Saturday, January 30, 2016

Airbnb - My Maiden Experience (Part 1)

In about two weeks' time, I will be on two weeks holiday in Australia and New Zealand. I've been to Australia for a couple of time and accommodation there already taken care of. However, it is my first time to New Zealand and I am happy to share that this will be the first time I will be staying in an Airbnb accommodation there. 

To be upfront, a few years back when I first heard about the Airbnb, I thought it is a great business idea but still very skeptical about the potential security/risk issue when staying in a complete stranger's house. However, after dive into their side further and learnt some of the positive personal experience from some of my friends and colleagues. I decided to try out their service for my New Zealand accommodation. The other reason is of course the hotel rates in New Zealand (Auckland) area is pretty steep (easily $180 to $200 per night, inclusive tax). 

So, here I am sharing my maiden experience in using the Airbnb App to do my booking. I will be sharing my actual staying experience (Part 2) after I come back from my tour.

The Airbnb app is stylish and easy to use. Overall, I have a great experience using the app as well as communicating with the hosts. Following are some pointers for those new users to the service :

1. There are 3 types of Airbnb accommodations : Entire home/apartment ; Private Room or Shared Room. As the name implied, depending on your choice of privacy and make sure you read the offer properly before gotten into a rude shock in needing to share room with strangers. For me, I choose the Entire home/apartment for my NZ trip and I roughly paid $150 per night for the apartment. 

2. Do read the "House Rule" and "Cancellation Rule" in detail as they varied from host to host.There are detailed Dos and Don'ts about the accommodation  

3. There are two additional fees that you need to take into consideration i.e. the Service Fees (by Airbnb) which is non-refundable after your booking and the Cleaning Fees (refundable if the guest did not check-in).

4. Always clarify with the host first if you are in doubt about the accommodation. Airbnb provides a cool and seamless messaging tool (click on the "Contact Host" hyperlink of the listing to open up the messaging editor) for the potential customers to communicate with the host. Do take the advantage of it and make sure you have zero doubt about the place to ensure a higher chance of pleasant experience. So far, I have great experience in chatting with a few hosts. 

Stay tuned for the Part 2 of my Airbnb experience soon. 

Have you tried Airbnb before? What is your experience like?


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Interview With Reynold Wijaya of Funding Societies

Funding Societies
Peer-to-Peer Lending (P2PL) has been creating some buzz among the local retail investors after a series of articles published by our mainstream newspaper, Straits Times (click here and here for the recent 2 articles). In fact, P2PL is nothing new and it has been around for quite awhile overseas.

Personally,  I am happy to see more and more established P2P platforms coming into the scene to provide retail investors like me to diversify our investable fund. Of course, all investments come with its own set of pros and cons as well as the associated risks. So, you are encouraged to do your own due diligent before proceeding with any kind of investments.

Today, I am honored and thrilled to invite Mr Reynold Wijaya, co-founder of one of the leading peer-to-peer lending provider in Singapore, Funding Societies, to be part of my Interview Series.

Without further ado, let's zoom straight into the interview session...   

Q1 : Can you give us a brief introduction about yourself?
A1 : I grew up in a family business and saw it transformed from a SME to a multi-national business. I love Indonesia and have spent most of my life here, except for my Masters (Engineering) at University of Michigan where I graduated with Summa Cum Laude and for my MBA at Harvard Business School where I met my co-founder Kelvin Teo. Kelvin comes from a complementary background of professional services at Accenture, McKinsey and finally KKR Capstone, having advised retail banks and mid-sized enterprises in Southeast Asia. Because of our experiences, we’re passionate about SMEs in Southeast Asia and wish to help them grow through Funding Societies.

Q2 : Understand that you are currently leading a local P2P (Peer-To-Peer) lending platform, can you share more with our readers about this platform and what is your role in this organization?
A2 : Funding Societies is a P2P lending platform for SMEs to get loans to grow, crowdfunded by investors to earn good interest returns. We aspire P2P lending to be a major source of alternative financing for SMEs and alternative investments for individuals, by making it as simple, safe and reliable as possible. While I spend considerable time on operations and business development, my key role is to help each team member perform at his/ her best ability.

Q3 : If my readers are interested to invest in such P2P lending (crowd-funding) platform, what are the areas that they need to look out for?
A3 : As P2P lending is still a young industry in Singapore, I believe readers should focus on platforms that invest on customer education, especially on the principle of diversification and risk-and-reward. I’m also a believer in transparency and professionalism. A platform may not obey the wishes of everyone, as different users have different, sometimes conflicting demands. However, the platform should be open in communicating their rationale, loan statistics and default status. Consider the platform’s reputation, track record and management, all these are good indicators on the strength and values of the platform. 

Q4 : Do you think crowd-funding is suitable for beginner investors? If yes, why is that so? If no, why is that so?
A4 : I’m sorry but to say the cliché “It depends”! Undeniably, each year numerous crowdfunding platforms close down due to various reasons. The key is to pick the right platform and diversify. If one diversifies sufficiently at the right platform, crowd-funding is not only an easy, but also attractive and affordable investment for beginners. At Funding Societies, we’ve taken steps to minimize the barrier to invest, allowing investors to begin with S$ 1,000 and invest as low as S$ 100 per loan (i.e., you can diversify across 10 loans!). We’re also the first to engage a government-registered escrow agency to handle the funds and are proud to be the only platform with 0% default record to-date. Much of the loan analysis is also done for the convenience of the investors. In short, crowd-funding potentially offers good returns with low time and resource commitment, suitable for beginners. 

Q5 : So far, how much fund (ballpark figure) has Funding Societies managed to crowd-fund?
A5 : We’re very grateful to have strong, supportive investor and lender base. Since our launch in June 2015, we’ve crowdfunded ~S$ 3.5M for ~45 SMEs across various industries. 

Q6 : What is the business plan of Funding Societies in the next 1 or 2 years?
A6 : Funding Societies shall become the most trusted P2P lending platform in Singapore. The next 1 or 2 years would be a critical period for the P2P lending industry in Singapore, as regulations and hence industry shake-up are set to happen. We’ve taken proactive steps to prepare for it, so that we could serve the interest of investors, borrowers and the broader society to the best of our ability.

Q7 : Personally, do you invest in equities, REITS, Funds or Bonds etc.? If yes, can share a little bit more about your investment strategy?  
A7 : I invest in many types of investments and can definitely say that diversification is king. Diversify everything. Depending on your risk appetite, allocate some capital for safer investments such as time deposit and bonds; some for more attractive, medium-term investments such as business loans on our own platform Funding Societies (I invest a few thousands in each loan); and finally some for longer-term but potentially more volatile investments such as stocks and even bitcoin as a trial!  

Q8 : If the readers what to get in touch with you and Funding Societies, how to get hold of you? (Sharing of your website/blog/social media profile etc..)
A8 : Thanks for taking an interest in me! They can see my brief profile on our website, Funding Societies and can definitely reach out to me through my LinkedIn.

I believed we all learn something new from this short interview alone.


Monday, January 25, 2016

7 common questions about bankruptcy in Singapore (answered!)

Bankruptcy is a common fear among Singaporeans. With high costs of food, housing, and healthcare, the dreaded “B” word is on many minds. But most of what we imagine are just myths, and hopefully this will put your mind at ease:

1. Will I go bankrupt the moment I cannot repay my loans?

Bankruptcy is a legal status that is granted by the High Court if you owe at least S$10,000. Either the debtor or the creditor may file for bankruptcy. You cannot be declared (or self-declare) bankruptcy for small debts of a few thousand dollars.

Even if you owe S$10,000 or more, you are not always immediately declared a bankrupt. Organisations such as Credit Counselling Singapore can mediate between you and your creditors, to work out a repayment plan without an official declaration of bankruptcy. This is beneficial to both parties, as your creditors will probably get back more of their money this way, and you will avoid bankruptcy status.

2. Does declaring myself bankrupt wipe out my debts?

No, you are still liable to repay the debts. However, the court will assign an official (the Official Assignee, or OA) to oversee your repayments and mediate between you and your creditors.

The goal is to ensure a bankrupt repays as much of the loan as possible without too much deprivation (e.g. the family of the bankrupt will still have necessities like shelter, food, healthcare, and so on, while excess monies go toward debt repayment.)

In some cases, a creditor may write off certain debts during the process of negotiating repayments. However, this varies on a case-by-case basis.

3. Does bankruptcy end after X years?

In Singapore, there is no automatic discharge from bankruptcy. The OA will monitor your efforts at repayments, and if you have met agreed-upon goals (these vary on a case by case basis), the OA will apply for you to be discharged from bankruptcy.

If the OA’s application is accepted, you will be issued an official Letter of Discharge. Bankruptcy ends when you have obtained this letter.

Note that the conditions for discharge may vary significantly between different cases. For example, one bankrupt may have to pay off all his debts, whereas another may only need to pay off 80% of the outstanding debt. The terms vary depending on what the creditors are satisfied with, and on the debtor’s current financial standing (e.g. a bankrupt who happens to have a high paying job is likely to face harder conditions.)

4. Can a bankrupt ever get a loan?

Bankruptcy appears on the credit report issued by the Credit Bureau of Singapore (CBS), and a bankrupt has no credit grade (they have an ungraded rating of “Hx”). 

Most banks and financial institutions will not take the risk of lending money to a bankrupt. There is nothing in the law to stop them from doing it, but it is improbable that they will take such a risk.

If you are a bankrupt, you do not need to declare it for loan applications of S$500 or less. This means you can sometimes get loans in these small amounts.

If you have been officially discharged for bankruptcy, it will no longer show on your credit report after five years. You can then apply for loans as per normal.

5. Can bankrupts leave the country?

A bankrupt can leave the country with permission from the OA. This makes travel a little more troublesome.

For example, if you are bankrupt you will need to notify the OA two weeks before you travel, and you will have to prepare satisfactory documents. If you are going abroad for work reasons, you will need written evidence from your employer. 

Bankrupts that are considered to be in good standing (prompt repayments, employed, paperwork always filed on time) can usually obtain travel permits of a month or more. Bankrupts that are not in good standing will usually have travel applications denied.

6. How much must I pay every month if I am bankrupt but still employed?

The exact amount will be worked out between you, the OA, and your creditors. The amount will vary based on the size of your pay cheque, whether you have family, whether you have special healthcare needs, etc.

7. Can my creditors seize everything if I declare bankruptcy?

If any of your assets are used as collateral for loans, your creditors can seize and sell those. If the proceeds of the sale exceed the secured debt (e.g. your house sells for much more than the amount you borrowed to buy it), the excess will usually be used to repay any other debts.

Some of your assets cannot be seized. These include:
  • Private property that you hold in trust for someone else (e.g. if you hold a house in trust for your nephew, it will not be seized as a result of your bankruptcy)
  • HDB flats where at least one owner is a Singaporean citizen.
  • Money in your CPF account
  • Some types of life insurance policies (e.g. an endowment policy bought for your children)
  • If you sue someone because they caused you injury, damaged your property, etc. any damages you are awarded still go to you
The best thing to do is to avoid bankruptcy altogether. When you use loans of any sort, make sure they are affordable, and do not have interest rates that could spiral out of control. You can browse loan options with the lowest possible interest on

This article is contributed by Allyson of

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Weekend Sharing - Will The Market Continue To Rebound Next Week?

If you have not already know, there was a slight rebound in the global market yesterday (Friday, 22/01/2016) and following are some of the snapshots :

STI up 1.75% (44.39) to 2,577.09

Down Jones up 1.33% (210.83) to 16,093.51

Crude Oil crossed the $32 support line and closed at $32.19

The question is whether the upward trends will continue next week or the weeks to come? 

Of course, the correct model answer is : No one will know for sure! Having said that, at the back of China's market-stabilising measure of implementing a reserve requirement ratio (RRR) on offshore banks' domestic deposits as of Jan. 25, I think it is quite likely that STI will be in the green zone on Monday (25/01/2016). Note : This personal prediction is just for fun, please do you own due diligent

Whatever the market sentiment is comes next week, it might not be that important to most value investors (traders might be different story), life goes on as short term market volatility is here to stay. Before I part, just like to share my random thought below :

Do you think the STI will be in green zone on next Monday? 


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Promoting your Business with Flyers: The 5 Golden Rules (Guest Post)

flyers marketing
Using flyers to promote your business can be an effective marketing medium. They are small, simple and can cost very little. Furthermore, they can be used to target a huge community quite easily. However, there are five golden rules that need to be remembered in order to maximize flyer effectiveness.

Short is Good

A flyer with as little irrelevant information is ideal. People do not want to read numerous lines of information just to know what your business is about. Always keep it short and simple. Use bold headings, bullet points, increased fonts on certain words, etc.

The simpler your flyer is, the more likely it will be read. All you have to be is clear and concise.

Target those who will Care

You could put up flyers everywhere. You could give them out by the hundreds at random events. However, such measures are a waste. If you sell car parts, target people who modify their cars, have damaged cars, cars that need upgrades, etc. By targeting your niche, you will significantly increase your chances of promoting your business. 

Distribute them where it Counts

If you run a car parts business, don’t distribute your flyers at a dog training school. Distribute your flyers at a race track, in parking lots, near mechanics, etc. By doing so, you will increase the chances of targeting your niche and hence promoting your business.

Include your Links

In this day and age, it is vital to have your own website, blog and social media page(s). Such extensions help improve your business drastically. In this modern era, without any one of the three, your business won’t go far.

If you have such e-links, make sure they are on your flyer. In big bold letters, make sure your website, social media and blog links are included. If a reader doesn’t call you, they will surely visit your website.

Incentive to Call/Visit

One of the greatest marketing techniques applied to flyers is that of incentive. If you give people a reason to call you or visit your site, they will do so. If you give a heavy discount to the first 100 callers, people will call. If you give a promotion code that people can use on your website, they will come.

It does not matter how big your business is or whether it is land-based or online, following the above 5 golden rules will make flyers more effective than you ever thought possible. Used effectively, flyers are a great way for new businesses to get their feet off the ground in a very short amount of time.

Eva has been helping small businesses with promotional activities for the last 3 years through Custom Gear, one of the fastest growing branding companies in Australia.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Suicide Squad's Latest Trailer Is As Exciting As Our STI Index

Suicide Squad Movie Poster
If you have not already know, STI dropped around 3% today (20/01/2016) and there is no sight of recovery anytime soon. It also means that, year-to-date, STI has dropped a whopping  11.4% just within a span of 2-plus-weeks (from 2,889.23 to 2,559.77). It is a nail-biting period for some and opportunity period for the others. Whichever side you are at, it is definitely an "exciting" period. 

Talking about exciting, today, Warner Bros. Pictures has released the latest Suicide Squad trailer, which is equally exciting and badass. This one of its kind superheroes (or should I said supervillains) movie has all the ingredients to be a great blockbuster movie. But you still need to wait for awhile as it will only be released in August 2016. Meanwhile, check out the awesome latest trailer below :

I especially like the last scene of the trailer whereby Harley Quinn (by Margot Robbie) said disdainfully, "We are bad guys, that's what we do!" (I like her matter-of-factly expression!!)

If you replace "bad guys" with "investors", it will read something like this : "We are investors, that's what we do!". So, what would you during this volatile market period? To hold, to sell or to buy?

For me, I am still sleep soundly at night and I will hold on a little bit longer... ;-)


Sunday, January 17, 2016

One Financial Lesson I've Learnt From Motorshow 2016

Motorshow 2016
Yesterday, accompany my friend to the Motorshow 2016, Singapore. As I am not a car-lover (in fact, buying a car has never crossed my mind as I find that driving is a taxing activity, I know many will disagree with me, but that's just me). This also explain why this is my first time going to a car-related exhibitions. 

In fact, I find that Car show is kind of similar to any of the PC/IT show around with the added attraction of attractive car-models (I wonder whether that's the reason why we need to pay for the entrance for the car show and not the PC/IT show, like co-share their pay?). 

In any case, we still stroll around the exhibition hall from one end to the other end. With the help of my car-enthusiast friend, I do learn a little bit more about the models of the cars and their strengths and weaknesses etc.. (by the way, I am talking about the real metal-piece car models and not the pretty/handsome human car models ya!)

From this short outing alone, I've learnt one financial lesson and that is : 
Regardless of how bad (or bear) the financial market is, there are still people looking to buy/invest in new/used cars. Just like in the equity market, regardless of how bad is the sentiment (grizzly bear or koala bear), there ARE still people wanting to buy shares. So, let's keep the spirit up and hang it there!
In anticipation of the potential upcoming bloodshed tomorrow (18/01/2016) morning, my stand is : Whatever goes up will come down and whatever comes down will go up, that's the law of the nature. The only question is when and I am sure no one has the answer now! So, for the time being, let's keep going and keep smiling ;-)


Thursday, January 14, 2016

7 Powerful Financial Principles

Being an avid reader (even though a slow one), visiting bookstores and libraries are my regular pastimes. Two weeks ago, went to the newly refurbished White Sands Mall's library and managed to grab a couple of books. One of them is personal finance related book and I am currently still reading it : Reset Your Barcode - Five Steps To A Financial Reset (by Marvin Reynolds).  

It is a simple book filled with some insightful financial principles and how we can or should work around these principles. Out of the 14 financial principles listed in the book, following are the 7 of them which I thought are very powerful :
1. Wealth Cannot Be Created Or Destroyed, It Already exists! 
2. Giving Generate Wealth. 
3. You Cannot Spend Your Way To Prosperity. 
4. You Cannot Treat All Dollars The Same. 
5. Money Doesn't Change People. It Exposes Their Values. 
6. Money Doesn't Buy Happiness. It Buys Options. 
7. Money Is Subject To The "Law Of Harvest".  
Amidst the current gloomy global market sentiment, I think it is important to revisit some of the principles (law of nature) that we might have conveniently omitted/forgotten. 

Personally, I can relate to all of these principles and need to work harder on item 3 (read : I am not frugal enough ;-)). What about you, which are the principles that you can relate more to?


Who Will Rule? Click To Find Out...

Monday, January 11, 2016

4 Things To Focus On Now, Other Than The Market Turmoil

Are we at the bear market now? Yes! We are (at least that's what the paper said). Besides, the worst might not be here yet ;-)

What are we supposed to do now? Keep calm and keep going (at least that's what I am doing now)!

Amidst the market turmoil (in general), what should we do to divert our attention and pay more focus on other stuffs, other than market sentiment or glued to the stocks/STI charts? 

Here are some of the options that I can think of:

1. Exercise - No more excuses, start the ball rolling by resuming your own exercise regime (whatever it is). Take me for example, I am back to my weekly soccer game exercise and will do more cycling at the park. Just yesterday, I did an impromptu fun-xercise by cycling from East Coast Park to Gardens By The Bay in 25 minutes. It was a fun ride! It was hot and sticky, but fun!  

2. Read - As the Chinese saying goes, 书中自有黃金屋, roughly translated into : you can always find some treasure from a book. Currently, I am reading a number of books concurrently and two of the more noticeable ones are The Five Rules For Successful Stock Investment (by Pat Dorsey) and Rosie Project (by Graeme Simsion). You can always pick up one or two books of your choice from National Library and let the author(s) lead you to his/her kingdom of imagination.  

3. Relationship - Just like in business, we need to maintain our relationship (any kind of relationships) on an on-going basis. Do you noticed that, at times, we are treating acquaintances or colleagues better than our own family members or loved ones? Why is that so? I guess it voice down to the issue of "take things for granted". Do you say thank you, sorry etc. often enough to them? Maybe you should start now. A good relationship starts with give and take And respect!

4. Smile - Many people asked me why I always put on a smiling face and never see me angry or sad? The secret is : I am actually a robot programmed with only the smiley face facial expression! lol 
Joke aside, my usual answers to them are : 
a. If you can smile, why put on a sour face? Or
b. It doesn't solve any problem by maintaining a negative energy Or
c. Either way (happy or sad), you need to go through it, it is part and parcel of life! So why bother killing your brain cells by drilling into the negativity so much? 

So, what will you be focusing on now, other than the market sentiment?


Saturday, January 9, 2016

3 Things I Would Not Do At The Current Volatile Market

Time flies, we are already at the end of the first working week of 2016 and WHAT a week! Amidst the double digits drop (11.4%) of STI in 2015, we managed to amassed another 4.78% drop in the first trading week alone (from 2,889.23 to 2,751.23). Phew...

As many investment gurus would say, we are all seems to be "genius" in the bull run, but it is during the volatile and turbulent time like this that will determine who are the true investors. 

For me, I am still in the infancy stage of my investment journey and am far far far away from being a true investors, however, following are the 5 things that I promised myself NOT to do at the moment:

I might not have a size-able portfolio and the overall performance of my minion size portfolio is in double digits red now, but quitting the "game" has never come to mind ever since I started last year. I am from IT background and Accounting/Finance is never my thing but there are much to learn from this journey alone. So, I will sure to stick around as long as possible.  

There are many ways to Rome and countless investment vehicles that we can use, for me, equities/stocks are still something that I can relate more to, as compared to Forex, Options, Futures, Silver or Gold etc.. Of course, to each its own, different people excel in different ways, for example, one of the interviewee (Ezekiel) that featured in my "Interview With Fellow Investors" series has a successful venture in FOREX and his Forex Seminar and Online Education Program (Asia Forex Mentor) seems to be well received by the participants.  
Investing on other people's money has never come into my mind and never will. At the current bear market, most stocks would seems to be under-valued and attractive, so the thought of leverage might come into your mind. However, in order to sleep well at night, my advise is NO-NO!

So, what are the things that you WOULD NOT do (in our investment journey) at the moment? 


Monday, January 4, 2016

Why I Think The Big Short Will Be A Great Movie?

If you have not already know, I am a movie buff. I might not have watched as many movies as I like, due to my work schedule and family commitment, but I do still watch/read a fair bit of movie related articles, blog posts, trailers and reviews etc. 

The movie that I am going to talk about and recommend next is quite related to personal finance. It is an adaptation of the 2010 novel by the popular author, Michael Lewis : The Big Short. Personally, I've not read the book and hence not known much about the details. However, I do know that it is revolving around the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s in US.

The movie has been released in the US last month and will be released here (Singapore) on 21st Jan 2016 (Thu). I intend to watch it with a bunch of financial blogger friends (still in the midst of arranging, hope can make it at last).

Here are the reasons why I think The Big Short will be a great movie :

1. The Casts
This is one of the strongest male casts movie in the recent years. Christian Bale (aka the Batman), Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell just to name a few. Early reviews by the US audience seems to indicate that all their performances are top-notch, especially Steve Carell (surprisingly, since he is well known for the comical role). 

2. The Story
Since it is an adaptation of a popular book by a great author, don't think the story/plot will go much wrong. Understand from a couple of friends that the book is awesome! Besides, it was directed by Adam Mckay (whom brought us Step Brothers, Anchorman 1 & 2 and The Other Guys), I am sure he will inject lots of funny and fun moment in the movie. 

3. The IMDB Review Rating 
The Big Short has an IMDB 8.1 (out of 10) rating which is pretty good. Just to put thing in perspective, the recent craze, Star Wars - The Force Awakens has a rating of 8.5. 

I do aware that movie is kind of subjective and each individual has different liking of genres. Having said that, I am quite sure that I will be enjoying the movie in the cinema soon. 

If you still have no clue about the movie that I am talking about, maybe the trailer below might helps :

Would you be watching this movie when it is out? 


Forex Trading Course

Saturday, January 2, 2016

FREE eBook - Investing Your First $20,000

I am very excited about what I am going to share next. It is the brainchild of Alvin Chow (owner of the Big Fat Purse) by initiating this brilliant idea of producing a free eBook from the local retail investors/bloggers to the local retail investors.

It all started with an email from Alvin in August 2015 to a bunch of financial bloggers (I am honored to be one of them) to collaborate and write about our respective views on the common them of "Investing Your First $20,000"). 

Why $20,000? 

I guess it is an amount not too huge and most of the young adults can amassed after a couple of years of working. In fact, the absolute amount is not the key here, you can start with $5,000, $15,000 or even $50,000, the key is to learn from each other on the available options and choose one or two that best suit your risk appetite.

In the end, a total of 14 financial bloggers took up the challenge and after four months or so, here we are, producing our very first eBook written BY the retail investors FOR the retail investors. 

You can download the eBook freely by clicking on the image below. 
Investing You First $20,000 (eBook)
Do provide your valuable comment after reading ;-)


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