Friday, 14 April 2017

The Seller Internship

I bought a sold- out event ticket at double its retail price on Carousell, and was trying (hard) to sell it at what I buy at. It was tough. It's still on sale.

After being a corporate warrior for nine years, there is a skill that is totally lacking in me --- selling. You see, my corporate job mainly requires me to share technical know-how. My selling point is my technical know- how, which my clients have already purchased from my company. I do not sell anything that requires people to fork out their money. My company has a marketing and business development group to oversee this. Direct selling is definitely not what I get to do at work. In my life, there are occasions where I need to be involved in these, but the chances are rare. I spend most of my time as a consumer. 

When I try to sell some items, I realize that I tend to be on the receiving end. On reflection, there are a number of skills that I lack, and these are ones I identify:

1. Be street smart
I tend to be very honest and frank. While I strongly believe in being honest, being frank is not required. For instance, if I am selling a house, my thoughts are one should tell the owner there are some defects here, it's facing the west sun, but need not tell them that I am selling it urgently because of xyz reasons. The latter is frank and the former is honesty.

Selling also makes you learn to protect yourself, and see problematic people (buyers). You tend to see the most nasty sight of people when they need to part with their money or has something to do with money. You learn to write contracts/ agreements, word your words, look for help in such a way that it will protect your own rights.

2. Persuasive
Being street smart protects you, but being persuasive will teach people to be convinced of your point of view .With that, you need to know the selling point of what your product/ services and convince your buyer that these selling points exactly meet their needs.

3. Know the market
To get a good price, knowing how the market works, what sells, and how much they should be sold for would be important. An example for me was not knowing the market, and as such I bought an event ticket at twice its original price (without bargaining). And when I try to sell at this price, it's tough.

4. Cater to the buyer
Sing the song of the potential buyer. Only when you can sing the song of the buyer (resonate with the buyer) then will they stop to see what you offer.

Identifying these skills is useless unless I am going to act on them. Well, the most common thing that most will advice is to sign up for courses to learn the skills. But having utilized fully my skillsfuture fund, I am not going to pay a teaching organization to learn how to sell. That will bring me back to the consumer front. Going for lessons to learn how to sell is not going to make you be a good seller without practice.

I'm so fortunate to be living in the internet age, and am able to practice how to sell without digging deep into my pocket to open a physical store.

The potential buyers shall be my teacher. Let the internship begins!


Saturday, 25 March 2017

Nine years as a corporate warrior

I have been a corporate warrior for nine years, and in these nine years, I have worked for three different companies, in three very different roles. These nine years also shaped what I want from a job.

look intensely at laptop

Just recently, I received my five year award from my current company. This is my first long service award. 

Just after graduation, I started my first job. Back then, my aim was to earn as much as possible. Thus, I took the job that offer the largest pay package. My first job was a great company, but the role I was in did not suit me at all then. The first job requires that I interact with a huge number of people -- from management for approval of project and budget, to different department engineers for coordination of jobs, to contractors and technicians to request them to do a job and how to do them, and so on and so forth. When I just graduated, I was shy. Talking to so many people was a pain to me. I didn't last long in that job, and changed to another one within a year.

My second job was great, at the start. What I needed to do was within my means. I got along well with the people in the company. There, I gained the confidence to interact with the different people in the corporate hierarchy and external /internal stakeholders. But I left after three years. In fact, at the end of two years, I was actively on a job hunt, as I know there is not much future staying there. My pay has also stagnated, there isn't going to be much upward movement for me in this job. You see, I'm in a supporting role in this company, rather than being part of the company core. This made me realize that when you are in a supporting role, the amount the company is willing to spend on your development and willing to pay you is limited. Also, the company I was in was small. While a small company has its advantages, there is limits on how far you can go in the corporate hierarchy. Being enlightened by these, I set my criteria in finding my next career. With a lot more requirements this time round, finding a suitable job took time, and I took about a year, and after many many many interviews that I landed my current job.

My third job met my criteria of focusing on the core of the company. I'm a consultant, and providing engineering services to the clients is the core (albeit there are other core as well). The company is one of the Fortune 500 companies, with a good balance sheet (this is important as it means they can pay my salary and lower chance, though not no change, of retrenchment). There are many department o move to apart from the consulting role, and consulting is not the only core of the company. This company is a truly global company, as can be seen from the many colleagues I have. My manager, admin assistant and so on are in a different country. Although this may mean that for urgent matters, it may seem more troublesome, but honestly, with today's communication technology e.g. phone, messenger, skype, etc., this obstacle is easily overcome. With a global company, also means travelling. In just five years, I got to travel around Asia, Europe and USA for work and to work with people from different cultures. It was great.

But being in the same role for five years, doing similar stuff, makes me worried. What additional skills am I gaining? And with newcomers coming in, doing almost similar stuff, what makes me more desirable than them considering that I'm most likely paid more than them?

Being a corporate warriors is challenging. In good times, you can enjoy being comfortable. But when things are not going well...

Just like companies have to constantly grow to stay in the market, employees have to constantly improve to stay in the market. Once you stop growing, you start withering.


Friday, 17 March 2017

Trading Experience

I spent the past few months doing stock trading. 

To be exact from November till today, I have only done 3 trades.

The trading technique I used is actually no technique honestly. I totally ignored the typical technical indicators such as moving average convergence divergence (MACD), relative strength index (RSI) or stochastic oscillator which you would see in any technical analysis guidebook.

The trading technique I used was instead simply observation within my knowledge limited scope of course. Nonetheless, before I apply this technique, I did a general check on the balance sheet of the stock. This counter has more cash than total liabilities. However, its profit margin is low, and it's profits are definitely not as high as many others in the same industry as it is. To me, this company is like a mom- and- pop store that earns enough to feed everyone, while making sure they don't go bust. So if my trading hypothesis is wrong, very likely the amount I will lose is not going to be too huge. But, I am not optimistic of its growth in the near future, and so the profit margin I expect from this trades is likely to be low. 

The stock price of this counter has been oscillating over a certain range for months. The spread between the ask and bid price is also significant enough to earn some profits (after commissions). I simply queue to enter the stock at the price close to the lower of the range, and once I bought it, I queue to exit the position at the ask price as long as I will make a profit.  

To be honest, the trading volume of this counter is relatively low, and it took patience to buy it at the price I want, and sell it at a profit. All in all,I have made about slightly more than 10% or about $700 out of a maximum amount invested of $6,600. The profit may not be huge, but well, I treat it as pocket money.

Commissions definitely make a difference when you trade. I used to use Philip Capital, but it has a minimum commission of $25. With $6,600 invested (which is the maximum I am willing to lose), this commission is significant. I switched over to Standard Chartered, and with its minimum commission of $10, I make much more profit, (okay la, at most $30 more).

Most likely, I won't do trading for the long term. This exercise was mainly to test my hypothesis. I'm not sure whether I made profit due to luck or good observation. At the end of the day, the one who benefits most from all these trading is the brokerage company. 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What's your thoughts on this bond's yield?

I used to own 34,000 units of CMA3.8% bonds, until they were redeemed it in January this year. This bond has a coupon of 3.8% for the first 5 years, and 4.5% after that. They have an option to redeem the bonds from Jan 2017 onwards, and they did. It seems reasonable since if they weren't redeemed, the interest to be paid out would be 4.5%, which is not justifiable since they are able to get loans with lower interest rate.

With this redemption, I am looking at other avenues to maintain or even better my interest income.

One of the bond that I was looking at is the retail perpetual bond issued by Genting at a coupon of 5.125% per year. If this bond is not redeemed in 2022 (10 years after being issued), the coupon goes to 6.125%. But there's a catch.

This security may be redeemed in whole on the first call date or any distribution payment date thereafter. The first call date for the retail bond is October 2017.

This is a nice article by fundsupermart on their opinion why they think this perpetual bond will be redeemed by the first call date.

The last done price for this perpetual bond was $1.040 or 4% above par. At this time of writing, there is still 2 more coupons till the first call date. The cheapest brokerage cost is 0.18%. Using simple maths, if the bond is redeemed in October this year, the simple interest received is 5.125 - 4% - 0.18% = 0.945% for holding the bond for 7 months or 1.62% if you annualized it. This of course is if we assume that the bonds were to redeemed at the first call date.

For now, I am going to top up my UOB One account with this extra, and set up 3 GIROs to it.

Disclaimer: I am not a financially savvy person, so what I'm going to write is based on what I deduce from my limited research and reading. This may not be an accurate account of the real scenario, and you are to exercise your own judgement on whether you agree with what I have written. I won't be held liable for any inaccuracies or omissions. In addition, all ideas expressed here should not be thought of as an enticement to buy or sell any products, securities, assets, commodities or whatsoever mentioned. Kindly see my disclaimer at the end of the blog for more detail. 

Friday, 27 January 2017

Busy is Good?

We Asians love to associate your success with work. 

Recently, I met up with my friends to celebrate the Chinese New Year before it starts. Due to the extremely hectic schedule of many of them, we finally managed to squeeze a day out to meet. This makes me feel so lazy, as I seem to be the one who is able to make it most of the time! Many of my friends are so busy that they clocked numerous hours on weekday evenings, and even on weekends for their company. For me, I have been arriving at 9 am and leaving at 6 pm sharp daily. Most of the time, not turning on my office laptop after working hours (unless really required). Sharks, I seem too free, and it seems quite unusual. In fact, from the meeting, I get the feeling from many that busy is good, and the reverse sounds trouble. Being not busy means you are not important to the company. 

busy like a bee

There are generally a number of works that we are busy with. 

Since I am an engineer, let me share with you the type of works we are busy we. 

The first tier busy are those that are administrative jobs such as filling of purchase orders, signing permits, checking drawings, providing information to other departments, collate monthly report data, and so on. These usually require very little brain power, but demand a lot of the time. These type of jobs are company and role specific. Once you change role or company, having these skills are unlikely to be of much use. Also, while these tasks needs to be done, the company can easily outsource it, or look for cheaper labour to replace you in these tasks. Having 10 years experience in these tasks is no different from working a week. A HR personnel recently interviewed a potential candidate. The candidate was previously working in a factory, sewing eyes on dolls. She had 20 years experience in sewing the eyes. The HR personnel went on to ask since she had 20 years of experience in sewing, she must be able to make clothes or sew a doll. The candidate replied that she couldn't, but she is very fast in sewing the eyes. 

The second tier busy are those tasks that are role specific, but not company specific. By this, I mean these jobs that you do will enable you to advance not only in this company but also in other companies. For example, for an engineer this would include understanding the technology they are in,  the limitations, alternative, troubleshooting, knowing the trends of this technology and innovation for these technology. This would include optimization projects, alternative technology studies, implementing new technology and so on. Being engaged (busy) with such tasks will bring an individual far in the role he or she is in.

The third tier busy are those tasks that are neither industry or role specific. These tasks generally involve soft skills such as negotiation, management (e.g. project management), sales talk (it could be internal where you ask management to buy in to you ideas). These tasks will equip you with skills that you can use in any company and any role.

So which tier of busy are you?

Of course, all tasks are important in ensuring the operations of a company, and even the first tier mundane jobs are important. However, if you as you move up the career ladder or if your motive is to ensure that you remain employable, being involve in the second tier and third tier tasks are important, and it's important to strategise such that you move away from  tier one jobs as you work longer in the job.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Richer with Less

I have this hobby of googling random words or names that come to my mind. Sometimes, there's nothing much from the search results. Sometimes, otherwise.

Today, I googled minimialist:

Since the search, I have been reading on this topic for the past few hours.


The main idea revolving around the concept of minimalism, is basically having less possessions so that one can focus on more important things in your life and lead richer lives, or in short less for more.

Joshua Millburn describes it best with this
Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less; rather, we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment. More freedom. Clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.

Look at the photos and simple captions here to have an insight of how ZEN minimalism can be.

It seems that minimalism has become increasingly fashionable, particularly in Japan.

How I will be Applying Minimialism

This concept of de- cluttering to live richer life simply appeals to me. But decluttering doesn't mean you start throwing stuff away now. It could be instead making better use of stuff that you already have at home, and stop buying what is unnecessary. For things that have become useless to you, are there ways to rejuvenate them by finding new uses for them? The first step of having less, could simply to make better use of what you already have by applying the three Rs -- reduce, reuse, recycle.

For me, there's so many consumables at my home, and simply by using them (and not buying anymore), I will be able to declutter.

I love grocery shopping, and my refrigerator, and kitchen cabinets is brimming with food. As such, my first project would be to declutter my kitchen, simply by not buying any food (whether cooked or not) until I eat them up. I'm going to start from today till next Monday as a trial. Let's see how it goes.

Also, I have loads of body foam, moisturizer,  shampoo and other toiletries, courtesy of my hotel stay. To be exact, hundreds of these small bottles of toiletries. You see, I used to travel regularly for work, and at the end of the work trip, my luggage is always brimming, not due to shopping, but because of all the toiletries that I take. However, I also buy toiletries for daily use at home. As such, another way for decluttering for me will be to simply stop buying toiletries and use those!

The above are about having less.

But like what Joshua Millburn says, less is only part of the story. The other part is to have more. One thing for sure, the actions will definitely help me save more. While I love food, not all my feeding sessions are for enjoyment. Most of them are simply for survival. So by simply eating what is available, it saves me time from shopping and my mental power of thinking what to eat. Similarly, since I really don't care about toiletries, and my skin is generally not so sensitive, why should I waste mental power and time on getting them when I have loads of them.

All these energy saved can be applied to other more meaningful areas, like learning a new skill or teaching my kid a new skill.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Why my partner and I manage our finances separately

My partner and I have almost separate finances.

The only item that is many under both our names, is the present home that we are living in. Our mortgage repayment is done 50- 50 and deducted directly from CPF. We have no joint bank accounts (except the one that the bank made us open for the mortgage for cash top- ups, if required. The value in it is $0 for now), no credit cards under both's names, or whatsoever. And we are living very well under such arrangement.

Both of us are working, and are able to support ourselves prior to the marriage. And both of us  intend to continue working after marriage. Hence, why should marriage change how we manage our finances? In addition, we understand and respect one another's differences. As such, the decision for separate finances.

One Ground Rule

We have only one ground rule regarding each others' finances -- Whatever we do, we must spend within our means (no debt, except for housing which we can be in debt for). 

Divide and conquer for shared expenses

My partner and I divide our shared responsibilities, and work on them individually, consulting each other when required. Our thoughts are that it is easier to focus on just a few items, and do them well, than to work together on every single thing.

For shared expenses, such as utility bills, conservancy charges, home broadband, and property tax, etc., we divide such bills among ourselves, such that overall, the total bills each of us pay is roughly the same. So my partner is responsible for utility bills and property tax, while I am in charge of conservancy charges and home broadband. The person who is totally in charge of the bill, is in charge totally on it, from paying its expense, to the choice of vendor, coming up with ways to lower expenses (especially for utilities, and so on).

For our functional home project, each of us is in- charge of (the expenses) of a few rooms. Of course, in this case, there are more discussions since we will both be using same rooms.   

For kids, I am in charge of childcare/ education, while my partner is in charge of everything else (insurance, food, milk powder, etc.).

As for groceries, eating out and so on, we never go dutch for each such trips. It will be a hassle. It's hard to divide and conquer this piece of expenses. Hence, we just take turns to pay, or the one who spends more pays. We never count the number of times or track these, but rather just go by gut feel. That's it.

Apart from that, we pay for our individual shopping, insurances, entertainment, outings with friends and whatever. How much each of us spend, save, and so on, is none of each of other's business, as long as  you don't get the other person into serious financial problems. Our net worth are also not related to one another.

Advantages of having separate finances

While marriage is usually a merger of two people's lives, keeping finances separate has its many advantages.

The couple may have different goals in life. One may want to lead a life like Mr. Money Mustache, while the other aspire to live a life a more luxurious life. One may want to retire as soon as possible, but the other may find working engaging and wants to work as long as he/she can. There is no right and wrong, as long as we live responsibly (i.e. live within ones' means). 

In addition, it is easier to have control of yourself than others. For instance, if you want to increase savings, it is easier to implement it by lowering expenditure and/ or increasing earnings.

I believe in fairness and being responsible for your actions. If both the couple are gainfully employed, why should one person spend another person's hard- earned money? If only one of person is interested in expensive hobbies like golfing or photography, it doesn't make sense for the other to pay for it. If you don't earn a lot, what gives you the right to spend your partner's money to satisfy your desires?

Finances is one of the most frequent source of conflict between couples, and it usually arise due to disagreement with how each manage them. By keeping it separate, and respecting how each of us manage our finances (as long as it is reasonable), it is likely to minimize conflicts.