very flat. There are Fed officials and scholars (not lay-people) who still insist that QE has no impact on the real economy whatsoever. The average wage-labourer probably doesn’t feel much when interest rates change, nor will he care even if rates drop or rise significantly.

However, as traders, our portfolios are at stake and it will bode us well to study this properly. Several macroeconomic indicators have to be understood and analysed to understand what is likely to happen. I’ve broken it down into 4 components for easy reading. Let’s get going:

INDICATOR #1: Falling GDP?

The body of scholastic material addressing the link between interest rates and GDP is rather depressing. Stephen D. Williamson summarizes this rather aptly:

“There is no work, to my knowledge, that establishes a link from QE to the ultimate goals of the Fed—inflation and real economic activity”-Stephen D. Williamson, St. Louis Fed Vice President

When the cost of borrowing rises, economic activity slows. That has been what the Fed was trying to do when it goes ahead and raises interest rates. They were used as a deflationary tool to keep the economy from expanding too rapidly. What have we seen? I came across this table while researching on this topic:

bank

What we see is that the average rate hike cycle takes 22 months, while a recession normally happens 41 months later. However, it has been 87 months since the last rate hike, eclipsing even the 85 months lag time since the 1994-1995 rate hike.
These are definitely unusual circumstances. While the economy has been chugging along for 7 years despite near-zero interest rates, I don’t see how a rate hike would dramatically change this, especially in the short-term (1-2 years from now). While the economy has been a big topic on Trump’s agenda during the election, the reality is that the economy is still reeling from the damage caused in 2008, and it could take far more than more investments to bring the world back to economic health.

 

INDICATOR #2: Lower Stock Prices?

The US stock market has been breaking new highs and with every new high, another analysts comes out and purports that ‘this is the top’.

 

econDire predictions by an economist.
Source: CNBC

However, before we all go into doom and gloom, let us remember that the bear markets of the last 50 years have had different causes, to be fair, there had to be some sort of trigger. It could be a political issue, such as the 1973-74 oil crisis, and the 1990 bear market caused by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Furthermore, the Fed could be behind a market crash; in 1982, after raising interest rates relentlessly, the U.S market saw some severe bear moves in that period of time.

Sometimes bear markets happen because of bubbles; such as when the 2001 dot-com bubble and 911 terrorist attacks came about. In 2008, we saw a market crash as a result of a tanking housing market spurred by widespread institutional dishonesty.

Let us not be quick to jump to conclusions about a market crash coming. I’ll be watching the S&P and other indices closely over the next few months.

Interestingly, some quip that the “three steps and a stumble” rule would become a reality. It last happened in 2004, but we didn’t see a stock market crash until 4 years later.

“The ‘three steps and a stumble’ rule states that after three consecutive rate hikes (three steps), the stock market would begin to fall rapidly (stumble).”

I don’t quite buy into this idea. Over the past 30 years, there were only nine occasions where we saw 3 rate hikes in a row. Thrice in the 1970s, four times in the 1980s, and twice in the 1990s, and on average, only the 1970s saw a significant decline (approximately 10%) of the stock market in the next year or so.

chartChart of DJIA price changes after 3 rate hikes
Source: MarketWatch.com

More interestingly, the S&P500 looks like it’s ‘toppish’; the bull run seems rather unsustainable, but something seems to be sustaining this euphoria. On a technical basis, it has simply broken out of an expanding wedge on the daily chart.

sp
The S&P500 has broken out of an expanding wedge pattern. It looks rather unsustainable, but it is happening before our eyes.
Source: MetaTrader 4

We’ll have to watch closely how the S&P behaves near the resistance before deciding if it would continue the rally (which is very possible!).

 

INDICATOR #3: Volatile Bond Prices?

There are signs that the market has already adjusted to an interest rate hike. Check out what happened to the 30-yr Treasury Bonds over the past year or so:

30yr

The 30-yr Treasury Bonds have fallen 15% since its last high in July 2016.
Source: MetaTrader 4

The rude correction has shocked many bulls out of the market, and it seems we have entered bearish territory in the bond market. My opinion is that the rate hike has definitely contributed to this, but it seems that the rate hike is a mere response to the macroeconomic conditions of the world. On the technical side, we see a head and shoulders pattern that has broken down (as a result of election fever), and the downtrend has continued somewhat.

yieldsShort-term yields have risen almost as much as long-term yields.
Source: Bloomberg

If you’ve studied finance in university you would immediately recognize that the yield curve has flattened. Check out the table above; 3-month rates have risen as much as 30-year rates! This means 3-month yields have risen more than 100%, while 30-year yields rose about 10% or so. This is a typical response when the Fed tightens monetary policy.  A famous interpretation of the yield curve states that when yield curves get inverted (when short-term bonds yield more than long-term bonds), that’s when the stock market crashes like nobody’s business.

We are still very far off from an inverted yield curve, so a market crash is still some distance away. My guess is that the bond market, as a measure of fear, will be in a state of confusion as there are valid reasons for economic strength as well as economic panic. Volatility in yields is likely to be the norm in the year ahead.

INDICATOR #4: Commodity Prices

Although some pundits claim to be able to predict how interest rates will move commodities, I beg to differ. Oil, for example, is very much output driven (think OPEC), and recently we’ve been having output cuts among producers. As you can see in the image below, when I checked the newsmap yesterday, ‘Oil Surges as More Producers Join Output Cuts’ was the most-read news of the day.


A casual glance at the NewsMap reveals a heightened focus on oil production.
Source: Newsmap.jp

Generally speaking, if you look at the relationship between oil and real interest rates, we see very little correlation even over the very-long-term.

irIt’s hard to come to conclusions about how interest rates have affected commodity prices globally.
Source: cobank.com

More recently, we’ve seen commodity prices tank over the past 5 years despite interest rates remaining almost constant. I just did a simple google search on the price of DBC (the global commodity price ETF) and this is what happened in the past 5 years.

commm
A quick glance shows that commodity prices have fallen for 5 years.
Source: Google finance

To make an investment decision on commodities solely on interest rates isn’t wise. On a technical basis, commodities look like a good buy and I’ll be watching them closely to spot trading opportunities.

UP NEXT: THURSDAY’S RATE DECISION

If you aren’t already riding the bull market in stocks, it doesn’t make sense to enter now. Heroic bulls would want to enter now with a small profit target, and the world will be watching closely how the new year starts. Moreover, you won’t want to have too much exposure during the final FOMC meeting of 2016. Volatility on all other asset classes are expected, and I’ll be trading currencies, perhaps more regularly on an intra-day basis if I can’t find any good longer-term trends to ride on. All eyes will be on Thursday’s Rate Decision and the price action in the aftermath will be worth watching.

RESEARCH SOURCES & REFERENCES

http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/15/when-the-fed-raises-rates-heres-what-happens.html
http://www.cnbc.com/2015/08/18/st-louis-fed-official-no-evidence-qe-boosted-economy.html
https://www.thestreet.com/story/13279476/1/what-happens-when-the-fed-hikes-interest-rates.html
http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/blogs/moneybox/2015/11/23/janet_yellen_responds_to_ralph_nader_s_sexist_letter/495620136-federal-reserve-chair-janet-yellen-testifies-before-the.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2.jpg
http://www.cnbc.com/2015/08/24/8-things-you-need-to-know-about-bear-markets.html
http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/10/economist-harry-dent-says-dow-could-plunge-17000-points.html
http://www.marketwatch.com/story/edson-goulds-three-steps-and-a-tumble-rule
https://www.thebalance.com/inverted-yield-curve-3305856
http://www.cobank.com/Newsroom-Financials/~/media/Files/Searchable%20PDF%20Files/Newsroom%20Financials/Outlook/Outlook%202012/Outlook_10122.pdf