end of potato times
thepotatotimes
Timely reminder that I may have bared too much of myself again. I have forgotten that nobody really needs or desires to read any of this. Do we really need an affirmation from this world?

This shall be my last post on Potato times. Bye everyone, whoever is reading.

Avocado
thepotatotimes
A colleague commented recently that 8 people had either resigned or transferred out of my department since November last year. That is about 22.2% turnover in slightly less than a year.

But nevertheless still doing better than my spring onion seeds that I'm trying to grow at home. It's slightly more than a week since I planted them, but nothing seen yet.

If I still don't see any results in another week or so, perhaps it is time to sow a second batch.

Would that not sum up nicely how we should see our endeavors too?

Except that we are not seeds that can be replaced anytime. We do want to see that all our efforts germinate into something more illustrious and meaningful.

Tomato told me that Rayner's school teacher feedback to us that she could see Rayner was trying to "fit" in with a group of boys, by sitting, playing and eating near to them. Unfortunately that poor boy told us (not knowing what his teacher told us separately) that his friends were making fun of the way he speaks.

Sometimes Rayner tells us, "it's okay!", even though we could tell that he is hurt.

Poor boy. Such sensitivity at a young age of 4. I wish he never becomes as unhappy as his dad when he grows up. Love this boy so much.

I am not equipped with such skills in the social world. I do not know how I can equip Rayner with useful skills, except for not showing him my unhappy self. I can imagine Tomato grimacing as she reads this post, saying "you are not that bad!". But I do feel terribly disconnected with the world sometimes.

Whilst I pretend to be a sunflower at times, I think I am mostly an old grumpy avocado. Green with envy most of the time, tastes horrible to most people, but can give plenty of good nutritional value if you know the recipe to use me well.

Maybe the sunflower seeds that I sowed last month agreed and decided to whimper into the darkness, after sprouting momentarily for a few days. (A big storm took out whatever spirit that is left in it, when I got home one day).

Perhaps I shall just end this post with a poem I wrote 5 years ago. Chanced upon it recently, somehow.

DEFESSUS

Bright may be the light that shines behind,
Dark uncertainty enshrouds my eyes.
I walk, fumble, and pray for a sign,
To escape this world of sad, blind mice.

Offerings and fear rule all my paths,
I cannot avoid, I cannot run.
“All my life I tried”, the old man laughs,
“Till even despondence had its fun.”

Beyond this place of melancholy,
Lies wistful tales of deceit and joy.
Years of toil brings yet its own story,
One of despair, cumbersome turmoil.

My soul is broken, my will is bent,
Trampled and trodden the spirit gives.
Yearning for goodness my life is spent,
I seek for favour to truly live.

Written by Potato, 8 November 2010

our time here
thepotatotimes
Here I am again, having a cup of teh-o near Goldhill Center whilst waiting for Rayner's speech therapist lesson to be over.

Tomato woke me up in the middle of the night last night, apparently going through some panic attack again. This is not the first time she experienced such attacks, which seem to be related to her migraine.

In the morning, I had to leave as I had to bring my father for his regular follow-up visits to his doctor, related to his stroke in 2012.

My mother remarked that my father's next appointment is quite close to her own medical appointment at the hospital. Apparently she had some giddy spells recently, and she decided to see a doctor after the third occurrence.

A few days ago, I also attended the wake of my friend's father's demise. When I asked about my friend's mother and how she was coping, he remarked that coincidentally she had just been discharged from the hospital a few days before, due to the same symptoms.

Such is the frailty of life.

I thought these are timely reminders for us to value each other when we are still alive, and make ample plans to ensure we are financially ready, if something happens.

It is also a stark reminder to me, that despite all my planning towards the road of financial freedom, I should never lose sight of the possibility that such accidents have the potential to derail our plans in the biggest way one can imagine.

In the most extreme scenario, one can be "financially free" almost instantly. How's that for instant gratification?

And perhaps, some of us do live our lives in this manner.

Some weeks back, my brother told me about how he is potentially going for a divorce again. He is 10 years older than me, and this would be his third divorce, if it goes through.

Apparently, his wife (who happens to be younger than me) felt that they weren't progressing in life, and most certainly not living up to her aspirations. In particular, she felt that my brother was too lackadaisical, and was depending on her too much.

My brother told me about his story, and told me he felt his wife had "changed" unnecessarily. He also opined that his wife was not "realistic", and was too idealistic.

Short of disagreeing with him outright, I offered him a story of another friend of mine, who was also undergoing a potential divorce.

The only difference is that it was contributed by his resentment that he was "contributing" too much. He is the sole breadwinner of a 4-br condominium, had a car, a maid, and 2 kids. His wife had tight controls over the purse strings and demanded that he come home on time everyday after work to take over the tasks of looking after the kids.

My brother kept silent after he heard my story. I'm sure he knew what I was driving at. Since our big argument years ago, I decided there is no point initiating such "disagreements" again.

When we started to discuss about how to share our responsibilities to take turns helping out with my parents' issues years ago, my sister walked out of the conversation literally, as she had a deep feud with my brother from young. They had not spoken in ages.

The problem became worse, when my brother then suggested that he was the "poorest" of the 3 siblings, and that he has no way of contributing.

When we suggested he can take on less financial related tasks and help more in the other jobs instead, so that we don't have to keep taking leaves for his medical appointments and such (to the extent I said he could claim whatever expenses from me subsequently), he then excused himself by saying he stayed "too far" and that it was inconvenient. So I should do it, given I was "richer", had a car, stayed nearer, etc.

I don't blame my sister for passing him sarcastic remarks.

Lately, I told him he needed to find a day to visit the attorney, to sign a "discharge form" so that they may proceed to pay out some medical claims in cash to him, in relation to an accident several years ago. He was a passenger in my car and we were the claimants in a chain collision.

He told me the very next day that he had taken leave, and had signed the letter. He thought he would be getting the cash on the day itself, but was disappointed it needed 6 weeks for the cash to be dispensed.

So much for priorities.

His wife now tells him she is giving another chance for them to work on this relationship. I told him, he should reflect and see if there is indeed any issue with his own character.

I did not tell him, but I agreed with his wife.

Only we can help ourselves.

The Intern
thepotatotimes
Tomato was on leave today for her dental appointment, so I took PM leave to join her, starting our weekend earlier.

Was thinking of ways to spend today, until I read Singaporean Man of Leisure's blog post yesterday, about the movie "The Intern". Decided to catch a 4pm show at Clementi 321 mall today.

Turned out it was a great show and well worth the time spent, though I profess I thought it was a show about Anne Hathaway being the intern, instead of Robert De Niro. Interesting plot.

Surprisingly Tomato remarked she didn't quite enjoy it (I thought she would), and remarked that only older folks would appreciate such genre. I wouldn't have watched this title had I not read SMOL's blog, am glad I did.

Tomato asked why I wasn't as enthusiastic as Robert De Niro when starting his day at work. Well, there is a difference between working to find meaning, versus working to stay alive isn't there?

It's all a state of mind. I do hope I get to that state someday too.

change
thepotatotimes
Well, as I mentioned in my earlier entry, I finally tendered my resignation yesterday. My resignation was officially announced this morning, via email.

I probably will revisit this entry the next time I tender my resignation, just to reminisce.

The types of reaction:

1) The Neighbors
"Oi! Why never tell your neighbors first!"

2) The Keng-Jios (bananas)
"BOJIO!"

3) The Friendly support staff
"哎呀你害我! 我要帮你raise 三个 requests to remove your access leh!"

4) The Sombre
"Hi, I heard you have tendered. All the best to you."

5) The Curious
"Eh bro, happening sia! Where you going? Doing what? How's the market outside? Pay good or not?"

6) The Caring
"Hey man, sad that you are leaving. Let's stay in touch ya, and we should do lunch before you leave!"

7) The "More" Caring
"Hey can you help me to do xxx and yyy? Also, can you do zzz too? By the way, will miss you!" (Eh... miss me or miss my job. Say so lah.)

8) The secret messengers
"Eh I also going for some interviews recently, sian leh. Sighhh. You got any contacts bo??"

9) The shocker
"OMGGGGG. WHY YOU LEAVEEEEEEE!!!!!"

10) The 神神密密
"Pssst. Is it what you told me last time?"

Fear
thepotatotimes
I had a dream about losing lots of teeth, sometime last week. In my dream, my teeth were randomly dropping off, leaving just a few behind. I could even "taste" the fallen teeth in my mouth, when I woke up.

Apparently, dreams of this kind are pretty common - it meant that I had deep insecurities and fears, and the more severe the extent of teeth loss, the greater my fear was.

I think the fears probably stem from the prospect of leaving my current job and moving on to another job again. I had recently been offered a role in another organisation, and I will be tendering my resignation soon.

When I left my previous job 3 years ago to join this current organisation, it was at the back of my mind that I could pick up some new knowledge and hopefully position myself unto another new career. Though I started to entertain thoughts about staying on at some point, things are not meant to be and I have once again taken a decision to move on again.

To a certain extent I have executed what I had planned for - to acquire as much knowledge as possible from my current role for 3 years, and hopefully complete all 3 levels of CFAs (which would also require 3 years). Well, I managed to achieve all these, and also threw in an additional "certificate" as well. Talk about insecurities - was it done to demonstrate my "capacity", or was it just to "catch up" with peers in the industry (given that I have started later on this path)? I don't know.

I was talking to an old friend recently, and he mentioned we can never plan enough. I told him I agree, but starting to plan is a start.

I spoke about how I planned to make a career switch into a new career 3 years ago. I took a painful pay cut in my monthly salary to do so, though the annual bonuses in my current job made up for it fairly. Now I'm finally enjoying the fruits of my "planning", by having a fairly decent increment. Taking into account my previous pay cut, my increments over these 3 years in my current job, and my newly negotiated increment, it would amount to an effective increase of 14% above my last drawn pay at my previous job, before I took a cut. That is about 4.5% annualised.

I remind myself that although this effective "increment" is not remarkable, it is nonetheless decent, considering I had made yet another career switch from 3 years ago. The only downside is that due to timing issues, I will lose part of my bonuses from my current job this year. Nevertheless, I hope I have assessed this upcoming role correctly, so that if all things go well, I should be up a "notch" in another 3 years, given I will be building up my "depth" on this new path. As my current boss shared, play our cards strategically. Let's see if my strategy pans out in another 3 years, as planned. On a less serious note, I am becoming such a jack of all trades. Perhaps more job security cos I can just switch between more industries now? Well, that is one fallback. I dream, of course.

Saw a re-run of "Batman Rises" on TV just now. One of the quotes went - "To conquer fear, become fear yourself."

I guess it is time to take a deep breath, and prepare for all things new, all over again. This will start, in another 3 months, when my notice period is over.

Good luck to myself.

Disrupt yourself
thepotatotimes
It is getting increasingly difficult to concentrate for long periods of time during work recently; my mind tends to wander.

I took a stroll to MPH bookstore earlier. Though the self-improvement section has already been around for so long, I had just taken notice of the interesting titles at the self-improvement section. I have never really held much interest in this section in the past, browsing only the finance/investing or hobbies section. Talk about seeing only what you are willing to see.

A number of titles caught my eye, ranging from "Disrupt yourself", "Be a nobody", "how introverts sell themselves", etc. Suspect some of the stuff being said can be really powerful stuff, if one is able to internalise these rules. Perhaps it is just like how financial gurus behave. They are top of the class not because they have read many books and are able to espouse the theories. They are good because they have their own rules which they know will work, and is part of their temperament, even if it runs contrary to conventional wisdom. I suspect many people still follow what they read religiously and follow to the T, thinking that they are powerful rules to follow. They are. But they are even more powerful if you have thought of these rules and internalised them, even before reading them. Inspiration is useful to a certain extent, of course.

Admittedly, I have been acting terribly in some of these "life skills". Especially those about staying positive and having a keen outlook on life. Never been my forte. My strength is in seeing a weakness in every situation, a flaw in every logic, some sadness in every celebration. Talk about irony.

And I also realise I have a low tensile strength - the ability to bounce back from setbacks and unhappy episodes; but a deep-set stickiness to unhappiness. I prefer not to call it lack of resilience. I think I am rather resilient in feeling low. Occasionally I may encounter tragic life circumstances, which remind me of the blessedness of my own, but I come out of it rather quickly. I require a larger period of rest and inactivity, before I let go of my latent negativity and move slightly towards contentment, but I come back to it rather quickly as well. I read a post from an old course mate from university recently, he spoke of how much easier it is for him to feel contentment these days. How enviable.

I think sometimes we need a major epiphany. Though I am scared to say I want it. They are usually due to life changing circumstances rather than major windfalls, for instance. Seldom a good sign, when one receives an epiphany. I can just hope I get "enlightenment" instead. Now, maybe there is slightly less negative connotation to this, since enlightenment can come from something less sinister, such as meditation. My wishful thinking, of course.

People who do not know me well, may not know this of me. That is the reason why I keep this blog private. They sometimes see me as an extrovert, sometimes funny, sometimes serious, sometimes crappy. In reality, I am mostly not so.  In fact, I am quite confident bringing the mood down in all circumstances, IF I allow myself to do so. Fortunately, I don’t.

I need a long, long break, to feel deeply within myself again.

Random Thoughts
thepotatotimes
Being alone is a joy. Had an enjoyable lunch by myself earlier.

Just read this entry from Cheerful Egg earlier. Sounds like common sense to me, but there are also many others who will disagree, for reasons known to themselves.

Influence and susceptibility

Appears that there are many who are willing to listen to general trends/statements/opinions without validating for themselves.

"So and so says this, it must be legit."
"Many of my friends are doing this, it is very common to do this."
"Experts say the market has more room to drop, better wait before I enter the market."
"This is a great product, because it is expensive (and therefore worth the money)."

Being Contrarian

Likewise there are many others who read that it is smart (and perhaps unique) to be a contrarian, or are simply so confident in their own thought process and abilities.

"There is no danger ahead (despite the road sign). People are put off due to the road sign, thankfully I am smarter than all of them."

Ability to Discern

So what differentiates between the 2 personalities? The ability to question oneself and justify what to accept and what not to. Education does not equip us with only facts and figures. It equips us with the ability to question, prove, and refute; it is a tool to enhance our thinking and validate our experiences. Willingness to think beyond what one hears and sees however, that is the equaliser.

Values and Objectives

There is no need to adopt a framework or thought process if values and objective are different to set out with. It creates friction and simply counters the efficacy of any process. Which is why different people buy/sell different stocks and at different prices. The impetus is different. You cannot form an investment committee when the mandate has not been clearly accepted. Likewise you cannot have a common purpose if our values and beliefs are different.

haze
thepotatotimes
Seems not so long ago that I wrote an entry about the haze. I think the psi hit 187 at one stage. Now everyone, including myself, is hiding under the shelter of Heartland mall. No joke, even Qi Ji is fully occupied today.

Went for a job interview earlier. I still do not enjoy interviews very much, though I'm much less intimidated than I was during my younger days. I can still remember oral examinations were one of my top fears when I was young. Written exams were my forte. It's not too different now, some 20+ years later. Thankfully now with age, I view interviewers less threatening now.

Ok, my dinner is here, shall continue another time.

idling
thepotatotimes
So here I am, having my teh-o whilst waiting for Rayner to go through his $150/hr session with his speech therapist, which is really more of Tomato's idea.

The more we have, the more inclined we think we should "not scrooge" and therefore it is easier to spend needlessly. Personal opinion of course. Anyway, I will give this topic a clear berth for now, and see what miracles can be achieved at the end of the 12-sessions package.

So what have I been doing in my 3-year absence from blogging?

1) worked dutifully in my day job and acquired a new career skill
2) stopped monitoring the markets and lost my "feel", but restarted my investments once again
3) fully repaid my HDB and car loans
4) bought a condo and moved there
5) rented out my HDB to a Korean family
6) cleared all 3 levels of CFA and also certified myself as a financial crime specialist in another qualification
7) renewed my 2025 retirement target objective
8) learnt to write a bit better professionally (thus the shoddy writing in the blog now; just to relax)
9) stopped watching my investment returns (since I literally stopped investing) and expenses tracking (everything is internalised)
10) picked up hobbies in fengshui, bazi, gardening, etc

So there we have it.

keep trying
thepotatotimes
Finally, the end of an eventful week. I finally convinced my reservist unit to consider seriously my appeal to rationalize my NS liabilities, after much persuasion.

Basically I was deployed to another new reservist unit, after completing one cycle (usually 6 high keys, 2 low keys and 2 lull years; I did 8 high keys so far) of my reservist liabilities. Unlike Mindef which will ask its reservists (under the ROVERS scheme) whether they are willing to extend their NS liabilities after completing the default 10-year cycle, MHA(which I am posted under) did not see a need to do so.

In essence, I was re-deployed to another unit to "start afresh". No questions asked. How can this be an equitable approach towards NS, I asked? Especially in view that different ministries can take such a disparate view of a national requirement which affects all singaporean males.

NS by far, has been an extremely disruptive event, for me at least. Since 2007, I have been called up more than 40 times, with varying durations, including the high keys. I was told this was due to "operational needs", and that I was a Key Appointment Holder.

This saga just shows that if you are determined enough, you might just be able to talk your way through, even if the odds are against you.

The key is to try, at least. Some medical doctors (around 50+ years old by now) in my unit griped about how he should be let off every year during ICT (to the battalion commander, the division, etc). I brought up this topic once, to the Division commander last year, but met with a typical civil service discourse. I wrote in formally and that changed the stance.

We probably heard this before - no one is more interested in our finances than ourselves. This in fact applies to many other aspects of our lives. Make no mistake about it.

nomination day
thepotatotimes
An exciting nomination day, going by what I just saw on tv. Seems like more candidates think it's easier to appeal to emotions instead of rationality.

But then again, there is never a clear line between the two. Everything is in our heads.

I took the chance this morning to sell my cpf holdings in Ascott reit (6 lots @ $1.21) and First reit (18 lots @ $1.24). Been a good run; I think there are now ample opportunities in the market to reinvest into. That's probably about $13.8k of profits (exclusive of dividends collected over the years), based on my OCBC iBanking statement. With this round, my total profits now stand at $163.8k. Not remarkable, but considering I had not been actively adding on counters for the past 3 years, I think this is decent enough.

I have stopped tracking my networth over the years. Think my time has been reinvested elsewhere.

I shared with Tomato my 10-year target for retirement in 2025 recently. Time to consolidate again and re-plan. I will be 47 years old by then, and Tomato, 44. 2025 is our drop-dead target. I hope we do not drop dead before that.

If something can be solved by money, it should never be allowed to become a problem.

hello
thepotatotimes
Been 2.5 years since my last post, and I took a while to figure out where the "post new entry" button is.

Was supposed to turn up for in-camp training today, the supposed routine for the rest of this week and the next. I did, but the training was "suspended", so I will be back in office tomorrow. Long story, I will save it for another day. Now I'm happily idling at a coffeeshop. Drinking my favourite teh-o.

Tomato and I brought Rayner to the beach yesterday. Rayner is 4 years old this year. Happy kid.

Recently I felt like taking short trips overseas for the holiday feel. Never appealed to me in the past. Guess I'm a late bloomer. 37 years old and the first time visiting Penang recently. Lots of youngsters these days would have visited far more exotic places by the time they reach my age probably. Well, I'm rather slow for many other things anyway.

Finances wise, I've improved slightly, hopefully still on target for my year 2025 retirement. Paid up my hdb flat, car fully, and bought a condo nearby. Resuming my investment action plans as well. Shall elaborate more next time.

Till then, ta-ta.

End of 2014
thepotatotimes

It’s been 6 months since I last posted.. this is turning out to be a semi-annual update. Well, the year 2013 is coming to an end and it is only customary for me to pen down some thoughts as the Great Editor of The Potato Times before we cross over to 2014. But then again, this is the 3rd post for 2014 so I bested my earlier statement (setting low expectations and outperforming is always nice).

Last year end, I did a FOUR-point self-reflection. This year, considering there were few updates throughout the year, I shall do a EIGHT-point update for 2014 (I DOUBLE the number, aggressive boh?), using the countdown from #8 to #1 style, even though it probably doesn’t necessarily warrant a ranking in that order (but it always sounds more exciting to do it that way, and exciting is good, sometimes). Ok I admit, I wanted to do 10 things but decided to change it to 8 as I went along. Boring life, I know.

8) Lucky Draws
Potatomato took part in a contest organised by our Community Centre (CC) together and won for ourselves (or rather, Rayner) a “Teamson” brand children dinosaur cabinet, and a marine book-shelf. It was the usual “answer-the-following-question” kind of contest where the answer could be found in the CC magazine itself. I was on PM leave one fine day and decided to enter the contest for Potatomato (I don’t usually participate in lucky draws but decided to do so for some reason, as I thought it’s a silly contest that many people may decide to ignore and so my chances may be higher). In the end, both Tomato and I won a prize each (there were 6 prizes to give away) and the CC coordinator was so surprised that he picked a husband and wife couple (the contest was actually for not just the neighbourhood, but for the entire constituency), and so were we!

7) Rayner
So much has revolved around Rayner over the year, so naturally he deserves one update of his own. Rayner is 2.5 years old now and has finally learnt to string sentences together, such as “Papa eat da bian.” Rayner’s health has been improving gradually too (which is a good thing) and he is getting less of those bouts of fever/cough/flu, though he did recently had a fever again. He is also more responsive to our requests now that we are able to communicate better with him. He recently did some “toddler class” graduation shot (see below). Swee boh. This year I have also proudly clinched the “Lego playmate of Choice” award, sponsored by Rayner.
rayner

 6) Potato’s other family
You gain some, you lose some. This year is also the year that Potato is officially estranged from both his siblings. Henceforth, no sibling shall ever speak to each other. Tragic? Depends on whose perspective we are talking about. It appears it’s not, at least from the 3 of us.

5) Financial Independence
This is one theme that often pops up time and again, at least in this blog. Sometime back I started using this iPhone app called “Pocket Expenses” to track and record my daily expenses. I stopped doing it after a few months as I could already tell where my big ticket expenses were, and what needed to be managed, hence doing it continually was not too meaningful. However, I just did another tracking for the month of December, given it was traditionally a month of higher expenses (Christmas gift buying – not that I buy a lot, Chinese New Year shopping, etc), just to revisit if my expenses have changed much (and it was also a good month to use for conservative estimates going forward). The top 3 expenses were in:

(i)                  Car related expenses (31%);
(ii)                Mortgage payment (18%); and
(iii)               Rayner (11%)

There were other one-off expenses, such as:
(i)                  Car aircon repair - $660;
(ii)                Gifts - $338.50;
(iii)               Father’s medical expenses - $161.35.

Takeaway 1: Despite the hefty car related expenses, I take comfort in knowing that this category can be eliminated if there is a dire need to (though in practice I’m not so sure it would be an easy decision to make). Dining expenses made up only 8%, so I do not need to sweat the (relatively) small stuff over such expenses.

Takeaway 2: The tracking was performed for (i) my personal expenses; and (ii) Potatomato’s joint expenses, and doesn’t factor in (iii) Tomato’s personal expenses (we have 3 “wallets” to attribute our costs to). Tomato was too lazy to do her own tracking and hence no further observation can be made. Based on the figures, my income is able to cover (i) and (ii) with minimal savings left. Now what’s left, is to scrimp and save every penny of Tomato’s income and fund our retirement (Tomato: pls take note). Financial freedom lo! (kidding obviously)

As of today, our housing loan stands at $13,663.15. I can’t remember how much loan has remained for our car though (I think it’s still somewhere close to $20k). And I made the unfortunate blunder of accidentally breaking our car’s side mirror-arm yesterday morning, which I have repaired using scotch tape (budget constraints this month).

4 Job
Sometime last year, I made a decision to take a big pay cut to quit my company and join another. I am pleasantly surprised that my total pay for the year 2013 has exceeded the high water mark for my previous company, due to the bonuses I received. I have also achieved my objective of acquiring another set of skills to keep me relevant.

3 Studies
This year I spent quite a lot of time studying on top of my work and play hours (actually “play” refers to my work done to clinch the “Lego Playmate of Choice” award). Passed Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Level 1 (So late then study this ah! Better late than never okay) and Certified Financial Crime Specialist (CFCS) (still need to clock a number of credits to achieve the final certification).

2 Investments
Tried very hard to share some updates here... I think my investments have stopped almost entirely (other than picking up occasional rights and warrants issues). Last I checked, I’m 87% in cash and waddling in cash everyday (I have learnt from the Great Wise Man, that dreaming is free). I feel as though I have lost some acumen on this front. As a result, my total profits STILL stand... at $152k, not having moved from about a year ago. Not flattering for CAGR/XIRR/whatever fanciful metrics you fancy... that’s why I use only ABSOLUTE DOLLAR RETURNS (Hey I saw this coming years ago before I developed my performance benchmark! Got to give me some credit).

1 Reservist
I completed my first ICT cycle (consisting of all high-keys) and unfortunately, am about to be recycled for yet another ICT cycle against my will.

I participated in some NSmen forum sometime back to discuss and feedback on issues relating to NS, and how we can all make NS better for everyone. The observation remains where MINDEF appears to have too many NSmen that the commanders “didn’t know what to do with them” (as quoted by one of the participants who is a Commanding Officer (NS) in his Battalion) versus MHA, where ironically “there are very limited officers so there is no choice but to recycle them automatically”. Obviously, I belonged to the latter camp.

Enhance NS satisfaction? Come on, let’s fix equitability first by levelling expectations from MINDEF and MHA. Satisfaction comes from knowing that a situation was premised on good principles. Good principles in return, come from a sound policy. And I hardly think that having MR as an option for MINDEF folks but not MHA folks is anywhere close to being an effective use of NS resources. In the absence of any strong counter-argument, I am of the opinion that NS obligations obviously need to be managed on a National Level, and not simply on a Ministry Level.

Final words (for The Potato Times in 2013)

So there, 8 grand updates.

Last but not least, wishing everyone out there (or at least the deserving ones) a Happy New Year for 2014, and may the odds be ever in your favour.


Hazy times (metaphorical too)
thepotatotimes
Lately the weather has been rather hazy, and that meant no outdoor activities and getting myself holed-up at home with some UberAir Vac air filter, N95 masks and all. With a brief respite due to a change in wind directions, I popped by at Alameen mamak shop opposite Beauty World last evening for some egg prata and a cup of teh-tarik. No one was wearing any masks and the mamak shop was ironically more crowded than usual times.

Tomato was really panicky about this whole haze issue. I recognise there are health concerns with the PM2.5 or PSI readings and all, but getting 2 sets of UberAir Vac air filter (each set costs $500) for a 4-room flat is over-doing it. I told Tomato she will pay for the 2nd set herself since I realised there is no use in trying to rationalise with her with her ending off every single argument with "money is no concern" each and every time. (She had originally decided to get the 2nd set as a "spare" for anyone who wants it, but in the end decided to use it herself)

In my opinion there has to be a balance in all our decisions and I'm not just being overly miserly about it. Getting concerned is fine, spending money to address issues is fine too, but if someone keeps coming back again and again with the same "money is no concern therefore I will spend whatever money I deem fit even if the incremental value is negligible" bullshit everytime I am getting extremely sick of this.

If money is no concern and therefore can serve as a catch-all answer to everything, then I will let Tomato proceed using her own finances. Okay, so if it is not a concern, then I shall let it become a concern. It's time to reject such frivolous expenses going forward. I have already been exercising latitude over spending on household/Rayner's expenses normally (things deemed for Rayner I don't usually question or think about it anymore as long as Tomato says its needed), and even more so especially after we got a car (again something that I agreed to exempt from my financial decision-making). Why? Cos the expenses related to car maintenance make other expenses seem not that signficant such that it doesn't seem so worthwhile my effort tracking it.

Over time I get very tired of making effort to save for both of us when it's made to seem like I'm saving for myself. i.e. saving on part-time cleaner at home looks as if I'm saving only for myself and thus, I'm the only one doing the housework primarily. (Tomato says she's saving my effort by trying to engage one) No wonder Tomato's savings after working for 10 years is so pathetic. And it's not as though she didn't had a decent pay all this while. If she's by herself she will probably be one of those who need to work till eternity and still not have much emergency cash.

And since we are on the issue of money, my investments, in view of my recent thought changes, have been further reduced to 15% vested currently. The 15% is more like an insurance against reading the market wrongly since I don’t hedge with shorts. Yup my investment mandate is pretty one-directional I know. It's okay cos I use very little time with this approach, and I get lots of spare time for other stuff.  Of course that also means I don't spend time over small movements with trading in and out. With the rapid rise in market levels and investor sentiments recently I felt probably it's about an opportune time to lock-in some of my profits. I'm also spending much more time on other aspects of my life that sometimes I don’t even spend 5 mins on investment related tasks everyday, so cashing out gives me more comfort to pursue other activities. Nevertheless with the recent transactions my personal profits till date now stand at $152k. Profits from my shared funds with Tomato remain at $4k since I have not deployed any cash for investment there.

Another 9 months and we would reach the 5-year MOP mark for our HDB flat. We're left with about $20+k mortgage loan so I'm just letting our monthly loan repayments slowly pay it off. Prices are likely weakening but there hasn't been any transactions for the past 2 months. The last transaction was in the range of +/- $600k so I will use this as a ballpark to estimate any sales/rental subsequently. I think there is still a disconnect between buyers and sellers expectations going on, and I see it in the private residential sector as well. I'm looking at buying another residence for lifestyle improvement next year if possible, assuming it passes my validating criteria as an investment at the same time, so my cash holdings in view of my recent divestments will serve me well. In any case Tomato wouldn't be able to contribute much, probably only the home renovation bit. I will need to watch my cash bucket well for now if I were to execute my plans.

In case you are wondering why I could type a relatively longer entry this time round - Rayner is sleeping soundly in his nice air-con bed. I guess there will be zero weekend plans if the next few months are going to be this hazy.

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