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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

 

A Comprehensive Review of 2016: The Ups & Downs of the Singapore Stock Market

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Here’s what the STI looked like from 2014-2016. I’ve only put in one indicator, an exponential moving average, to show the general direction of the market. The huge move was somewhat like a freak rollercoaster ride, while the year 2016 has been a whirlwind of sideways price action.

aThe Straits Times Index, from 2014 to 2016; what a ride it has been!
Source: Chartnexus

The market isn’t exactly bullish, and it has been rather undecided in 2016. The huge fall that you see in the chart above was started by the sell-off in the Chinese market in Aug 2015:

dowNews headlines in Aug 2015 struck panic in investors worldwide.
Source: CNN Money

Ever since that crash, the STI has been struggling to find its footing over the next 16 months. It’s been interesting to look at how different people have predicted what would happen to the STI,

Tradingeconomics.com provides this image (below) as a prediction to the state of the STI. They are projected using an “autoregressive integrated moving average” (ARIMA) model, as mentioned in their website. This gives a range of values that the STI is likely to fluctuate within.

waveThe econometric model shows a bear market has started to develop.
Source: TradingEconomics.com

This is rather depressing considering that the Dow and S&P have hit new highs, with some even calling for “Dow 20,000”.

Another website forecasts a measured move fall in the STI. Referring to the diagram below, this means that the stock market will fall by the distance of the red arrow, producing two red arrows of the same length, just as it has done so for the bull run, producing two blue arrows.

redThis particular prediction for 2016 was accurate; the STI moved a lot lower than where it was in this chart.
Source: AmiBrokerAcademy.com

After falling by a measured move, the STI climbed slowly and went nowhere in 2016. The year was marked by uncertainty, binary events, political shuffles and record lows/highs on many financial instruments.

 

THE YEAR 2016 IN REVIEW: A SHAKY START IN JANUARY

January started quite poorly for the STI, falling 6.4% from Dec 31 to Jan 30, 2016. Total market capitalization was $804.9 billion, down from $856.4 billion on Dec 31, and investors were worried about the January barometer coming to pass.

3 companies were listed on the Catalist board of the Singapore Exchange, but it did little to bring the market cap higher.

Strong blue-chip companies like Prudential, DBS, and Keppel, were down -14.1%, -15.8%, and -22.9% respectively for the month of January.

In the chart below, the last candlestick is the 1st of February. That was how the charts looked at that point in time!

downThings weren’t looking that good at the start of 2016.
Source: Chartnexus

A ROUGH MID-YEAR: VOLATILITY IN APRIL

April was characterized by wide swings in either direction, and intraday volatility for all 30 STI stocks was at 36%.

Three stocks were in focus at that point in time: they had an annualized intraday volatility of 68%, compared with the average of 36%. They were Noble Group, Golden-Agri Resources, and Thai Beverage PCL. 

Subsequently, Noble went on to experience a shocking -55.8% free-fall in the next 4 months, Golden-Agri fell -15.4% before recovering back to its original price at end-April, while ThaiBev experienced a shocking +42% bull run in the next few months.

thaiThaiBev experienced a spectacular bull-run after our stock screener picked out hidden buying in April. 
Source: Chartnexus

 

JULY 14th – 5.5 HOUR TRADING HALT ON SGX

On 14th July 2016, the SGX experienced it’s longest trading disruption ever. Trading was halted just before noon stayed shut for the rest of the day. Apparently, trade confirmation messages were duplicated and posed a serious systematic risk to the SGX.

In an update to reporters, confirmed that executions were back to normal and said the market come back up by 4pm, however, it retracted its previous statement and said the market would be closed for the rest of the day, and it wasn’t clear then whether the market would open. The green arrow in the picture below shows the day that this happened.

jump
tadinghalt
The trading halt was a mere blip on the chart; the market ended +0.7% after the problem was resolved.
Source: Chartnexus, Straits Times

The markets seem unaffected, and subsequently went into a 3-month yo-yo about the trading range during that time. It was particularly difficult to trade because there wasn’t a clear trend in sight.

Swing traders (those who hold a trade to ride a trend) were particularly hit by this period. Their trades would have been stopped out easily, and new entries were psychologically difficult to take. The confusion kept these traders aside, and intra-day traders prospered during this period.

NOVEMBER 2016: BREAKOUT AND A NEW BULL RUN?

2016The STI broke out of a classic wedge pattern, and is currently testing the prior highs in July.
Source: Chartnexus (Chart correct as at 15 Dec 2016)

After a couple of months of going nowhere, the STI looks like it has made a resolution to go higher, but it has paused near the prior resistance level. It could find support at the EMA, but we’ll have to look for more price action to make a high-probability trade.

The STI is still positive for the year, and those who bought the STI had to sit out a rather uneventful 2016. The big wins came from stock speculators getting involved in superstar stocks like CityNeon (up >500% for the year), China Aviation (up >100% for the year).

2016 IN SUMMARY: A SIDEWAYS MARKET WITH MANY SURPRISES

In January 2016, a senior investment strategist at OCBC stated that the market volatility “will cause your stomach to churn, but it may not be enough to cause you to lose your job or wipe out your investment. (China) will cause volatility, but not enough to create mayhem”. The market at the start of the year was still reeling from the spectacular crash of the Shanghai stock market. This time, amidst a post-Brexit world, populist political climate, and a recent U.S Federal Reserve rate hike, it makes sense to think the year wouldn’t start with a bang.

There is a saying that “the market tends to be 6 months ahead of the economy”. If this were true, we should see economic indicators picking up, as it already had in the U.S with better employment figures. Let’s see how 2017 will begin!

Cheers! 😀

REFERENCES & RESEARCH SOURCES:

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/singapore/stock-market/forecast
http://www.straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/good-chance-of-sti-rebound-in-2016-ocbc
amibrokeracademy.com/amibroker/straits-times-index-prediction-for-2016/
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/sgx-halts-trading-in/2956382.html
http://www.straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/sgx-says-securities-market-to-open-per-normal-on-friday
http://www.straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/sgxs-longest-trading-halt-raises-concern
http://www.straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/value-of-singapore-stocks-down-64-in-jan
http://sbr.com.sg/stocks/news/here-are-three-most-volatile-sti-stocks-in-april

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

Monthly Portfolio Update for October 2016 – Acquired New REIT ETF

In time of uncertainty, it pays to be like the tortoise – Slow but Steady. Especially if you are serious about building passive income for the long run instead of short-term gains.

For October, the biggest change in my portfolio was the purchase of this new REIT ETF:
http://synapsetrading.com/2016/10/singapores-first-reit-etf-should-i-add-some-to-my-portfolio/

I also removed the real estate component of my portfolio, as I felt that a residential property (of which the owner resides) is technically not a cash-generating asset, and it distorts the portfolio. You will notice that the portfolio looks a lot neater now.

Baby Hermann's Tortoise (Testudo hermanni), 18 months old

I was overseas much of October, travelling to Iceland, Ireland, and UK for a 2.5 week holiday, while letting my money work hard instead. You can check out my travelling photos here: https://www.instagram.com/iamrecneps/

monthly-portfolio-updates-october-2016-1

For my current allocation, my cash, my trading accounts and my fixed income investments remain the bulk of my portfolio, at 25%, 22% and 25% respectively. This is in line with my defensive strategy, since I only have 11% in Stocks and REITs, which allows me more room to increase the holdings when the market has a significant correction.

For October, we had pretty decent trading gains for stocks and for forex, which we withdrew and added to our warchest of cash reserves. This is in line with our strategy to keep a fixed trading capital base, since we only need a fixed capital base to consistently generate monthly returns.

REVEALED: FULL PORTFOLIO HOLDINGS!

Here are my current holdings as at the end of October 2016:
(Click on any of these buttons below to unlock; for mobile device users, please click twice)

For more insights into my portfolio construction, and how you can create your own customized portfolio, I will be touching more on it during my “Trading Foundation Workshop”, where I will cover all the essentials to kickstart your trading & investing journey. Check availability: http://synapsetrading.com/trading-foundation-workshop/

Good luck! 😀

Singapore’s First REIT ETF – Should I Add Some to My Portfolio?

Philip capital has announced the public listing of its first REIT ETF on 20 October. It claims to “provide investors transparent and low cost access to the diverse basket of quality Asia Pacific REITs which offer stable dividend income”.

The REIT has a heavy Australian weightage (59%), and a heavy retail weightage (47%).

Phillip SGX APAC Dividend Leaders REIT ETF Breakdown

reit-components

compoenent

Source: Philip Capital – REIT Prospectus

 

Is it Worth Adding to My Portfolio?

Here are some considerations:

  • There is a relatively high management fee of about 0.5% annually, which might go down as the AUM of the ETF increases.
  • There is a 15% withholding tax on Australian assets, which will lower the overall yield.
  • There is a 17% corporate tax which further lowers the yield, but there is a possibility they might do away with that, and if that happens, could act as a positive catalyst for the ETF price.
  • Overall, the net yield is about 4.5%, which is pretty decent, and if prices continue to slide, we might be able to average a higher yield on subsequent purchases.
  • This provides good diversification without the hassle of having to manage and monitor multiple counters, which is in line with my hands-off portfolio strategy.

After much consideration, I have decided to add some to my portfolio, and it will be reflected in my next monthly portfolio update for the month of October. As with all purchases, the quantity and timing is of utmost importance.

 

Useful links

General information – http://www.phillipfunds.com/home/banner_link4
Prospectus – http://phillipfunds.com/uploads/funds_file/Phillip_SGX_APAC_Dividend_Leaders_REIT_ETF_Prospectus.pdf
Product Highlight Sheet – http://phillipfunds.com/uploads/funds_file/Phillip_SGX_APAC_Dividend_Leaders_REIT_ETF_Product_Highlight_Sheet.pdf
Product Summary – http://www.phillipfunds.com/uploads/funds_file/Phillip_SGX_APAC_Dividend_Leaders_REIT_ETF_Product_Sheet_Oct_10.pdf