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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:


“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?


“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.


“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!


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!





bloomberg survey millenials retire

While at the gym yesterday, I was browsing the news (when my gym trainer was taking a break), and I came across this interesting report by Bloomberg.

“A study, released on Tuesday by workforce solutions company Manpower Group and conducted by surveyor Reputation Leaders, found that 12 percent of millennials around the world expect never to retire. In Japan, a whopping 37 percent said they think they’ll work until they reach the grave, compared to 18 percent in China, 12 percent in the United States and the United Kingdom, and just 3 percent in Spain. The study polled 19,000 working millennials across 25 countries.”

bloomberg survey millenials retire

According to this survey, Singapore ranks 4th in world! 🙁 Definitely not a good sign.

My guess is that this is due to a combination of inflation, spending habits, and cost of living.

Another reason why saving, investing, and financial literacy is so important in this time and age.

Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-25/these-are-the-countries-where-millennials-will-work-themselves-to-death

warren buffett

This article will show you the seven dividend-investing secrets that Buffett uses to grow his wealth consistently. Their findings are based on his spoken and written statements, as well as his holdings.

warren buffett


1. Look for Businesses with Long Corporate Histories

Companies with long histories offer investors fewer surprises. These businesses know exactly what they do, and they do it well. Very few businesses continue to be successful for decades. As technology progresses, industries change. Consumer tastes change as well. For a business to thrive for such long periods of time it must either continuously reinvent itself, or exist in an industry that changes slowly.

The advantage of investing in businesses with long corporate histories is that they are more likely to continue generating cash flows going forward. The slower an industry changes, and the longer a business has been around, the more likely that business has a strong competitive advantage that will survive far into the future. Investing in businesses with long histories is a conservative approach to investing. Warren Buffett looks for much more than just a few years of success before he is confident a business truly has staying power and a lasting competitive advantage.


2. Look for Businesses with Strong Competitive Advantages

Buffett looks for businesses with strong, durable competitive advantages. To do well in stocks, you must think like a business owner. As a business owner, you would want your business to be able to beat the competition. More importantly, you’d want something that prevented the competition from ever being able to match you. That’s what a strong and durable competitive advantage offers.

Finding businesses with a competitive advantage that lasts for decades is a much more difficult task. There are few businesses that can reliably sustain a competitive advantage year-after-year. The few businesses that can enjoy above-industry-average returns on capital which can be reinvested to spur growth or returned to shareholders.


3. Look for Undervalued Businesses

To find value in the stock market, one often has to look at the most “beat down” and “unloved” stocks. The most glamorous high-flying growth stocks are not where to look to find value.

There are several ways to find value in high-quality dividend stocks. Stocks with low price-to-earnings ratios are a good place to look for value. Businesses that have suffered from negative one-time events that do not threaten the continuity of the business is another great place to look.


4. Keep a Focused Portfolio

The higher your conviction in any one stock, the larger your portion of your portfolio you should allocate to this stock. If you are very confident that a stock is undervalued, the business has a strong competitive advantage, growth is likely to persist for the long run, and management is shareholder friendly, you should naturally invest more than you would in only a mediocre opportunity.

The advantage of keeping a portfolio of 12-to-20 positions is simple: You can invest in your best ideas, which have a higher probability of stellar performance while still getting much of the benefits of diversification. Owning a portfolio with hundreds of stocks in it virtually guarantees mediocre results.


5. Invest for the Long Run

Investing in businesses for long periods of time has several advantages. First, it allows truly exceptional businesses to compound your wealth without having to do anything else.

Holding stocks for long periods has another advantage. Rarely buying and selling stocks greatly reduces portfolio turnover. Low portfolio turnover means lower frictional costs like brokerage transaction costs, slippage, etc. The lower you keep your investment related costs, the more money you have to actually invest. Holding for long periods of time allows your money to compound in your best ideas, is tax efficient, and reduces investment related costs; a win-win-win situation for individual investors.


6. Look for Shareholder Friendly Management

From the perspective of a shareholder, an excellent management team is one that creates real value for shareholders. The best managers will repurchase shares when stock prices fall and abstain when prices rise. If the business does not have great investment opportunities to reinvest corporate profits, the management will pay out excess cash flows as dividends to shareholders.

Analyzing the moves a company’s managers make is a good way to understand their motivations. As a general rule, businesses with long dividend histories and share repurchases are shareholder friendly and make good investments. Finding the truly exceptional manager — like the next Buffett — is very difficult. But looking at the moves management has made is the first step.


7. Keep Things Simple

Even though Buffett is an investing genius, he always looks for simplicity. When you think of complicated businesses and investment plans like Enron or Long Term Capital Management, the results can be devastating to your portfolio. It is far better to invest in easy-to-understand high-quality businesses within your “circle of competence.”

Your circle of competence is the area of the market you know best. If you are a doctor and regularly deal with a variety of health-care companies, you may be well-equipped to identify and invest in the highest quality health-care businesses. Most people are familiar with a variety of consumer goods products. Analyzing businesses with products that you are familiar with greatly reduces your risk of making a foolhardy investment. Don’t invest because everyone else is doing it — invest because you understand why a company has been successful, and will likely be successful for decades.


Forbes has named Singapore as the third richest country in the world. This wealth is measured using the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. Simplistically, it adds up everyone’s income for the year – to obtain GDP – before dividing it by the country’s population.

So how much should the “average” Singaporean be making based on this calculation?

At first glance, the golden number is $5,943. But is really the average wage?

As mentioned, GDP per capita is a simple method to define how rich a country is by understanding how much everyone in the population earns per annum.

However, using the entire population is not a good gauge, as children, students and retirees are not working, and hence should be excluded from the calculation.

Using labour force instead of total population will be more accurate since we are basing our calculation only on those who are working.

So what is the real “average” earner in Singapore?

The golden number is $9,207!

So what are your numbers telling me?

If you are like us, then this number may appear exceedingly high to you, perhaps even unattainable. Do not worry, you’re not alone.

The median salary in Singapore is SGD3,770. That means the majority of us are not earning the average, unless we have other source of income. This is normal, as income are usually skewed towards the higher income earners and thus medium hardly ever equates to mean.

What you should make out of this number is that there is potential to increase your wages in Singapore. Unlike poorer countries, where your future growth in earnings would be easily capped by the low potential in the country, we do not lack this in Singapore. There is money to be made, somewhere and somehow, in Singapore.

The above write-up is an extract/abridged version of this original article:

Mr Personal Views

Looking at the income distribution, we can see that the there is a growing gap between the “normal” Singaporeans, and the high-income earners. But what is not included is many of the “side jobs” which provide normal Singaporeans a 2nd source of income, such as online businesses and trading income, which may not be reflected in GDP or income surveys.

One thing is certain though: Unless you are drawing a 5-figure salary from your job, it is going to be hard to live comfortably in Singapore without a 2nd source of income. And it is never too late to start. Good luck! 😀


Yesterday, at the SGX Investment Carnival, I was invited to share with new investors and traders my trading journey of how I achieved financial freedom at 27 starting with just $3,000 at 20, so I focused on the top 3 practical tips which I felt had the most major impact on my success.

3 practical tips for early financial freedom

3 Practical Tips for Early Financial Freedom


 1. Time the Big Market Cycles

You might have heard that it is not possible to time the market. But is that really true?

Because all the millionaires and billionaires know the importance of buying and selling their assets at the right time to multiply their wealth.

3 simple steps that all millionaires and billionaires use to accumulate their wealth

3 simple steps that all millionaires and billionaires use to accumulate their wealth


“Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful” – Warren Buffett

So the question is, what is at the cycle low (cheap) now?

Let’s first look at the 10-year stock market cycles… 1997, 2007, … What’s next?

Will there be a huge stock market crash in the next 2-3 years? No one can predict that. But I certainly know that now is NOT the low point in the stock market cycle, and it would be foolish to accumulate stocks now.

My money is on commodities like oil, gold and silver.


2. Have your War Chest Prepared

If the market crashes tomorrow, do you have the capital to take advantage of the opportunity?

If your answer is no, then what is the fastest way to build up more capital?

What is the fastest way to build your capital?

What is the fastest way to build your capital?


The common wisdom is to work hard and save, and while it is a safe option, it will take you about 5-10 years before you have sufficient funds to do any real investing, and by that time you would have missed any good opportunities during those years.

Another option is to start a business, but the failure rate is extremely high, with >80% of businesses going bust within the first year of operations.

My suggestion (which is also what I did for myself), is to allocate a small percentage of your capital to start a small trading portfolio, which can allow you to generate high returns while keeping risk low. And by simply spending 15 minutes a day to manage your trades, you can accelerate the rate of your investment capital accumulation explosively.


3. Learn the Right Skills Early

There are many good resources available for new traders and investors to start learning:

Good luck on your trading journey, and remember the key is to take the first step and get started, because the earlier you start, the more powerful the compounding effect is going to work in your favour! 😀

A casual photo with Magnus Bocker, CEO of SGX, and his staff

A casual photo with Magnus Bocker, CEO of SGX, and his staff