Silver’s Price at a 5-year Low

Silver bullion has always been a favorite of many investors because it’s relatively low price as compared to gold allows investors to buy silver at a fraction of the cost of gold bullion. Today, silver’s price has reached a 5-year low of USD14. In fact, this is the lowest price level last seen since the Great Financial crisis in 2009, thus representing a good window of opportunity to buy silver bullion in Singapore.

Is it a good time for wealth builders to buy silver bullion? If so, should wealth builders buy gold or silver bullion? My perspective is that even though prices of gold and silver are expected to continue to slide moderately in 2016 due to the surging strength of the US dollars and improving US economy, precious metals still offer a form of asset allocation for individual investor’s portfolio.

gold and silver

In my previous article on investing in silver, I had touched on the risks involved. One of the key reasons why silver bullion is not featured in many professional investors’ portfolios is because silver can be very volatile. It can surge more than 5 percent in one day and therefore, not many people can stomach this kind of volatility. In fact, silver reached its peak during 1980, valuing about $50 per ounce. 34 years later, it is languishing at less than $20 per ounce while gold has more than doubled in value since then.

Of course, with volatility, there are opportunities to make money but then again, the difficulty in predicting the direction of silver prices had deterred many investors from buying silver. With silver, you stand a higher chance of losing lots of money if you are not careful with the price volatility.

Indeed, there are many supporters for gold and there were huge demands for …

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How to be a better investor in 2016

During this festive season, I have thought deeply on my investment style and track records so far in 2015. While I did not make any major investment moves for the past three years, my personal finance is certainly in a better shape now as compared to 2010, the year I started this blog. Along the way, there were several intriguing investment ideas, new philosophies and key lessons that I have picked up from the various people that I have met. In view of this, I thought it is important to pen down my thoughts for more clarity.

SG Wealth Builder
SG Wealth Builder

Have you wondered why some people just keep winning in their stock investments while others lost huge sum of monies in stocks or fallen prey to silly gold scams which they never should have in the first place? Is it true that “the rich will become richer and the poor will become poorer”? I have come to realize that those who keep making money from the stock market are those who know how to read the game. In other words, they have the available tools and data that enable them to make informed decisions, thus allowing them to get ahead from the rest of the people.

Smart investors know that their potentials and abilities are limited, so they are willing to constantly invest in themselves to expand their knowledge and acquire new skills from proven investors. In some cases, they also join investment networks to leverage resources or share experiences. Very often, I am amazed that people are willing to spend years and even fork out ten of thousands to obtain tertiary education in the hope of achieving good careers and attractive salaries. Yet they don’t realize that schools don’t teach you how to make money and be an …

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Three important skills to succeed in life

As a young parent, I always believe in giving the best for my children. In this regard, my wife and I have been sending my daughter for enrichment classes with the view of developing her thinking, speaking and writing skills. These are the three skills one should possess in order to succeed in life, so we hope to give her a good start.

Contrary to what many people thought, being academically good does not mean you are well-equipped to achieve great things when you enter the workforce. I have seen many scholars who can think and write well but cannot speak confidently in public. Like-wise I have many ‘A’ list friends who can think fast and speak confidently but lack substance in their writing. Henceforth, my view is that it is important to lay a strong foundation for these three skills, starting from a young age. At the end of the day, even if my children did not achieve great things, at least I hope to mold resilient characters in them so that they can overcome obstacles in life.


Thinking Skill

I have been sending my daughter to attend lessons at Clay Works Singapore in East Point Shopping Mall. The idea is to encourage her to think creatively and also to let her experience the fun of learning. In future, she would realize that studying for exams in Singapore is highly stressful and dull. So I want to sustain her interest in learning and instill in her that learning can be fun. The structured curriculum helps to develop her problem solving skill and unleash creative potential. More importantly, I want to boost her self confidence and self esteem upon seeing her own craft.

As a wealth builder, it is also important to think critically and not follow the herd mentality …

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How much have you lost investing in Tiger Airways IPO?

In November 2015, Singapore Airlines (SIA) made an offer to acquire the remaining 44.23% stake in Tiger Airways for SGD450 million. The takeover, if materialized, would mark a sorry end to the listed company, which has seen its stock price plummeted from $1.50 at initial public offering (IPO) in 2010 to a low of $0.245. SIA is offering to buy out the remaining shares at $0.41.

Investors who remain faithful with Tiger Airways since its initial listing must have lost a lot of money. Suffice to say, the offer by SIA is definitely not attractive enough but then again, the offer of $0.41 represents a premium to the price range it was trading ($0.29 to $0.40) prior to SIA’s offer. So investors who bought during the IPO high of $1.50 need to ask themselves whether is it realistic for Tiger Airways to turn around its fortune and increase its stock price.

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SG Wealth Builder

Being a budget airline, Tiger Airways has been battling stiff competition within the region against formidable rivals like Jetstar Asia and Air Asia. In 2008-09, the company lost almost $50 million but things got better after it got listed in SGX, with the company clocking in profits of $28 million in 2010 and $40 million in 2011. Probably because of this, IPO investors got seduced and buy into the Tiger Airways’ story. What they would not realize is that subsequently for the next three years, the company would go on to clock in successive years of losses.

The case of no-frills travelling is certainly compelling but somehow, the management of Tiger Airways has no solution to address the competition from Qantas’s Jetstar and Malaysia’s Air Asia. This has probably caused investors to depress Tiger Airways stock to a low of $0.245. Against this backdrop, the average …

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Growing your CPF Retirement Fund (Part 2)

As a wealth builder, it is important to start compounding your CPF savings as early as possible when you are in your prime. This is because if you start early, the compound interests can work wonders for your retirement sum. When you reach 55 years old, your Special and/or Ordinary Accounts savings will be transferred to your Retirement Account to form your retirement sum. Your retirement sum can be used to join CPF LIFE or the Retirement Sum Scheme which provides you with a monthly payout of about 20 years.

After setting aside both the Full Retirement Sum or Basic Retirement Sum with sufficient property charge/pledge and the current MMS of $43,500, you can choose to withdraw​ the remaining cash balances in your Ordinary and Special Accounts, or continue to keep your savings in CPF to earn attractive interest.

For myself, I would be placed on the CPF LIFE scheme but when I saw the monthly payout for the Basic Retirement Sum (BRS), I almost fell off the chair. I mean what can you do with $700 per month? Thirty years down the road, with the onset of inflation, the diminishing purchasing power of money would mean that $700 would be equivalent to today’s $200. In today’s context, you definitely cannot survive in Singapore with a $200 monthly payout. Thus, in my point of view, this scheme is definitely not attractive for me. However, from January 2016, we will have one more option to choose from – Enhanced Retirement Sum.

Your monthly payout* for life from 65Retirement Account savings required at 55
If you own a property and choose to pledge your property.​​$660 – $720Basic Retirement Sum (BRS)


​If you do not own a property or choose not to pledge your property.$1,220 – $1,320
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Growing your CPF Retirement Fund (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from MINDEF informing me that I was eligible for the 3rd milestone of the NS HOME Awards and that they would credit $5000 into my CPF accounts ($3000 into my Ordinary account and $2000 into my Medisave account). Even more surprising was that due to the award, I have reached the Medisave Contribution Ceiling (MCC), which is currently $48,500. This caused the excess of the MCC to be transferred to my Special Account.

Many Singaporeans, including my wife, are clueless on what will happen to their Medisave accounts when the ceiling is reached. Many people also cannot appreciate the difference between the Medisave Minimum Sum (MMS) and MCC. Ignorance is certainly not blissful when it comes to managing your CPF retirement fund because if you are not given the right information, you may be misled by bloggers trying to stir up negative sentiments.

Before proceeding further, I think it is important to highlight the CPF schemes, especially for those who just started working. Every month, you and your employer will contribute to your CPF accounts which consist of Ordinary Account, Special Account and Medisave Account.

The current contribution rate totals 37%, with 20% deducted from your gross salary and 17% from your employer. Below diagram illustrates the functions of each CPF account:




In this article, I will focus more on Medisave and how it can play a part in our healthcare needs as well as retirement fund. Firstly, there is a maxi​​mum amount you can keep in your Medisave account and it is revised periodically to take inflation into account and expansions in the usage of Medisave. This limit (MCC) can be easily reached by mid-thirties if you have been gainfully employed for …

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BullionStar’s Bullion Savings Program

SG Wealth Builder is pleased to catch up with Luke Chua, Chief Operating Officer of BullionStar on their latest product offering – Bullion Savings Program. 

1) What are the key features of Bullion Savings Program? You can actually convert the grams in BSP to physical metals?

The key features of the BSP are that it allows customers to save and/or trade in precious metals. With the BSP, customers can buy BSP Grams of Gold, Silver or Platinum that is fully backed up by physical precious metals in BullionStar’s stock inventory. Grams in the Bullion Savings Program (BSP) are fully allocated physical precious metals. Our BSP Grams are available in Gold, Silver and Platinum for a low price premium and a low spread. This provides customers with a cost-efficient way to start saving in precious metals.

BSP Gold Grams can be converted in increments of 100 grams to 100 gram PAMP Gold Cast Bars. BSP Silver Grams can be converted in increments of 15,000 grams to 15 kg Heraeus Silver Bars. BSP Platinum Grams can be converted in increments of 1,000 grams to 1 kg Heraeus Platinum Bars. BSP Grams can be converted to physical bullion bars at any time or sold back to BullionStar at any time.

2) Fundamentally, what is the difference between BSP and the previous Vault Grams? 

Fundamentally, the BSP is superior to Vault Grams because customers are now able to convert the BSP grams into physical bullion bars in the above mentioned increments. This is the major difference to Vault Grams.

3) Any restrictions for foreigners residing in other countries? 

There are no restrictions whatsoever. Foreigners as well as companies and other entities are welcome to buy BSP Grams.

4) Is this the first-of-a-kind of bullion scheme in Singapore? To address the transparency concern, I

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Silver Market Review for 2015

Festive season is fast approaching and now is the time to buy gold or silver bullion as gifts for your loved ones! Before making a move, let’s take a look at the global market trend for bullion.

According to a report by Thomas Reuters, 2015 has been an intriguing year for silver as total supply is forecasted to fall by 3% from the previous year. This represented the weakest performance since 2002, when mine production fell by 2%.

There are a lot of head winds for the silver mine production and on top of this, scrap supply is expected to fall for the fourth consecutive year. Because of this, silver will face a physical shortfall for the third consecutive year. Nonetheless, this shortfall is mitigated by outflows from the ETFs and derivative exchange, thus softening the impact of supply shortage from the mine productions.

Interestingly, the deficit in the supply may not cause a spike in prices. This theory is vindicated by the performance of silver prices this year, which saw silver prices averaged US$15.91 per ounce, which was 18.3% lower than in the same period in 2014. Wealth builders have seized this window of opportunity to snap up silver on the cheap and this led silver bullion coin sales to reach record level in the third quarter of this year. The slide in prices has apparently triggered a massive surge in buying in the silver coin market, leading to an unexpected shortage of silver bullion coins among global mints.

In the midst of global shortage of silver coins, BullionStar is well stocked on the popular Silver Maples and Silver Eagles. With Christmas coming, BullionStar is running their best silver coins promotion.

Silver banner

Buy Silver Maples for only the spot price of silver + 16.9 % (≈spot + USD 2.39; …

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K1 Ventures announced capital reduction

Perhaps one of the most overlooked dividend stocks by wealth builders in Singapore, K1 Ventures announced capital distribution of 1.5 cents per share in October 2015 to reward shareholders. The objective of the proposed capital reduction is the maximisation of value, through the distribution of surplus cash to shareholders because the company will not be making any new investments and instead will focus on managing current portfolio. This is the second capital reduction for K1 Ventures since Dec 2007 and for each of the past 10 years, the company had announced dividends. 

In announcing the capital distribution, K1 Ventures also released a fantastic 1Q 2016, which saw a net profit of $87 million. Revenue was $89.3 million for the first quarter ended 30 September 2015 compared to $2.9 million in the prior year period driven by an increase in investment income from KUH, attributable to the receipt of a cash distribution of approximately $85.6 million. The balance sheet is also in great shape because net current assets is $144 million and there is no outstanding borrowing. After the disposal of Helm, K1 Ventures had finally become more “asset-lite” and not burden by the heavy borrowings. Cash-flow is also good, with the operating activities at $84 million and cash and equivalents at $135 million.

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SG Wealth Builder

I have been tracking K1 Ventures for more than ten years and I must salute the CEO and Chairman, Steven Jay Green for his Midas touch and investment foresight. He was appointed to head the company in 2001, during the 9/11 terrorist attack. At a time when global investment appetite was extremely low, especially in the United States, he actually overhauled K1 Ventures’ investments to focus in the United States market. Some of the notable major investments included Helm, McMoran Exploration, Knowledge Universe Holdings …

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Choosing the best mortgage loan

The soaring SIBOR rates have created much havoc for many home owners as banks started to adjust upward their mortgage interest rates. I am one of those affected as my bank increased the interest by $200 per annual. More carnage is expected for the market as the Federal Reserve is expected to hike interest rates in a couple of weeks. Thankfully, my loan amount is not too big, so the impact of the upcoming Federal Reserve interest rate hike will be minimal. For many home owners, it is prudent to choose the best mortgage loan.

Incidentally, the lock-in period for my mortgage loan will end next month, so I am looking at refinancing or repricing my outstanding mortgage loan. Lets take a look at the important factors when choosing the best mortgage loan packages in the market. You won’t want to get ripped off by the banks.

My first consideration for a mortgage loan is actually the lock-in period. I am looking at 2-3 years of lock-in period because I aim to pay off my housing debt by then using my CPF savings. For the uninitiated, the term “lock-in” is a clause which restricts you from switching to another loan package.

So wealth builders should ask themselves how long they want to be restricted by the bank. Typical lock-in period can be 1 year to as long as 5 years. So make sure you don’t sell off your property within this lock-in period. Otherwise you would incur penalty fees from the bank.

Of course, one cannot ignore the all important interest rate when it comes to selecting the most competitive home loan package. Nowadays, things can be quite complicated as banks become innovative and peg the loan packages not just to the SIBOR rates. Recently both OCBC and DBS have …

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Rising US Dollar and Its Impact on Gold

Gold is often denominated and traded in US dollars, so a weak dollar will cause gold to be less expensive to buy. In addition, when US dollars devalue, investors will seek an alternative safe haven, such as gold, to store value. Loosely speaking, gold’s value is often correlated to the strength of the dollar. However, with the introduction of quantitative easing by the US government since 2008, I have always been puzzled that global inflation has not shot through the roof and purchasing power of the US dollar has not been diminished a single bit. In BullionStar’s website, I found my answer.

BullionStar explained that 80% of the global trade is still conducted in US dollars as businessmen still trust the stability of US government. In my opinion, a lot of credit must go to President Obama, who took over from his predecessor, George Bush, during the Great Financial Recession in 2009. Under Obama’s leadership, he helped to steer United States out of economic recession and in 2015, his hard work finally paid off. United States’ economy is finally showing sign of recovery and unemployment rate decreases substantially since last year. As a result. the value of US dollar rise for the past few months.

Bullionstar also pointed out that most commodities, such as oil and gold, are priced in US dollars. Thus, the recent drop in oil prices helped to boost US dollar value because of the increased purchasing power of dollar to buy oil. Inadvertently, because of the strengthening of the dollar, gold price is forced to retreat.

Gold and Silver

The last important point raised by BullionStar is that the US dollar has been long regarded as the world defacto reserve currency and many central banks hold US dollar as their foreign reserve holdings. US dollar’s supremacy has been challenged …

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What does being an accredited investor mean in Singapore

In the course of my blog adventure, I am privileged to meet people who shared with me their financial insights unselfishly. From them, I gleaned some knowledge on Singapore’s finance sector from the perspective of a retail investor. One of the important lessons I learned is what does being an accredited investor really means in Singapore.

Before you skip this article, take note that being an accredited investor is NOT about taking financial courses to qualify for investing in risky products. It’s about how much money you have in your bank and your earning income bracket. 

Singapore economy

Under Securities and Futures Act Paragraph 4A, an accredited investor means[This is a premium article. The rest of the content is blocked and can be accessible by SG Wealth Builder Members only. To read the full content, please sign up as member.]

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Stock Investing: Is Tat Hong a fallen angel?

It has been sometimes since I reviewed the performance of Tat Hong and I was shocked to find out that the stock had plummeted to almost a five year low. The stock is currently trading at $0.52, barely above the $0.49 recorded in September 2015.

For a company that prides itself as the largest crane company in Asia Pacific and seventh worldwide, its recent stock price indicates that all is not well for Tat Hong.

In the 2015 annual report, the revenue declined 11%  to S$608.6 million whilst operating profit (excluding impairment charges) remained flat at S$35.7 million comparable to the net profit achieved in FY2014. Profit after tax and minority interests (PATMI) dipped 85% to S$4.9 million due to non-cash goodwill and asset impairment charges of S$30.8 million taken by the Group’s Australian subsidiaries. One reason for Tat Hong’s terrible performance could be that its business is too concentrated in Australia and Singapore markets, which together accounted for 60% of the Group’s business. Thus, any headwind in these markets can spell big trouble for the company.

Stock Market
SG Wealth Builder

Perhaps another tell-tale signs that a company is not doing well is that it is selling its assets. In 2015, Tat Hong disposed its properties in Australia, equipment as well as selling off several “non-core subsidiaries”, Hup Hin Transport and Tat Hong Flo-Line, and an associate, Kian Ho Bearings. In total, the Group realised proceeds of S$89.1 million from its divestment programme. Whilst this streamlining initiative can help to unlock value for Tat Hong, it also underlies the notion that the company is downsizing its moat. After all, these assets were acquired in the good old days when Tat Hong was growing. Now that the company is experiencing rough patch, it would seem strange that these acquisitions became …

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The mystery of life

It’s that time of the year for self reflections again. Since 2013, year end reflections took on a whole new dimension for me with the passing on of Dad. It is strange that when he was alive, I never realized my love for him and that he was so important to me.

Dad had been an influential figure in my life and his abrupt death in early 2013 had a profound impact on me. Perhaps the mystery of life is that you would only cherish something after you lost it. Human beings tend to take things for granted, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

On looking back, one of Dad’s important words of advice to me was to manage and improve my temper. When I was young, I didn’t enjoy a good relationship with my mother and often argued with her over trivial matters. Because of this, Dad always chastened me over my foul temper. Indeed, since young, emotion management had always been a challenge for me. Sometimes when I see red, I would lose my head, much to my regrets later. Apparently, this Achilles Heel has spilled over to my job and thus affected my progression.

photo (12)

This year, I achieved quite a lot in my job and had collected a few awards along the way. But I felt that all the good works would go down the drain and nullified by my head-on clashes with several colleagues from other departments. I was involved in several unpleasant arguments due to pressing deadlines and these incidents caught the attention of my big bosses. On several times, my big boss had to do damage control for me and behind closed door, he expressed concern on my emotion management. He urged me to improve my emotions before it spirals out of control. …

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BullionStar: Improvements to the Vault Grams® Program

Below is an announcement from BullionStar concerning its Vault Grams ® Program. Over the years, BullionStar has introduced a slew of innovative products. The re-branding of Vault Grams ® Program to Bullion Savings Program (BSP) will offer wealth builders the flexibility to convert BSP Grams to physical bullion bars. The introduction of the 2-factor authentication will also help to strengthen the security of BullionStar customer’s online account.

Effective 1 December 2015, we will be making several improvements to the Vault Grams® Program which will be re-branded to the “Bullion Savings Program (BSP)” to better capture its new characteristics. Buying and selling BSP Grams will work in the same way as for Vault Grams.

With the Bullion Savings Program, BullionStar will introduce the possibility to convert/withdraw BSP Grams (formerly Vault Grams) to physical bullion bars. You will be able to convert BSP Grams in Gold in increments of 100 gram to 100 gram PAMP Cast Gold Bars. BSP Grams in Silver will be convertible in increments of 15,000 gram to 15 kg Heraeus Silver Bars. BSP Grams in Platinum will be convertible in increments of 1,000 gram to 1 kg Heraeus Platinum Bars.

With the conversion/withdrawal possibility, it will thus be possible to use the Bullion Savings Program, not only for trading purposes, but also for saving towards physical bullion bars.

BullionStar holds and will continue to hold more than enough physical precious metals in stock to ensure that all BSP Grams are fully allocated at all times. Starting 1 December, we will also publish a daily report on the amount of stock inventory we hold to back the Bullion Savings Program. The report will be published under My Vault Storage on BullionStar’s website.

Customer holdings of Vault Grams will automatically be transferred to

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Shortchanging your health insurance may cost your life in Singapore

Two weeks ago, I upgraded my whole family’s health insurances to Integrated Shield Plan (Private Hospital)  to provide maximum coverage for medical expenses. As I also opted for the rider to cover the deductible and co-insurance portions, the amount of cash forked out was about $1,100 per annum after Medisave deduction.

The decision to upgrade our health insurances came about after a health scare that occurred to my colleague and my brother’s daughter who suffered a broken leg a couple of months ago. These incidents certainly really drove home the importance of buying health insurances when in the pink of health. With the kick-in of Medishield Life with effect 1 November 2015, you are still eligible for Medishield Life even if you have pre-existing illnesses or health problems at the point of applying for Medishield Life. However, do note that if your pre-existing conditions are very serious, you may need to pay additional premiums.

Personally, I am glad that the government has finally decided to provide coverage to Singaporeans born with pre-existing illnesses. This is the right thing to do, especially for new-born babies born with defects or chronic health problems. The Medishield Life will also offer protection for life to Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, so we need not worry about not having medical expenses coverage when we are old. The only shortcoming of this policy is that it also extends coverage to those who previously refused to join the Medishield scheme and then suffer from serious illnesses. The rest of Singaporeans have to pay higher premiums because of this group of “Medishield defaulters”.

SG Wealth Builder

When we are young and healthy, we tend to take things for granted and assume that we would live forever. But do you know that Singapore hospitals have been facing severe bed crunch for a …

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The strong demand for gold

As the year end festive season approaches, gold demand from China and India consumers pick up as expected. This is because the Chinese and Indian consumers are traditionally known to buying gold jewelleries and bullion during festive seasons. In the latest report from World Gold  Council, the Indian demand was up by 15% to 211 tonnes, while China’s demand increased by 4% to 188 tonnes in Q3 2015. The bullish outlook for gold underlies the strength of the demand of gold bars and coins.

To be a successful wealth builder, one must always adopt a contrarian approach and buy on price dips. This is applicable regardless of any form of financial instruments. For gold and silver bullion, this is no different. In Q3 2015, the outflow of ETF led to a price dip for gold, thus resulting in increased consumer demand. This is because global investors saw the gap and capitalized on buying opportunity. The investment demand saw a spike in this quarter, up 27% to 230 tonnes. In particular, the Western market saw a surge of estimated 33%. The increased in demand was probably triggered by the Greek debt crisis and uncertainties in Europe arising from the standoff between Ukraine and Russia.

Another interesting trend of bullion is that central banks are a major source of demand. They were net buyers for 19th consecutive quarter and institutional buying reached record levels in Q3 2015. This is because the world has recognized the need to diversify national reserves and gold is always seen as the best asset to hold. According to data from World Gold Council, demand from central banks surged from 79 tonnes in 2010 to 590 tonnes in 2015, underpinning the huge demand support for gold.

For the man in the street, it is better to buy physical …

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During my recent business trip in Japan, my colleague and I visited a district in central Japan called Akihabara, which is famous for its wide variety of electronic shops. However, what got me so intrigued was that there is a complex called Mandarake that sells anime and manga collectibles. And lo behold, one of the store at level 7 sells retro card games like Dragon Ball prism cards!

I have been a collector of Dragon Ball prism cards for more than 20 years and I could not believe that I could get my hand on the prism shining cards again. There used to be a Dragon Ball craze back in the eighties and nineties when the comic series were launched. In Singapore, those in the 30s may remember that dragonball cards used to be sold in packets and those “rare” cards are those shining cards. Later on, the cards were sold in vending machine that require you to put on 20cents and turn a knob to displace out a card. The cards were sold by Japanese Bandai for only a short while and now there is no more vendor selling the old series of dragonball cards.

photo (11)

As you can see from the picture, the cards are pretty expensive in Japan. I only bought three cards and they costed me S$75! However, the conditions of the cards are extremely good, so I feel that they are worth the money. I intend to buy more when I visit Japan for business purposes again next month.

For me, collecting Dragon Ball prism cards is not merely just a form of personal hobby, it is also about revisiting my childhood memories. Dragon Ball has been part of my formative childhood and the story and character had inspired me to persevere in the face of …

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Japan business trip

I just came back from a Japan business trip and thought that it is timely to blog down some of my thoughts arising from the experience. This is the 6th time that I visited Japan and previously they were all business trips that lasted only a week. What made this trip quite memorable was that I had the chance to visit several interesting places at Tokyo with my colleague.

The first place that we visited in Japan was Daibai to see the giant Gundam robot at Gundam Front Tokyo. I am not a big fan of Gundam but nevertheless was infected by my colleague’s enthusiasm. The place is really unique as there is a Gundam museum with hundreds of Gundam robot figurines and a movie theatre playing Gundam shows.


Beyond the fanfare of Japanese anime and manga culture, I think it is important to recognize the Japanese’s culture of innovation. After all, the Japanese have created so many timeless icons such as Godzilla, Doraemon, Gundam and Dragonball. To develop such a culture is not easy and requires a nation to constantly dream big and think out of the box. In this respect, Japan is way ahead of Singapore.

Just think about it, what icons have Singapore generated over the decades that managed to capture the imagination of the world? None I would say.

We often pride ourselves as being an efficient society but actually that is a nice way of saying that we are merely good at conforming to an established system. Most Singaporeans, including me, are unable to innovate new ideas and come out with creative products because most of us are brought up in a rigid ranking education system whereby creative alternative solutions are not accepted.

I still remember that I have to memorize Chinese stories and history …

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Sleep-walking to investment losses

Recently, one of my friends had a massive paper loss made on one of the local stocks. Apparently, the stock had risen substantially within the past one year but he got greedy and decided to hold on to it. Eventually, the stock had its run and plummeted to a new low. Unable to cash out, my friend has become a “long term investor”. I have seen far too many investors making the classic mistake of not setting a stop-loss or gain level. As a result, they always sell off a winning stock too early or hold on to a losing stock for far too long. To mitigate this, investors should always monitor their stock investment. Below is a press-release from Call Levels, a free alert system meant for financial tracking.

Call Levels, a real-time financial monitoring and alert service designed to help traders monitor financial assets price movements easily on mobile, today announced that it has closed its pre-series A led by 500 Startups. The fintech startup also raised capital from a consortium of angel investors who are veterans in financial markets and tech industry, such as Timothy Teo (ex-GIC and JP Morgan), Gracelyn Ho (ex-Morgan Stanley) and Koh Boon Hwee. The combined investment from all the investors amount is about USD500K.

Call Levels recorded strong traction and usage especially in light of current volatile markets. Almost 10,000 Call Levels were created over the past 30 days with day-on-day growth of 21% and week-on-week growth of 35%. By focusing on its core feature – reliable, real-time price alerts, Call Levels have garnered the support of professional traders, as they rely on the app to constantly monitor the prices and gain an edge in the financial markets.

“I tested Call Levels against my Bloomberg Professional and found that it was much …

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Stock Investing: Ascott REIT’s 3Q 2015 Report

Below is a press release from The Ascott Limited, a wholly owned serviced residence unit of CapitaLand, one of the companies which I deeply admire. Ascott has been expanding aggressively lately in the South-east Asia region on the back of the soon-to-be-established ASEAN Economic Community.

Ascott Residence Trust’s (Ascott Reit) revenue for 3Q 2015 rose 21% over 3Q 2014 to reach S$113.2 million. This came on the back of its acquisitions in 2014 and 2015, as well as stronger operating performance from existing properties. Revenue per available unit (RevPAU) for 3Q 2015 grew 10% to S$141 compared to the same period in 2014. Gross profit increased 13% to S$55.2 million.

Ascott Reit’s 3Q 2015 Unitholders’ distribution of S$32.0 million included a one-off item of approximately S$1.2 million relating to the interest cost incurred on the S$250 million perpetual securities issued in June 2015 for the period prior to utilisation of the proceeds in 3Q 2015 to partially fund Ascott Reit’s acquisitions in Australia and the United States of America. Distribution per unit (DPU) for 3Q 2015 is 2.07 cents. Excluding the one-off item, the adjusted DPU would be 2.15 cents, which is 2% higher than 3Q 2014 DPU of 2.11 cents.

Mr Lim Jit Poh, Ascott Residence Trust Management Limited’s (ARTML) Chairman, said: “We continue to enhance Ascott Reit’s portfolio and optimise Unitholders’ returns through accretive acquisitions as well as active asset and capital management. In 3Q 2015, we completed half a billion dollars worth of acquisitions. We acquired six properties in Australia, Japan and the United States of America, and the remaining stakes in two properties in Japan. With Ascott Reit’s entry into the United States of America, we are seeing maiden contribution from our property in Times Square of New York in this quarter. Recently, we also divested …

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Monetary Authority of Singapore finally regulates gold buy-back schemes

In perhaps one of the most overdue regulatory safeguards for Singapore investors, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) finally announced that precious metal buy-back arrangements will be regulated either as debentures or investment funds, depending on their features. This announcement was made after its consultation paper published on 21 July 2014.

This move to regulate the precious buy-back schemes is a result of the spate of gold ponzi schemes offered by Genneva Gold, The Gold Guarantee and Suisse International in Singapore. Seduced by the so called guaranteed payouts of 20% or incredibly high buy-back prices, many unwitting investors were sold on these gold buy-back schemes. Many of these victims didn’t realize that they were actually walking into traps devised by cheats.

In the aftermath, many victims sought to enlist the help of the authorities to claim back their investments but were shocked to find out that these financial instruments were not regulated at all. There were even reports that some victims sank more than hundred of thousands of dollars of their hard-earned savings into these gold-back schemes. Some even pooled money with their families to join these schemes.

The reason why many Singapore investors were conned was because many of them were attracted to buying gold when it reached its peak during the period 2010 to 2011. Many of them don’t realize the counter-part risk involved and the actual dynamics of the paper gold market.

In future, MAS will regulate this type of non-conventional investment products, and the regulators states that “such arrangements are equivalent to collateralised borrowing and will be regulated as debentures under the Securities and Futures Act (“SFA”). The scope will be limited to arrangements involving gold, silver and platinum, as these are widely regarded as financial assets and are commonly used as collateral for such arrangements”.

To …

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Lack of monetary wealth led to Kovan double murders?

The recent high-profile trial of former police officer over the Kovan double murders has shaken Singapore. To many, it is unbelievable that such violent murder case could have taken place in a city known for being one of the safest places on earth. Even more shocking is that the accused is a former police officer. I believe that this should be the first case of police officer being accused of murder in Singapore history and it really makes a huge dent in the public confidence of our law enforcers.

As the trial is still on going, I will reserve my judgement on the accused and assume that he is innocent. However, the matter of fact is that the accused had financial difficulties and was facing bankruptcy at the time of the murders. Apparently, he raked up bad debts after his divorce in 2005 and was unable to pay his car and mortgage loans. He also did not declare to his superior that he was financially embarrassed, thus he was taken off front-line duties as an internal investigation was launched against him.

Driven to desperation, the accused then devised a plan to steal from the victim, who had made a police report a few months ago over a theft from his safe deposit box. At this point, I like to highlight to readers the ugly truth of money. Money itself is not evil, rather it is the lack of money that creates trouble for the society. In this case, the lack of monetary wealth has eroded the high moral standing of a former police officer, who was forced to lower his moral standards and committed crimes (theft) after being driven to a corner. Again, I am not implying that the accused murdered the victim and his son. However, it is a …

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Stock Investing: Ascott Strengthens Its Investment Moat

Below is a press release from The Ascott Limited, a wholly owned serviced residence unit of CapitaLand, one of the companies which I deeply admire. Ascott has been expanding aggressively lately in the South-east Asia region on the back of the soon-to-be-established ASEAN Economic Community.

CapitaLand’s wholly owned serviced residence business unit, The Ascott Limited (Ascott), has extended its global footprint to the fast-developing market of Cambodia by securing a contract to manage its first serviced residence in the country. Somerset Norodom will open in Cambodia’s capital and economic hub of Phnom Penh in 2018. The property will add another 105 apartment units to Ascott’s Southeast Asian portfolio, bringing its total in the region to over 13,000 units in 74 properties across nine countries. The expansion comes hot on the heels of the company securing five properties in Cebu, the Philippines and Pattaya, Thailand early this month.

Mr Lee Chee Koon, Ascott’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are bullish about the growth potential of the Southeast Asian markets. The establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in a few months’ time bodes well for Ascott, as it will further boost the competitiveness and connectivity of the region, and increase business activities and foreign direct investments in the markets. With our entry into Cambodia, Ascott is now present across nine out of 10 countries in ASEAN, giving us a strong foothold in the region.”

Somerset Norodom Phnom Penh_Facade

“Cambodia has achieved sustained economic growth amid greater political stability. We expect demand for serviced residences to grow given its economic progress and the absence of international-standard serviced residence in the country. As the first international serviced residence operator in Cambodia, Ascott will gain first-mover advantage to capture the underserved accommodation segment.”

Mr Lee added: “Ascott has been expanding aggressively in cities where we have presence while foraying …

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BullionStar explains the difference between ETF Gold and physical Gold

Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) is a form of passive fund comprising of a basket of securities listed and traded on the stock exchange. To put it simply, ETF combines the best of shares and unit trust, thereby enabling investors to achieve diversification in single transaction with minimum investment. However, ETF Gold is a little bit different and requires a different approach as compared to owning physical gold and silver.

Below is an article from BullionStar, a bullion dealer based in Singapore which exempted investment grade precious metals from the goods and services tax (GST). Just like BullionStar, one of the the goals of SG Wealth Builder is to educate Singaporeans on the merits of owning gold and silver bullion as a means of wealth preservation. 

A Gold Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) attempts to track and ‘mirror’ the price performance of gold bullion by holding gold bars or derivatives and issuing shares backed by their holdings of physical metal or derivatives.  A Gold ETF, like GLD, has their shares sold in baskets of 100,000 and is marketed by State Street.  As compared to physical Gold, a key difference is in ownership and redemption.

Ownership and Redemption

Even though an ETF like GLD might be “physically backed,” ordinary investors cannot simply go to the ETF marketer or the vaults in which the bullion is claimed to be stored at and redeem their bullion.  Only “authorized participants” are allowed to deposit or withdraw gold and create or redeem shares.  Authorized participants are registered broker-dealers or other securities market participants which have entered into agreements with the trustee and sponsor (think Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Citigroup, etc.), allowing them to deposit either gold or shares in exchange for the other through unallocated accounts until the operation is completed. Ordinary investors can only buy …

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Will you still love me tomorrow?

Lately, a few finance bloggers wrote about the cost of raising up a child in Singapore. Some estimated that the cost might be up to $1 million while there were some who felt that $200,000 to $300,000 should be a comfortable range. Whenever I come across such articles, I always have mixed feelings. Whilst it is important to be pragmatic in a high cost society like Singapore, I don’t like this money culture whereby we view things in monetary terms and measure relationships in dollars and cents.

As a father of two kids, I always tell myself that my love for them must be unconditional and I would not expect anything in return from them when I grow old. By the same measure, my wife and I do not see the point of calculating the cost of raising our children. This is because we do not want our children to grow up wondering how much it would cost to support us when we are old and jobless. We feel that it is our mission to take care of ourselves and be financially independent when old.

My girl and boy are our greatest gifts and we would not trade anything in the world in exchange for them. Because of the little ones, my wife and I have also sacrificed a lot of personal times as our parents are unable to take care of them. My wife has to give up her banking career and became a full-time stay-at-home-mom. On a daily basis, after work, I would rush home to help out with the household chores and spend time with my children. Sometimes, we felt really drained out and wished that there was someone to help us out.

Nevertheless, our children have brought us so much joy, fun and laughter. Of course, …

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Haw Par stock analysis

On 11 August 2015, Haw Par delivered a good set of 2Q 2015 performance. Profits for the period was $115.877 million and the 6 month period was S$129.33 million, representing an increase of 88% and 75% increase compared to 2014 results. On the surface, this might seem like an impressive showing by Haw Par. However, upon closer scrutiny, the profits was actually bolstered by the S$55.8 million gain arising from the partial disposal and reclassification of one of its assets, Hua Han.

In terms of operating cash flow, the 2nd quarter saw a healthy cash flow of $48.3 million due to the investment income of $38.6 million. As I have touched in my previous article on Haw Par, the company has substantial investments, consisting mainly of strategic holdings in United Overseas Bank Limited, UOL Group Limited and United Industrial Corporation Limited. This investment portfolio provides a stable source of funding – through recurring dividend income – and financial strength – at marked-to-market valuations – over the years.

SGX stocks

Is Haw Par an undervalued stock and thus merits investment from wealth builders? After all, it is currently trading at $8.240, well below its Net Asset Value of $12.93. However, it should be noted that the company currently holds about S$2 billion worth of shares in UOB, UOL and UIC. So what this means is that any major stock market correction will see the company’s value been affected correspondingly. On the other hand, a bullish stock market will push the value of Haw Par due to the increased value of its stock assets. This explained why Haw Par has rocketed 100% since 2011 to reach a peak of $9.240 in June this year.

What I like about Haw Par is its [This is a premium article. The rest of the content is blocked

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Financial time bomb in Singapore households

Almost three-quarters of households in Singapore could face financial disaster in the future due to worrying levels of inertia around wills and life protection, a new survey by online matching service has revealed.

• 71% of affluent women in Singapore admit that they/their partner do not have an up-to-date will in place that reflects their current wishes
• Almost a further tenth simply do not know if this vital document has been kept up to date – this despite the fact that 38% of women say they take sole responsibility for financial decisions in their household
• Life insurance and income protection levels are also worryingly low, with just 60% of wealthy women confident that they/their partner have adequate provision in place
Almost three-quarters of households could face financial disaster in the future due to worrying levels of inertia around wills and life protection, a new survey by online matching service has revealed.

Currently, 71% affluent women in Singapore admit that they/their partner do not have an up-to-date will in place that reflects their present wishes, while a further 9% do not know if this vital document has been kept current.

Just as worryingly, almost a quarter (23%) of respondents report that they do not have adequate life and income protection insurance in place, with a further 17% not knowing if they have taken sufficient measures to ensure their family’s security.

These figures should not imply any lack of engagement in financial matters among affluent females, however. Today, 38% of affluent women in Singapore say they take sole responsibility for financial decisions in their household, while a further 47% making decisions jointly with their partner.

Just 16% of females cede decision-making on investment management and financial planning matters to their partner. The survey results seem rather to be …

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Where to store your wealth in Singapore

Many critics of gold and silver like to point out that investment guru, Warren Buffett disdained gold for its lack of utility as a form of investment. In my opinion, I find it strange that many people tend to follow what he preached or wrote. Firstly you need to understand that Warren Buffett is one of the richest men on earth and he is definitely not obliged to reveal the details of his wealth to the rest of the world. Nobody can accurately pin down his amount of assets and the various forms of investments he held.

No, I am not saying that Warren Buffett is hiding any things from the public but the matter of fact is that wealth is a personal thing and you don’t reveal something so personal to the public.

One of the greatest fears of the rich is losing their wealth. This is understandable as very few people can take the blow of losing their hard-earned wealth accumulated over years of hard work. It is this fear that drive the rich to seek safe haven to protect their wealth from the risks in the financial system and store their wealth in precious metals. In fact, gold was reincorporated into the financial system only recently by institutional investors in the western world. Henceforth, for many investors, the understanding of gold and silver ownership as a form of wealth preservation is still at infancy stage.

If you are buying physical gold and silver, always make it a point to look for the largest and the more reputable dealers. For international and domestic investors seeking a safe haven for their precious metals, BullionStar’s “My Vault Storage” offers a convenient, end-to-end solution for the purchase, sale, storage, and delivery of an assortment of bullion products.

Bullion investors assume a …

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HDB: The thin fine line between “Joint Tenancy” and “Tenancy-in-Common”

In Singapore, more than 80% of the residents live in HDB flats. Yet how many are aware of the various HDB regulations and its implications to themselves and their loved ones? Not knowing the rules can potentially land you in financial troubles, but may also cause family disharmony and destroy relationships. One of the most overlooked clause is the Manner of Holding, specifically, “Joint Tenancy” and “Tenancy-in-Common”. Read on if you are a joint owner of a HDB flat and is curious to find out how it can impact you.

When you are buying a HDB flat with your spouse or other family members, you would need to decide on the manner of holding the flat upon the transfer of flat ownership, either through joint tenancy or tenancy-in-common.

Technically, under joint tenancy, all the flat owners have an equal share in the flat. However, in the event of a demise of any joint owner, the right of survivorship applies and his interest in the flat would automatically be passed on to the remaining co-owners. This is regardless of whether the deceased joint owner has left behind a Will.

According to an example quoted from HDB’s website “Mr A, Mrs A (wife) and Mr C (son) own an HDB flat under joint tenancy. In the event of Mr A’s demise, the ownership of the flat will automatically be passed to Mrs A and Mr C.”

On the other hand, under tenancy-in-common, each co-owner holds [This is a premium article. The rest of the content is blocked and can be accessible by SG Wealth Builder Members only. To read the full content, please sign up as member.]

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