Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Brief Light Candle

This post is written with a heavy heart. In just a couple of days, few people around me passed away. A manager in my department who had been battling with blood cancer courageously had put on a good fight. My cell group leader's dad passed away. My friend's teacher also passed away. Another friend's primary schoolmate's mom also just passed away. On the side note, my favourite football team Arsenal also lost to a weaker Greek side, Olympiacos 2-3 AT HOME, thus killing any real chance of qualifying out of group stage for Champions League this year (since the next two games are up against the Almighty Bayern Munich who have just trashed Dinamo Zagreb by 5-0).




All in sudden, I am again reminded that life is too short. Too short to be sad and depressed. Too short to be frustrated and hold grudge against someone you have conflict with, or someone who has wronged you. Two days ago I've read about this from "Seven Things That Steal Your Joy" by Joyce Meyer: "When you feel hopeless or upset, or if you are losing your peace and your joy, ask yourself this: Am I believing God's Word?"

If there is anything we can learn from this, it is this: 
Life is far too short to not make an impact on other people's lives.
No matter how successful one is, at one point he/she will ask "What is the purpose of my life?". Although I can yet to confidently tell you my purpose in life, I am trying my best to serve others, seeking to add values on other people's lives. More importantly, as a Christian, I am trying my best to follow God's plan by faith, be sensitive to His calling for me and expand His Kingdom in ways far beyond my imagination.

Just observe a little closer when someone around you passed away, and you will notice many friends of the deceased flock to his/her Facebook wall and write testimonials of his/her life, as a sign of respect and comforts to his/her other friends and family members. Sometimes this question popped up in my mind: If I die earlier, what will my friends write about me? You may think I am weird, but this is a legitimate question. Have you ever asked yourself this question? I will leave it to you.

Just like the brief light candle, despite being short lived, it has lived up to its purpose. Have you lived up to your purpose? The most important thing in this world is not wealth and success (although they are good to have), but happiness and love. Warren Buffett, the greatest investor of our time, once said in an annual meeting in Omaha 12 years ago:
"I measure success by how many people love me. And the best way to be loved is to be loveable." 
This is probably the most unusual thing that can ever come out from the mouth of the Oracle of Omaha, yet it makes every perfect sense. I bet none of the attendants would have expected the answer to be uttered by Buffett, and most likely all of them were getting all excited and curious on the magic number for Buffett's definition of success. I love it! I love the fact that he dared to adopt this unconventional approach when the world around him all speaks of  wealth and success from the worldly view. To be disgusted and hated by many is easy, but to be loveable may not be for certain people.

To be loveable, one thing you can do is to be genuine in offering help. Help unconditionally in any way with a sincere and genuine heart, but not expecting any return. Sometimes no tangible help is even needed, your presence itself will speak the word. Sometimes you just need to be there to practice your listening skills, be a good listener! Not many people can be good listeners, that's for sure. Sometimes you just need to be committed in doing something. It can be a relationship, or it can be a simple gym session. Being genuine and sincere will go a long way, being a good listener will propel you even further.

Really, is it difficult to bless people around you? I don't know about you, but it was difficult for me. I grew up being selfish and always wanted the best only for myself. I fought with my siblings just to get the last piece of chicken, or the blue toy instead of the red toy. When I knew of certain exam tips, I kept them to myself and seldom share them with my friends, in fear of them overtaking me in the exam. Still they almost always got higher marks than me. But as soon as I realised the best way to dig into my blindspots (unknowns that I don't know that I don't know) is to teach others, the passion to teach in me got ignited!

By teaching others, you will almost always get feedback and questions that will hit you on the spot. Questions that you are not quite sure of yourself, have been asked on the spot and you have to go figure out the answer. These questions are the type of questions that could potentially come out in your next exam, job interview and any future life challenges that you may encounter. Again, your future self will thank you for having prepared for the hardest questions (They were hard because you had never thought of them, but once you have prepared sufficiently for them, they are no longer difficult and pose as unpleasant surprises).

Another way of blessing others is by being generous in giving. But giving doesn't necessarily have to come from a financial perspective, but in time and efforts. Are you willing to give someone your time? Maybe sacrifice 30 mins of nap time and Skype or message a dear friend whom you have lost in touch in ages? Sacrifice 30 mins of gaming time or watching Youtube time, and make sandwiches for the homeless? Your choice matters. It is how you choose to spend your time and put in your efforts, that will make all the differences. 

Go make an impact on someone else's life and have a joyful day yourself!

I'm going to end this blog entry with a song I have been listening to. I find it quite adorable and beautiful at the same time. Enjoy!




Signing off. 



Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Junk

The first time I heard of this word was from junk food. I loved eating junk food when I was growing up. Mamee Noodles snack, Twisties, Mi-mi, Doritos, Cheezels, Double Decker, Walkers, Lays and so on, you name it! I have probably tried them all, if not most. Over time though, my concern for health started to develop although that was just back in college not very long ago (about 4 years ago). I came to a realisation that I was overweight, and being overweight is probably the last place I will put myself at these days.

The story of how I managed to turn over my entire lifestyle from being overweight into where I am today shall be left for another day. Although being overweight was not entirely due to junk food and (junk) soft drink, but also coupled by lack of exercising and messed up lifestyle, junk food and junk drink (soft drink in this case) definitely contributed a huge portion of the factors. That was when I chose temporary short term gratification over long term benefits and success. I chose to devour on delicious junk food and sweet soft drink because I thought it made me happy. Was I really happy though? 

Most of the time I was feeling depressed and lack of confidence. My body shape and weight definitely did not contribute any better, if not worse. My self confidence was at rock bottom, and I was not proud of admitting I did not have many friends. Every day in school, I was afraid of how other students would judge me, or how they will pull me down at one point. In fact they succeeded. My only way trying to "prove them wrong" was through my academic result. Given my level of intelligence, I know I have to put in much more effort than other smart students or the so called "geniuses". You all knew how they succeed! 

I managed to attain above average result in the end. Still I was not confident enough, until the day I finally got a lightbulb of revelation. My lifestyle. I need to change my lifestyle, to live healthily, by eating the right food and consistent exercises. I started to see changes first by my energy level and soon my body began to adapt. I am more confident as a person now. I feel more energetic now than ever. I know how easily I got tired and clumsy when I was overweight. I promised myself not to get back to that stage. It is a no-go zone. The first step of eating right was to stop eating junk food and soft drink altogether. 

At one point in high school, I was drinking 100 plus (isotonic drink) every day for no apparent reason. I only exercised once or even none per week. Even now, it is still a challenge for me to stop drinking sweet drinks though. Nescafe, fresh fruit juice, Mocha ice blended! Ah my new favourites haha! Think of the amount of calories it will put in... 

Most of the time we only see this term junk from food perspective, but do you know there is such thing as junk reading? When was the last time you read? If you are reading this blog, chances are you are still reading to nourish your mind with informative contents (I hope I am informative haha!). Well done! What about books? Facebook doesn't count in this case. Maybe articles and blogs? If we constantly feed our mind with junk materials such as novel, mangas and comics, do you think our mind will develop and grow? I will leave that for you to ponder. To me, even newspapers and online journals can be junk contents sometimes. 

If you are only subscribing to sports or entertainment columns of the news, you are feeding your mind junk material. A good way of thinking this is: how can this add value to me? If I read this article or watch this video, how can this add value and change my life? If you can't answer this question, most probably it doesn't offer much value. It has been at least two to three months since I last watched a Youtube video. Not because Youtubers do not make good videos nowadays, but because of I have better things to do such as reading and writing blog. Watching football matches is another thing haha!

I know some people must watch certain news channels every night, good for you! But what are the things you are listening to? Are they beneficial to you? Or are they bringing you more cringes and drive up your stress level? I believe you do realise the proportion of bad news reported on the news channel is way higher than those of good news (news that can bring values into your life). Maybe it is time for a change? Nassim Taleb (one of my favourite authors who wrote "Fooled by Randomness" and "The Black Swan") once said that he muted the CNBC channel and only read the headlines at the sidebar. By doing so, he can cut himself off from being influenced by the "noise" blurted out by the news presenters/journalists, so called business professionals and pundits. 

Whatever you are reading doesn't matter, as long as it can add new perspectives and knowledge to your mind. You ought to feed your mind daily! Biographies, economics, finance, history, politics, philosophy, self development, religion. Anything! Just read something that will benefit you over the long term. Your future self will thank you. I have this habit of reading Quora and blogs during free time, just to get inspired with more useful information and fresh ideas. Maybe I should write there too.

Truth is, when you start reading consistently, feeding your mind (seed) with good materials (high quality fertiliser and nutrient-rich soil), your mind will grow not only linearly, but on compounding basis! Everything will fall into place more systematically, and new concepts would not appear entirely new anymore when you are able to relate the "new" concepts to existing ideas. 

Why not give it a try? Give yourself three weeks and develop this as a habit, you will see wonders! All the best! 

Signing off. 



Monday, 28 September 2015

Is Credit Card a Bad Thing to Have?

I have been reading a lot on credit card lately, and I am applying one which I will elaborate further later. For those who already have a credit card or a few under their belt, you will understand that credit card can work as a double edged sword. If you think you will be out of control when you are on a shopping spree, and if you are the kind of person who will keep spending even though you are unsure of how you are going to finance it in a month time, it is advisable that you keep yourself as far away from credit card as possible, until you learnt the proper way of controlling your own spending habit. The key here is to spend less than you earn.

However, if you are like me who will think not twice but thrice about buying something, and able to pay the bill on time, owning a credit card can provide you two main benefits:

1)  Building up your credit history. It is very essential to have your credit history built up once you have started working because sooner or later you will thinking of buying car and house. But most of the time, people who are not as cash free as pensioners like me, would have to apply for loans, be it car loan or housing loan. Without credit history, banks would not even consider to approve your loan applications simply because the banks would not be able to gauge how trustworthy and credible you are. Simply put, you want to borrow money but if you did not have any record of repaying the money, the person wouldn't consider to lend the money to you. But if you have a record stating that you have been a responsible borrower and have been repaying the loan payment on time, it will boost some level of confidence on the person and the chance of him lending you money will increase drastically.

2) Cashback on different kinds of expenses. Malaysia is such a blessed country that it is a financial hub for some of the most generous banks you will see (no pun intended). Some credit cards provide you 5% cashback on petrol, some on dining transactions, some on retail transactions and even entertainment expenses. It is entirely up to you to take up which credit card, and one of the reasons should be the cashback that the credit card can provide. Of course, not everyone is entitled to all the cards offered by the banks, since one of the main requirements hinges on one's annual income. There are a few websites which have been very generous in sharing knowledge on which credit cards are the best, and which have the best cashbacks on the areas that you normally spend money on. Here are probably some of the best comparisons I have seen, so it is strongly encouraged that you take your time and read it!

http://generationsxyz.blogspot.my/2015/07/genxs-recommendations-of-credit-cards.html
http://generationsxyz.blogspot.my/2014/11/the-best-top-10-credit-cards-in.html


For me, I personally chose Maybank Islamic MasterCard Ikhwan Gold Credit Card (such a long name haha!), due to the fact that I will mainly spend on petrol and maybe some groceries, and this card is free for life, meaning there is no annual fee or whatsover, unlike some of the credit cards offered by other banks. This is probably one of a few credit cards (that I know of) that provides 5% cashback on petrol and groceries on Friday and Saturday, capped up to RM50 per month (for spending up to RM1,000 per month). There are some other credit cards that offer 10% cashback on petrol but they are not free because of the annual charge incurred.

If I foresee myself spending RM50 per week on petrol, which amount to RM200 per month, I will be able to gain 5% x RM200 = RM10 per month. It may not seem much, but earning at least RM120 per year is still better than nothing! This has not even taken into account that I may spend on groceries during the weekend. So the earning is up to the amount that you spent.

Another card seems quite interesting to get is AEON Watami, if you spend between RM1k and RM1666.67 per month, it gives you a effective cashback of 3%. In other word, you will earn RM150 cashback with spending of RM5,000 per quarter. If you swipe the card at least 12 times per year, the annual fee will be waived. The only bad thing about this card is that it does not provide any cashback on petrol, so if the main component of your monthly expenses is petrol, this card may not be a good deal. On regards of the benefits, you can check out the AEON website here.

Do let me know if you know of any other credit card worth getting for one of annual income below RM50k, and spending less than RM2k per month.

Signing off.



Saturday, 26 September 2015

My 23rd Birthday and Why was it Unique!

Yesterday marked my 23rd birthday! While I could not quite put all my thoughts into words, I will try my best. If you have been following this blog for the past few weeks, I hope you will have noticed the increasing efforts I have put in to continue updating the blog. I have made this a commitment that I will update this blog at least once every two days, sometimes even more. This change, coupled with exercising every morning and reading every night after work, compose part of my transition process into the working life.

This is the power of Habit! But I was trying to break one of it. The night before when my mom asked me on the time to wake up yesterday morning (since she's currently car pooling with me to work), I told her, "Early (it means we will depart from our house by 6:15am)". Understandbly she did not seem happy because then she will need to wake up early at as early as 5:30am. But because of my laziness and I was trying to give myself a break, I decided not to set my own alarm clock so that I will need to rely on my mom to wake me up in the morning. She woke me up yesterday morning at 5:55am and I had to drag myself to gym. 

You see, my family is not a family who will vocalise all our inner thoughts. Deep down our hearts, we know that parents love their children dearly but not all parents would vocalise their feelings and say "I love you dear!". Not my parents. I grew up in a strict family and everything must be in accordance with discipline. But although they do not vocalise their feelings, they show their love by actions! And the above was a perfectly fine example. My mom rather let herself to be unhappy, than making me unhappy! If she woke me up half an hour later, it means I would have missed my gym session and would probably start my day feeling unhappy and frustrated. I definitely love my mom to bits! (although she still forgot to wish me "happy birthday" in the morning.)

So, no gym break even on my birthday. I still continued my morning gym session and it worked its magic as usual! The reason why I prefer to work out early in the morning before work is that, contrary to my initial belief that it will make me feel lethargic post workout, it makes me feel energetic for the rest of the day! This is the gym story, the same goes to blogging. Yesterday I posted a blog entry as well, writing on the insights gained from the World Changers Conference I attended two days ago. I definitely encourage you to read it if you have time.

So I started my day with seemingly unskippable gym session and blog writing. Everything seemed pretty normal up to this stage. In the afternoon, I went for my Friday lunch with my usual CF colleagues (plus two more economists haha!), and we had great lunch despite not having a car to drive out to other places other than Sogo area, like any other past Fridays. But things started to get weird, when I was about to pay for my share of meal. The meal costed each person RM23, and yet I only have RM25 so I tried to pay her RM25, but she said "Later lah". Seeing that she has had at least a blue note (RM1) in her wallet, and when another friend handed her RM23 (cash in exact), she still refused to accept and said that she has no small change.

Weird! So I decided to keep my money first hahaha! Then I went on to Public Bank (PB) nearby to open a Fixed Deposit account, and invested 30 grand in it since the latest promotion yields an effective interest rate of 4.175% for 12-month tenure (higher than Bank Rakyat's 4.1% of the same tenure). So now I'm officially broke hahaha! You still have time until 30th September to grab this promotion if this is what you are looking for! Anyway back to my story, I stayed on for a little longer time when one of the PB staffs approached me to explain more on their products, one of which is Private Retirement Scheme. Apparently young people aged 20-30 gets to receive a one-time-off RM500 from the Government if you decided to invest in PRS. Interesting!

Now that I'm back in the office (after hours of hanging around Public Bank haha.. shhh!), Jed messaged me to ask me out for a tea break at the Bank's cafetaria. "Something fishy is going on", I thought to myself. Indeed, when I headed to the Bank's cafetaria, I saw Jed at the table nearest to the entrance so I sat down. On the table there were banana fritters that he bought, and he asked me if I wanted a "Teh Tarik". I said "Yeah sure, thanks" and he headed off. Moments later... Boom! "Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to Nicholas, happy birthday to you!" 

To be honest, I didn't know what to say nor how to react, this was my FIRST surprise birthday celebration! I am so grateful for my CF colleagues. It is this bunch of beautiful people that makes one of the big differences working here in the Bank. Bubbly Bell and Kiesha even asked around and finally decided on buying me Tiramisu Mille crepe, not knowing whether I will like it. Again, it was my FIRST Mille crepe! I reassured them that while I am not a particularly big fan of cake, it's the heart that matters and I am eternally grateful! Thank you so much guys! :D


Kiesha said I looked so happy in this picture, I concur haha!
Obligatory pose :p
   
Beautiful people celebrating my 23rd birthday with me (with a few missing ones)! How not to love them?! Hahaha! Please don't mind my feigned smile because I was holding this smiling posture for some time not knowing when the kind Samaritan will snap the picture hehe. 
This basically summed up my surprise birthday celebration. Up till now, my family has yet to celebrate my birthday celebration with me as everyone got back home pretty late yesterday night. But again, celebrating birthdays hasn't been a big deal in my family for the past few years. So I am not expecting much. I heard that we will be going to Dengkil for some delicious seafood as dinner tonight (although my dad was complaining again on how "far" the distance is from our house, not very far, about 15.6km according to Waze)! Haha will keep you guys posted if it is true.

Signing off. 



Friday, 25 September 2015

Messages for World Changers (Christian perspective)

So yesterday and the night before I went to the World Changers Conference organised by my church (Acts Church) at Summit USJ 4th floor, and now I am a World Changer haha! Okay so the speaker of the conference is someone whom I have had never heard of, David Tjokrorahardjo. David what?! Don't worry, the name at the back was so hard to spell even, it took me literally one full minute to get it right haha! Unbeknownst to me, he is one of the managing principals of Sovereign Capital with its HQ based in Raleigh, North Carolina. Sovereign Capital is basically a private equity fund focuses mainly on early growth-stage companies with $1-10 million in revenue. But Sovereign Capital is not just an ordinary private equity fund, due to the fact that they not only focus on profitability of the companies, but also proven management team that is running the company based on STRONG ETHICAL VALUES. Wow! 

While I am not going to bore you with everything he said during the conference, there are a few key takeaways that struck me the most. Before this, let's look at who's actually the speaker, shall we? David was born in Medan, Indonesia. He started his own enterprise in 1998 and sold his first company in 2005. Later in 2007, he started up a jewelry company in New York but also sold in 2007. He has lived more than 10 years in the States. He moved back to Indonesia in 2010 and cofounded a company called DTI Group, where he remains as a non-operational director. David has an innate ability to speak out his ideas, so it may not be surprising that he is also a public speaker and activitely minister a church of 12,000 in Jakarta. So far so impressive! Good! But what I didn't know are the insights he was about to share throughout the conference.

Growing up, David loves doing business and communicating his ideas. He was also a couragerous boy and did not afraid of anything. He repeated this a few times throughout the conference, "When I was 18, what's the worst that could happen? The most is I will go to jail for three years, and when I come out I'm only 22! Still young and handsome!" That probably fueled his desire and extraordinary courage to do businesses and started up so many companies at such tender age. But he never denied that God's favours have had been with him throughout these periods! Now, God's favour is something precious that doesn't always seem to occur to ordinary people, right? But why did David always seemed to get God's favour whenever things turned south for him? There was no coincidence.

Here's why: If your business plan has no God in the center, the plan is not going to work. While there is no sole path in achieving success in doing business, none of these paths is ever easy. What differentiates Christian businessmen and secular businessmen is the Christ living in the former. Being the Salt and Light of the world, we need to love God wherever we are in the marketplace, do business with excellence and integrity. Have you ever asked yourself what is the vision of your business? Doing the good things? Truth is, every successful businessman can do the good things when their business flourishes! As you can see, successful businessmen/investors/celebrities never hesitated to donate their wealth away to help people of various needs, build infrastructures and facilities for the poor, trying to do all the good things to the world. But... how many of them actually do the right thing? What right thing, you ask? Building the House of God.

Have we ever asked where's the righteousness of God in this business? From the book of Zechariah, Zerubbabel always have provisions to lay foundations for God, regardless of the external circumstances. This speaks of the attitude Zerubbabel had when he was facing high pressure! The more pressure you are facing right now, the more you should be giving and ministering. Even for fixed income earners like me! When we get a promotion and a pay rise, do we still give 10% as tithe? If I am earning RM20k, 10% of it is RM2k! BIG DEAL! When you start having this thought, brothers and sisters, there's no better time to examine your heart than NOW! The Bible very clearly stated that 10% of our earnings shall be dedicated to the Lord to build His Kingdom, because building this House of God is never a secondary issue.

Another very meaningful thing that David spoke about, was declaration of faith and positive thoughts about our goals. Making your goals public is one way. Sometimes when you look at the top of mountain, you may think it's impossible to climb up to the top! But ONE STEP AT A TIME! Doing business is the same thing, walking the Christian life is also the same thing. One step at a time! If the vision is to build your personal wealth, it's going to be endless and futile. You may successfully earn your first RM1 million, then RM10 million, then RM100 million.. But you may never be truly satisfied, and you will yearn for more and more. Where's the end? You may think, "What's the point of doing all these?". But if your vision is about building the House of God, it is always going to be worth it.

The second part of the conference focused mainly on getting our hands dirty! What does that mean? Simply speaking, by getting our mind and heart right is not enough, we need to put in the right amount of effort, get our hands dirty! God may have transformed your mind and heart, very well! So what's the plan? We cannot just talk a big talk but do nothing about it! We know that we need at least 10,000 hours in doing something specific to be truly master it. When you are good at doing something and have passion for something, time is not an issue! So it's always good to examine yourself: If money is not an issue, will you have the right passion to do it for free? The journey/process of getting from foundation to completion always require passion! While we always believe that our God is a God of miracles, God is also a God of process! He would love to let us go through certain experiences in life to mould us into His desired character, than granting us the fish (our wish) without us having to work hard to gain it.

Another thing that David was focusing on was our time management skills. It is indispensable for one to have a calender! Only people with calender can be trusted. For David, he always have a specific time slot he set aside for appointment with God. This speaks of how important God is in his life. If you never had a daily devotional time with your Lord, Jesus is just a savior to you, not God in your life. Ouch! Maybe it's time for us to really set aside a specific time for God every day. If you are already doing it, GOOD! But if you are like me not having a specific time with God daily but rather scattered time around, maybe having a calender is a good way to get ourselves organised.

Here are the big FOUR VALUES of Bandwidth.com (one of the companies Sovereign Capital was investing in):

1) Faith 
Regardless of the religions of the employees, the management team stresses that it is very important for the employees to emphasise on practicing their faiths. Corporate worship places are being set up.

2) Family/Relationship 
Do something personal for your family! This was what the management team was advocating for their employees! Between 8pm to 10pm, the internal server will be switched off just for this reason. Those with a spouse, please accompany your spouse for dinner. Those with children and family, it's never a better time to spend time with them.

3) Winning! 
Oh I love winning! How many of you knows the name "Nicholas" actually means "Victory of the People"? I love to be victorious, and you probably have noticed that I am all about winning! Damn kiasu hahaha! But no it's not that, because only by winning that someone/a company gets to shine! And God loves winning! In fact, God has already won the battle. Really it's up to us if we want to claim the victory in His name!

4) Physical and Mental Fitness
Everything you do will be pointless if you don't have the health of your body to enjoy your fruits of labour. You may be wealthy but are you healthy?! As for mental fitness, never stop learning! Keep occupying yourself with new skills/interests/hobbies! If you don't know anything, please hire someone to teach you! With a few clicks away on your mouse, millions of information will be at your disposal. It is really up to you if you choose to utilise by learning it. In fact, church is the best place to practice your gifts and skills learnt haha!


Zechariah 4:10 says "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel's hands." Why not have a small opening, and let the oil goes into your life? IF God can do it for David, God can do it for you too as long as you are open to His blessings! Are we opening ourselves to God for Him to use us mightily, even in business?

Signing off.



Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Review on Joy Stealer #1: Work of the Flesh

This is the first part of a book I am currently reading (Seven Things That Steal Your Joy by Joyce Meyer) thanks to the recommendation given by my dear friend. As an author and one of the most recognised pastors, she did not grow up in a Christian family but rather like Oprah Winfrey, grew up in an abusive family. Expectantly she has gone through many sufferings and challenges, things that easily took away joy from her life. But over the years of experience, she has came out victoriously and can be joyful anywhere she goes, in whatever circumstances. How did she do that? Today I am going to review the first chapter of the book, on the first Joy Stealer.

How often do you find yourself trying multiple attempts yet fail again and again? I did! Fortunately for me, it did not normally take me long to get the result I desired after second or third attempts. In the book, J. Meyer said that so often people rely on their own strengths, trying to change things around them and not relying on God's power. How frustrated it is when all you want is a slight change in your situation, your family, your spouse, your workplace or maybe your own boss?! But things just don't often go your way, in fact most of the times they don't! What went wrong?

Through the story of Abraham in the Bible, J. Meyer illustrated perfectly how Abram (Abraham's previous name) wanted a son so badly yet he and his wife Sarah (then Sarai), bore nothing. Now they are almost 100 years old, 20 years after God first promised Abraham and Sarah a son. Why is there a delay for God to fulfill His promise? Why did God wait until Sarah has gone through the phase to bear children, with a barren womb? Why does God wait until it is almost impossible for something to happen, only to make His promises seemed more like miracles to be fulfilled? In the book, J. Meyer said "Because He likes to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him (2 Chronicles 16:9)".

Indeed, God always seem to be delaying His promises, but let's ask yourself this question, shall we? Can you still love God and be happy, even if you did not receive the things that you are believing for? What if I can't earn more money and accumulate enough wealth up to my desired level, can I still love God and serve Him? If I can't get a girlfriend I desired, can I still love God and give Him my best in everything? If I can't get to achieve what I want in my career, can I still love God? You get the idea.

Here's the thing: If you can't get to the point where you can be happy without having what you want, you will never receive it. Words! This is a little revelation to me, but having contemplated on it, it is perfectly logical. Here's why: If you can't be happy without all these things, you have made the things you are asking for your idols, not God. If God gives you all the things you asked for, and that He knew that you love all these things far beyond your love for Him, He will NOT give you.

Hang on a minute, what about those who had never accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour? Why did they still succeed in life with massive wealth? I suspect this applies to those who are convicted in their belief in God, and because God has saved them through Christ Jesus, God will want the perfect blessings to be poured out in abundance to His children -  you and me. Many people can emerge successful, but how many of them are truly joyful and enjoying their fruits of labour in life? There may not be many of them.

So here's the key: Keep God FIRST! And if you keep God first, He will never hesitate to bless you radically because my God is a God of love and He delights in the prosperity of His children.

Sometimes you might be impatient in waiting God's promises to be fulfilled. You are NOT ALONE! Very often I am impatient, and this patience trait is something I need to develop myself. My generation in general is an instant generation, in a sense that we want everything fast and instantly. But do we have the necessary patience to wait for God to work it through His perfect plan? Will we come out with alternative plan just to say to God, "Hey God, here's my plan, can you please help me to achieve it?" Maybe we will. I know I did.

But things will never go smoothly when we are following our own plans, because without God in our plan, we are short of wisdom. We will play blame games when things don't go our way. What to do? We have to bear consequences, quite possibly more delay from God! Sarah who decided to speed things up her way, asked Hagar, her Egyptian maid, to intercourse with Abraham and Ishmael was born. Hagar who thought she has an upper hand against Sarah (since she managed to conceive) started to fight with Sarah, with Abraham stuck in the middle. I would never want to be in that situation. How foolish when you come to think of it in the modern days?! Maybe God will give them Isaac much earlier had Ishmael not been borned?

Signing off.



Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Lessons Learnt From Futsal Experience

Having played futsal twice, first with my department colleagues two weeks ago, second time with my church friends just yesterday night, I deduced that I have so much to learn and improve on. In fact, I barely know anything about playing futsal, much less about the tactical formations and even the proper way of playing futsal. More on that later.

I started my childhood with cycling at the playing field near my old house back in Setapak KL. As I grew older, I started picking up badminton and basketball. But in none of these sports I was truly good at. Most of the time I learnt by observing others, and by observing alone was insufficient to hone the skills of playing one sport. Along the way, there were few people kind enough to point out my mistakes and taught me the correct ways of playing these particular sports. But still, practice makes perfect and there was no instant where I got so committed at playing one sport that I get very good at it.

While I play mediocre badminton and basketball, some even with wrong and unrefined techniques, I only managed to pick up futsal recently. In reality, those who have just met you will never know how good or how amateur you are, until they put their trust in you and pass you the ball. Just to be broken the trust... and they might never pass you the ball anymore. How?! They passed me the ball with the expectation that I will be able to keep the ball and perhaps bring the ball forward towards goal, the least I can do is to pass the ball back to another teammate.

One thing I have to point out though, is I was truly blessed and fortunate that my teammates were really patient with me. Having missed so many chances of passing the ball accurately and keeping the ball with some even led to opponents scoring goals because of my mistake, or even when defending, lack of following through the opponent and pressing the opponent hard, they were still extremely patient. But after the game, the lesson started! Some of them started giving me advices and pointed out to me the right way of playing futsal.

Even my RUNNING TECHNIQUE WAS WRONG!

Ha! Now I finally understood why I always get blister whenever I wear my futsal shoes, because unlike running shoes, futsal/football shoes are not supposed to be comfortable! Futsal players run with toes and not the whole feet, by so doing able to control and navigate the ball, more agile than running the marathon way. So that's the key! Run with toes.

While it is not always pleasant to listen when others give me advices, it taught me something far more valuable. In life, when people of better experiences and skills try to approach you and teach you the proper way to do something, you are faced with two choices: to listen, or to ignore. Of course it is entirely up to you if you want to adopt the advices given. It is never easy to receive the feedback given graciously, but it is certainly a quality that worth developing.

As far as I know, even to provide a feedback requires courage! The truth is, not everyone would bother to correct you, and for one to actually come out with constructive feedback, he/she has to first muster enough courage. Imagine this, after losing a game or two due to silly mistakes this guy kept committing, would you be bother enough to go up to him and correct him patiently, with nice tone? Even at the workplace, when your colleague did some foolish mistakes, will you be kind enough to correct him and let him know? While you may answer "Maybe", very few will say "Yes I will" instantly.

That's why I truly appreciate people who come out and inform me my weaknesses and mistakes, in hope of raising my awareness and me making subsequent corrections and refinements. Thank you guys! Now that I know I am weak at playing futsal, I shall practice more and more! I have been developing my stamina strength, but apparently it is still not enough, considering I get exhausted very quickly playing futsal. Of course I am still not used to playing competitive futsal, but time shall come where I will get fairly comfortable with it. So much to learn and correct, let's keep an open mind to it! We shall see.

Signing off.


Monday, 21 September 2015

Sunday Dinner (+ Property Talk)

The title of this entry might not sound enticing at all, but yesterday dinner was truly an exceptional experience to me. Me and my family went to Setapak, KL to visit my younger sister who was staying in UTM hostel, so we went out for a supposedly haste dinner at a hawker centre. As we arrived at the hawker centre, there was no free table available so we had to share the table with one of the tables with only one guy sitting there enjoying his meal. But it eventually turned out to be a meaningful dinner.

If you know me well enough, I am a person who prefer to have meaningful conversations, conversations that can keep me pondering about various random ideas and hopefully leading to something constructive upon some deep thought process. The guy who was sitting right opposite us on the same round table, was a pensioner in his 60s hailed from Manchester, UK. I got quite excited and started to chat with him since I myself have just finished my study in London for three years, knowing that I have just bumped into a elderly man who can give me some insights.


Here are some questions that I asked him (in red) and below are his answers that I have tried to summarise in short:

1) Why did you choose Malaysia, specifically KL, for retirement instead of UK?

Deducting all the hideous factors of Malaysia such as its politics, street rallies and so on, Malaysia is probably one of the best places to retire in the world. Yes IN THE WORLD! Having limited retirement funds, he decided to move to Malaysia since the cost of living here is much cheaper than in the UK. Commuting cost here in KL is cheap with RM2 being sufficient to bring you to KLCC for weekend shopping, coupled with its vibrant nightlife. Can you imagine what life will be like in the UK as a pensioner? Sitting around the house watching TV and can't go anywhere because everywhere is so expensive. The best thing here is probably the food. The food here in Malaysia are cheap and delicious, which I myself wholly agreed on.


2) How do you normally spend time here?

Since he is a pensioner, he has got nothing much to do but still started off his day productively by going to the gym in his condominium. Then he will have breakfast, after which he will spend some time reading and going for some walks. In the evening he will go swimming or jogging, and the day ends with dinner. He lives with his wife, while his children are all in the UK working, as expected. He is pretty much living a good life here, and quite an active one too.


Somehow, we talked about property in Malaysia and how the prices here are getting higher and higher, almost unattainable by young working adults (like me) without some financial assistances from their parents. He said that the prices of properties here are determined by demand, and there are still demands by many foreign investors. IJM, Mah Sing and many other property developers are still coming out with lots of different projects, and these projects are still selling well. Blocks after blocks of buildings are being sold. Unlike in the UK, developers adopt build-then-sell system, while in Malaysia the developers work on sell-then-build basis.

He said Malaysia is all about property, and there are only three prime locations where the investors would put their money on for properties: Hong Kong, Singapore and lastly... Malaysia.

"This Ang Moh is not that simple", I thought to myself.

"Wouldn't you think the property in Malaysia are already overpriced?", I asked.

"The foreigners, especially the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, are still putting their moneys on the properties here. As long as there are demand, the projects will still be running." Then he proceeded to give me a few examples where the multiple projects have been sold out. He himself is owning two properties here in KL, and two properties in Penang. Cash-rich!

He gave some pretty solid advices on me having to start thinking about retirement and start saving money, setting money aside for EPF and so on. Damn, he even knows about our EPF! But again, he has lived here for 11 years haha! Because what most young people do nowadays is spending most of their money and barely have enough savings left from their monthly salary. Of course I wouldn't be able to give you hard evidences (statistics or whatnot), but if you have asked enough people around, you will probably notice some general trends among people of different ages. But I assured him that I have started accumulating, slowly and surely hahaha!

So here it is, properties here in Malaysia are mainly driven by foreign demand than local demand. So it won't be surprising to see a whole block of condominium, with just a few lights switched on at night. Wouldn't it be unfair to our own local people? The Government has been launching many initiatives to help the lower/middle income groups to finance their own houses by building affordable houses, but are they doing enough?

What about those whose income fell below RM4k but slightly above the average median income of RM3200? Skim Rumah Pertamaku / My First Home Scheme introduced in year 2011? For the My First Home Scheme, the maximum property value is RM400k, but how often can you find a property worth RM400k (for joint borrowers with combined gross income not exceeding RM10k per month only) or less nowadays in prime areas (around KL)?

This morning I spoke to one of my seniors, and he was saying the properties here still sell pretty well for those below RM700k. Any properties above RM700k has seen a slowdown in sales, according to his friend who is a property agent. Seriously though, RM500k for a unit below 1000 square feet (3 bedrooms 2 toilets) is not impressive at all. I will say it's overpriced even, but that's the market price now! Imagine 15 years ago, my dad bought a 3000+ square feet house with only RM230k, and now the price is about RM550k. Property price growth is even faster than inflation.

Maybe I should just wait for the bubble to burst... Patience is a virtue.

Signing off.


Friday, 18 September 2015

Beautiful Birthday Celebration for Colleague

Very unsuspicious.

Daniel hopped on the front of Jed's car along with another four of us at the back (hahaha I know... it was tad bit crowded!), and we started heading off to our predetermined lunch destination. After weeks of having Chinese dai-chao (大炒) for lunch, Daniel requested for a change asking for Siew-yok (烧肉) this time round and we were all more than happy to oblige!



Just look at the dishes and tell me you are not tempted! Hahaha I bet you are, and indeed they were pretty scrumptious too!

Anyway, after Ian and the rest arrived from another car and finished their meals earlier (as they were sitting at a separate table), the show began! Thanks to Ian's natural entertaining prowess, all of us started to burst into laughter, alongside with all of us singing birthday song to the birthday boy who just turned 24 a few days ago. Here are some of the pictures and you will understand why... absolutely creative idea of making a "mini model" of Audi R8 by using cardboards and newspapers, coupled with our Post-its wishes. Heart-warming at the same time as some of us spent some extra time to build Daniel's new car. Hahaha!



 

 

 Now you finally understood what I meant by the mini model of Audi R8! Indeed, I am extremely grateful for this bunch of awesome people in the Bank from CF (Christian Fellowship), knowing that I will never be alone walking this journey in the Bank. Thank God for each and everyone of them! :)

Random but unique questions being thrown around during the lunch break that were unusual today, probably because there were some of us who are new to the group hahaha!

1) Do you have a bf/gf?
2) What kind of guy/girl do you like?
3) Cat or dog person?

Answers:

1) *Pause* No. But Daniel was quick to analyse and said this response meant "in transition". He was partially but not exactly right. My response was inclined more towards confusion than being in a transition. Something more complicated which I myself can't really tell at times.

2) I answered "Don't know". But that was an extremely simplified answer to a long list of criteria which I have over the year figured out. I don't really mind personally about the height and age of the girl (although all these traits can be some important parts of the criteria), as long as she's not much taller/older than me, slightly is fine. The physical traits that always manage to catch my attention are beautiful girls' eyes (without much artificial makeup) and mesmerising smiles, hands down! I somehow think I am prone to be drawn towards long haired girls too!

On a deeper level, I care more about the personality and character of the girl, and normally personality/character of a girl that can capture me are being compassionate, intelligent, independent, have deep conviction and relationship with God. Most likely this girl is cheerful and she smiles always too. Didn't I tell you girls who always smile have the most beautiful souls?

Having said these, I myself have to start guarding my own heart and continue to mould myself towards becoming the guy who is desirable for the one girl yet to ever come into my life.

3) Growing up, I am a dog person simply because of its cuteness and loyal nature. But as time passes, I somehow favour cats as well, probably due to its nature of being independent and sharp looking. Not only that, cats are seemed to be sly and tricky as well, portraying a deep thinking nature. At times, cats can also have eyes that will anytime melt my heart and have me killed on the spot. LOL just like some girls...


Signing off.


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Be Happy

The last chapter of the book "Winning The Game of Life" was on being happy. After writing about steps to be successful, Adam Khoo aptly finished off the book with this fundamental trait yet may be difficult for some people. Many of us have heard of the stories of successful people, how they managed to get out of their comfort zones and strived for the best to succeed in all areas of their life. But have you ever thought that not all of them know how to be happy and be contented despite all they have achieved?

Some people have to follow certain rules they have made up themselves to be happy. For instance, if things go according to my plans, I will be happy. If I managed to tick everything off my places-to-visit list, I will be happy. If I can buy the house/car, I will be happy. The list goes on and on. But what if I tell you, the happiness that induced from obliging all these rules are only short-term, only to leave you soon after and for all you know, you will start chasing other things to make yourself happy again? This can be an endless chase.

Adam, in the book, wrote that to be happy it has to come from your inner self, which I wholly agreed. External success and achievements won't make you happy forever but only temporarily. If you can be happy even when progressing through the journey of achieving your goals, you can be rest assured that you will be happy even at the slightest things. Study has showed that when one is happy and motivated, one can make better decisions and produce a more positive results, than the one who is always worried, depressed and pessimistic. After all, what's the point of achieving everything in the world but left hopeless in the end?

As a Christian, I ought to live my life being happy and contented because this is how being in a relationship with God feels like. I am extremely fortunate to be able to feel this unconditional love day in day out. While I have to admit that I don't always feel happy, I will always try to cheer myself up. One of the ways I have been doing personally is by simply smiling. Apparently by smiling alone (even a fake smile!) can release dopamine and serotonin in your brain, inducing a feeling of happiness. Not only that you will feel happier, you will draw people to you because again, people are naturally attracted to persons who can make them feel good/happy/positive!

Why don't you smile more today?! :D C'mon, give it a try!

"Always remember to smile and be happy, because life is too short to be depressed about."

Signing off.


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Letter to Myself

So I have finally finished reading "Winning the Game of Life" by Adam Khoo last weekend. To summarise the entire book into one or two primary ideas seem to be degrading because there are just too many insights on steps to achieve success. Today I will focus on just one key idea - Loving Yourself.

How is that a key idea? Many times we claim to be loving people around us so dearly, and by loving them it means wanting the best for them, helping them achieve their goals and live a happy successful life. But often we tend to settle less for ourselves, set a lower bar/standard so that we can easily achieve the goals, only to realise we have not really achieved anything significant. Why?

Here is a person you have been living with for your entire life, wouldn't you want the best for this person, standing right in front of you when you face the mirror? Loving yourself is one of the first and foremost quality one must possess to position him/herself to success. As the adage "Shoot for the moon, even if you miss you will land among the stars", setting a much higher goal seems like a safer bet to me than settling for an easy target. At least I am improving myself along the way.

How does this got to do with loving myself? If I truly appreciate and love myself, I will do everything I can to strive the best for myself in all areas (health, personal finance, work, family, friendship, relationship etc.), and I would never allow myself to settle for norm and mediocrity. In the book, there was this short exercise, i.e. writing letter to myself. I find it weird at first, but ultimately it works perfectly in realigning myself back to self-loving and self-appreciating mode. Imagine reading the same letter each time you feel down and unloving, you will see who you truly are and get yourself back on track. Try it for yourself too if you've got time! You may be surprised too! So here it goes...


Dear Nicholas,

We have came a long way. Having known you for the past 23 years, we've gone through ups and downs in life. But what you never actually noticed is how strong and persevering you truly are. There were times that you've failed (Additional Maths progress test in 2008, Economics A2-Level Paper 2 in 2012, our first broken relationship last year, and the latest early this year, matched betting that punched a temporary hole in our wallet), but you always came out victorious each time with even stronger fighting spirit and wisdom. Along the way, there was this one Big Guy up there who has always been watching us through the happiest and darkest moments of our life.

Despite being busy revising and uncertain of whether you were able to finish your revision on time, you were still ever faithful and continued to serve in church! While many people were panic and busy revising for their upcoming exams on Friday, you still served faithfully on Sunday and came for Homes on Wednesday! Taking two to three hours off from your study hours seemed to have no impact on your final result, because guess what, you still graduated with a First Class Honours! How proud I am for you, my dear! This is how conviction and having full faith in God sounds like, because God loves His children who love Him wholeheartedly and serve other brothers and sisters faithfully. Result: Blessings overflowing from your own small cup that could barely contain.

One thing I love about you is your ability to listen attentively and think before giving advices. You may be confused and indecisive at times, when you could not pen down your thoughts in detailed and orderly manner, but each time you will eventually come out with a grand plan and most importantly actions that ensue. People seek for advices from you and you never once shunned them away. You are always generous with your time and efforts to help someone overcome his/her life difficulties and transitions. By helping others, it gives you so much joy and pleasures because ultimately you just want to see the smile on others' faces.

Do you know you have a beautiful genuine smile too? There were a number of times you received compliments because of your smile. You may not be the most handsome guy of all, but you are charming in your own way. You always seem cheerful in front of others, and people gravitate towards positivity attributed to the cheerful personality. Don't believe? Just look into the mirror yourself and smile. Why would you ever want to take away the smile from this guy? No, I wouldn't want to do that and I can't find a reason to. He is awesome that way, period.

Although you are not the smartest guy among your friends and colleagues, you are considered above average. No, I am serious. Just look at how well you have done in school, despite all the distractions that were coming your way. You always managed to set your priorities right and work towards the most important areas. Multitasking is never your strength, but you knew your weaknesses well and chose not to focus on them, but to amplify your strengths. Now that your priorities is settling in well at work, and start taking full responsibility towards your own personal finance. Good effort, but there are certainly more room for improvements.

One major achievement that you have attained was your successful weight loss plan. You were fat for almost your whole life from Primary Four till college, and you were teased incessantly. Until the one fine day when you finally decided to subscribe to Fitness First gym membership in 2011, coupled with carefully planned diet, you managed to lose 10kg within the next eight months. In your first year in university, because of subscribing to Barclays Cycle Hire and cycling each time you were commuting within Zone 1 of London, you lost another 10kg. However, it did not last long because the first summer screwed it up eventually, putting you back 10kg. All credit to the scrumptious Malaysian food.

Thanks for taking care of our body and picking up gym exercises in the morning these days, although it is never easy to wake up at 6am. Once you start driving to work every day from early October, you have no more excuse not to exercise. You are quite adaptable to changes, because as soon as there are major changes in life, you start almost instantly to plan and execute the best strategy that you can think of. Another thing about you, is nowadays you tend to slow down your pace and appreciate the small things around you. Indeed, you slowed down to see kids running around the playground, flowers blossoming and simply the fresh air early in the morning (except recently that the haze issue here got a bit too serious). The quiet moments are also perfect for daily reflection.

One final advice: Let go of the previous failures, live at the present with optimistic and open mind. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. Opportunities are everywhere even within calamities, just have to keep your eyes open!

I love you.

Yours dearest,
Nicholas.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Snippet on Actuarial Science and its Career Opportunities

As I was answering a question asked about actuarial science in my email, I realised it may be useful to share my reply with whoever interested to know more about this course. Hope it helps. So here it goes...

Question:
 
Since you are an actuarial science (for my kids - will be going to University in next few years), can you share with me, what type of career an actuarial science graduate like you do (i.e. option in career) and is it reasonably rewarded in Malaysia? Is the job fun?
I am a CPA(M) and CFP, I have no regret taking it as it gave me the flexibility to become an auditor, corporate finance adviser, merchant/investment banker, CFO, Head of Investor Relations, etc.  My only knowledge about actuarial science is that they work in Insurance company, or banks (as risk management) etc. Anyway, is the syllabus tough?
 
My answer:
 
As for type of career an actuarial grad can pursue, it is almost boundless. If you look at the number of students studying actuarial science just in Malaysia alone, you may be quite surprised (I myself was surprised too with the high number). Many of them were driven by the potential financial rewards earned if they managed to pass the professional qualifications, myself partially included. Most actuaries primarily work in insurance industry (life and general) as you rightly stated, with some work in banking industry with the risk management side, whilst others mostly involve with consulting works, enterprise risk management, pension & employee benefits, finance and investment. 
 
But I think the main reason why many students opt for actuarial science degree is due to the flexibility this degree can offer. A lot of them eventually decide not to pursue further actuarial papers and venture into other finance-related fields such as CFA, CFP, FRM etc. How? Actuarial science deals with various areas such as accounting, finance, economics, insurance, probability and statistics, plus some flavour on computing. Whilst actuarial studies involve certain modules in CFA (investment management, corporate finance etc.), CFA will never learnt what actuaries studied. Actuarial science appeals to many students also due to its meritocracy basis. The more number of actuarial papers you manage to pass, the higher your salary can get. Once you're qualified, you would never need to worry about making decent living. 
 
Whether the job is fun relies very much on whether you like doing the job. Even within insurance industry, there are life and general insurance. Life actuaries deals mainly with products reviewing, pricing and capital adequacy of the insurance companies; whilst general actuaries deal with pricing and reserving. There are also investment actuaries who deal with investment performances of the insurance companies, with the primary objective aligned to the nature of insurance business. The job opportunities are not just constrained to being an actuary (although being an actuary is a lucrative job on its own), but many actuaries went on to become CEOs/CROs of companies/banks/insurers. Having said the rewards one can potentially reap, there are drawbacks as well. 

It is not easy to qualify as an actuary since it takes approximately 100 study hours for each paper and this only apply to the early modules. The advanced modules would probably take up to 200-300 hours of study. This is not to be intimidating, but I just want to illustrate the hard work (short term sacrifice) that one needs to put in for long term unlimited upsides.
 
The syllabus itself is mentally stimulating and can be challenging to a certain extent, since the essence of actuarial syllabus is to quantify risk and solve problems (even unprecedented ones), but what motivates me is this "If others can do it, so can I!" As I mentioned earlier, the journey to attaining actuarial qualification is very much merit based. Hard work counts more than sole intelligence level here. 
 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Food For Thought on Term Life Insurance Quotes

Something I have been looking into these few days are life insurance policies. I was doing research as on which life insurance policy should I take up, but most insurers' websites do not provide quotes directly so it was difficult for me to calculate whether the policy is fairly priced or not. I've made a few appointments with some insurance agents and will get direct information from them next week. But not until I stumbled upon this website called UforLife, a platform offering instant quotes for life insurance policy, insured by Tokio Marine Life.

No doubt it offers one of the cheapest quotes for similar amount of sum assured, but having calculated the future values (opposite of present value) of all these monthly premiums paid throughout the years until 75 years old, I realised something... Let's look at some simple calculations I've done on Excel based on these few assumptions for simplicity sake:

Assumptions:
1) Inflation rate of 3% p.a.
2) Sum assured of RM100k upon death of the policyholder.


                                    .
                                    .
                                    .
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The first column is the monthly payments obtained from the website based on my current profile (23 year old male and non-smoker), second column is the annual payments whilst the third column is slightly more complicated, representing future values of the all the payments made annually in advance, compounding up till age 75. How I arrived at future values is by using this simple formula:


where P represents the annual premium, i represents interest rate, f represents inflation rate.


The purpose of calculating this is to find out the minimum return I will need to make from investments of my choice to accumulate RM100k, assuming I do not buy this policy and yet set aside a similar amount of money equal to monthly premiums until the age of 75. To arrive at the RM100k sum assured at the age of 75, one needs to earn at least 4.92% return from investment. Fixed deposit won't be able to do that currently, leaving us with EPF or some other riskier investments. Having a quick glance at the 20-year history of EPF dividends from year 1995 until the latest year 2014 gave me the result of 5.48% on average, which obviously fits our minimum 4.92% return of investment.

But does it mean we don't need to buy insurance anymore?

The answer is... NO! A BIG NO!

This insurance policy, despite being a term assurance not whole life, serves as a protection to everyone regardless of age group and gender. No one can predict the future, but we can prepare for it. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? The next 5 years? 10 years? Anything farther than 10 years are even more difficult to forecast.

The calculation I have done above shows the minimum return of investment, assuming I will live until the age of 75, and die at the end of the insurance policy. But what if... I die much earlier than the age of 75? No investment can make up to that unnecessary longevity risk. Yes, of course you can say "That's why you must be mentally and physically strong, so that you will live a long healthy life and live past 75!". But really... we just never know. For however long we wish we could live, we still can't decide when we are leaving this Earth; the ultimate power lies with God.

If you love your family members (even if you have no dependant, or even more if you are the breadwinner), insurance is always a good form of protection against unexpected adverse events. Things happen and while we cannot decide when and how we will die, we can decide our family's financial position upon our demise. The choice is in your hand.

While I am just using this quote from UforLife as an example, my main point is to illustrate why we should place higher priority on life insurance, rather than putting it as the least importance of all. But if you are considering UforLife though, since it is one of the cheapest and most affordable policies around, it does not acquire cash value.

In other word, if you somewhere along the line decided to lapse the policy, there is no surrender value that can be cashed out. In layman term, you would NOT be able to get back any money paid if you stop paying the premiums and forgo the policy. So yes, beware of this before making the decision. Every term and condition counts!


Signing off.


P/S: I am still looking for one policy that suits me... maybe not term insurance but medical insurance? TPD insurance? Still looking around.





Thursday, 10 September 2015

Focus.

Ola everyone!

Hope you guys are doing well. As usual, I have yet to receive any substantial work nor get assigned to any division so again I am pretty much free. As the seniors say, be happy with your free time now and enjoy as much as you can. But today as I was doing some reflections, I just want to share about my focuses and I see this blog as a perfect avenue to pen down every single thought.


Personal development

I see myself as a shy person, particularly to new people I have met. But this identity must change. Few days ago as I was reading a book called "Winning the Game of Life" by Adam Khoo, one of the topics wrote about changing Your identity. One core takeaway from this topic is that you will work towards what and how you view yourself, your perception and your own mindset. I find it particularly challenging to reflect on this, because all this while I have been telling myself I am an introvert and therefore it is natural (and it is okay) for me to just keep quiet and listen. But now I realised... NO IT'S NOT OKAY! By keeping quiet, no doubt I tend to be more attentive at times on collecting information, but at other times my mind just wandered to somewhere else. Things get worse when the topics are just not my cup of tea and the conversation sometimes sways towards gossiping.

But what if I say, it doesn't have to stay the same way? HOW?!

First and foremost, I have to change my mindset. I must see myself (note I used the word "must", instead of "should") as an extrovert not an introvert, and by seeing myself as an extrovert, I will take actions towards becoming one. Don't believe what I said? Ramit Sethi, the author of "I will Teach You to be Rich" in his blog mentioned about how he managed to change from being an introvert to an outspoken social person in three simple ways of starting a conversation when meeting new people:

"Hi I am Nicholas..."
"Hi nice to meet you, I am Nicholas, what brought you here?"
"How do you know the host/organiser etc?

These three icebreakers are pretty much foolproof and should work well if you could buckle up a little. But once I get fairly comfortable with you, you will know quite a different me in the sense I won't stop talking. Maybe not a good thing hahaha! So if I am still quiet around you, you know I have yet to get comfortable with you. But time will tell for sure! :)


Finance

As taboo as it may seem to many people, I still think it should be made common, even necessary, to discuss more about it. People especially Chinese, since I am one, tend to say talking about money hurts relationship, but let me ask you, if you never want to talk about money, when else are you going to talk about it?

For the past few days I have been reading blogs on personal finance and investing, one thing I can say is I am deeply inspired by their works that they have put together. Their efforts, time and some money invested in developing their blogs all started off with a common genuine interest, which is to share knowledge and discuss their views with the public. Sharing knowledge sometimes not only enhances people, but enriches your own understanding about the topic you are sharing, sometimes even inspires you to check out further knowledge surrounding it. My desire to teach somehow gets ignited when sharing becomes the primary motivation behind blogging.

Having amassed a small sum of wealth from my scholarship, I was considering a few options to invest my money: fixed deposits, unit trusts, and lately stocks. The most basic and liquid financial asset everyone should have is savings. Without savings, there is nothing much you can do to grow your wealth. If you are heavily in debt (especially the death trap of credit card), settle your debt first. One thing I find necessary but difficult for most people is to pay yourself first. What I mean by paying yourself first is setting aside at least 10% of your salary and save for the future. Don't ever underestimate the power of compound interest, some say it is the eighth wonder of the world.

Some of the highest fixed deposits I found out, as at 10th September 2015, are Bank Rakyat (4.1% p.a. for one year), RHB (4.1% p.a. for 9-month period) and Public Bank (4.175% p.a. for one year). To balance between liquidity and interest, I personally prefer Bank Rakyat's 3.7% p.a. for 3-month period and set up auto-renewal upon maturity. After one year it will effectively yield 3.75% p.a. assuming I reinvest the dividends earned. Having said that, I am currently looking into Public Bank's 4.175% p.a. for one year period deal, which only last until 30th September 2015. Grab it quickly if this is what you are searching for!


Unit Trusts

I came to learn about this investment vehicle only recently and immediately got intrigued. I found out that we can actually invest via Maybank2u's investment platform, but one thing I hope I had learnt earlier before I subscribed to seven funds is something called sales charge. Maybank2u is charging 5% for sales charge. Whilst 5% sales charge is quite common in general, I could have gotten something even lower through another independent platform called eUnittrust by Philip Mutual. eUnittrust only charges 2% for sales charge, making it way more economical to trade on unit trust. Coupled with its vast option to subscribe to more than 300 funds from famous Fund Houses (such as Kenanga, Eastspring, Manulife, RHB, AffinHwang, CIMB etc.), it is hard to ignore this platform. Maybank2u, in my opinion, is not that flexible in the sense that it only allows the users to invest in certain funds from some selected few Fund Houses.

What unit trust can bring is its flexibility to invest into various markets catered to your personal risk appetite. If you are risk lover, you can invest in funds putting heavy emphasis on equities. If you are risk averse and conservative, funds investing on fixed income securities and bonds are also available. Even balanced funds are available for those who lie somewhere in the middle. But of course investing in unit trust, like any other investments, carries certain amount of risk. You may not get back your full capital if the performances of your funds turn south.

More information on the eUnittrust can be found here.

Another thing you should be aware of about unit trust is its NET ASSET VALUE (NAV). Unit trust works in terms of NAV, similar to stocks work in terms of price. You should always check out the current NAV of the funds you are interested to invest in, and the history of its NAV for the past 3 months or one year (depending on your time frame). If the current NAV is slightly near the highest NAV for the past 3 months, it may not be the right time to invest now. Just like in stocks, you should always buy low sell high. But not everyone can do it, in fact most don't. One thing to consider is consistency always win. Funds which have been consistent in their performances speak something about their investment strategies. It may not be doing well lately due to the deteriorating financial market, but the past performance, while is not the only factor, does contribute some weights into my consideration.

My dad who has been investing with Public Mutual, did not have a very good impression of investing in unit trust. Apart from saying that the capital grew like a snail or sometimes even loss making, unit trusts tend to pay their fund managers first, leaving very little return for investors. I don't deny outright that statement, after seeing the expensive sales charge of 5% being taken from my capital. If the fund does well, of course 5% is fine but who can actually tell for certain which funds will outperform others and which funds will make it to the top losers? (Hint: Nobody.)

So unit trust, yay or nay? I would say, ultimately it is your call. If you are positive about it, go for it. For the time being, I am.

That's it for now, stay tuned!

Signing off.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Transition.

Dear readers,

If you are following me from Facebook, you would most likely have known that I have graduated from my undergraduate degree and slowly transitioning into working life. Everything seemed so smooth as I went through 3-week On-boarding Programme without much problems, but only constant inspirations being poured out over and over again from my colleagues. How blessed more can I possibly get?

Never had I got the opportunity to get close with many of my fellow scholars colleagues, but this 3-week On-boarding Programme was nothing short of awesomeness and close kinship built. First week spent on the Outward Bound School was very inspiring, and turned out beyond my expectation. Only three words can be concluded - friendship, inspiration and teamwork.

Part of the reasons why OBS was beyond my expectation is due to the structure of activities planned. Most of them if not all, were catered in such a way that ignites the teamwork spirit in us and from within build bonds between our future colleagues. No doubt the activities were mentally and physically demanding, but if given a second chance with the same group of people, I won't give a second thought.

Knowing that all these colleagues are quite awesome and fun to begin with, I am rest assured that working life with these people is not at all scary. Up till now, we are still hanging out together even as the second week of our working life is coming to an end. Let's hope that all this will persist for much longer time than I anticipated, because when workload starts piling up, we may be too caught up with them and gradually slide back into becoming strangers.

Just as I was having my reflection time, I realised how much I have changed over the span of one year. Through things that have happened, both good and bad, I noticed a change in my mindset and I no longer yearn for things I wished I could own a year ago. One example that pops up to me was my teenage dream of owning a sports car. When you come to look at the secondary market of used cars, you will probably have realised the value depreciates substantially once it was driven out of its showroom. Take for instance, Subaru Impreza WRX-STi. No doubt I still love its Boxer engine sound and excellent performance, but the fact that even the second hand price of approximately RM80k put me off.

I learnt to live frugally, having realised my 20s are the best time to start saving and picking up investing/trading as my secondary income source, because time is on my side and the best leverage I could possibly utilise on. First truth about trading is that you will lose money, but one of a few ways that sets aside the winners from the pool of crowds is defensive trading, i.e. ability to cut losses when things don't go the way you want them to. I do not have the required experiences to be on the winning side, but these are probably the only ways: educate yourself, being extremely patient and disciplined, coupled with lots of practices, there's no shortcut to succeed in this area; that is if you are even interested in trading at the first place. Reading blog and books written by Conrad Alvin Lim helps, highly recommended. I am still educating myself, long way to go.

Now that I am still waiting to be assigned to a specific division within my department thus less works, I am trying to form a habit of reading. Unless I am too tired after work, every night I will try to read part of some books I have collected since ages, some even before I flew to the UK for study. Insofar I have progressed pretty well, 1.5 books in one week is not a bad start in my opinion, given that I am not yet an avid reader.

My dad has been discussing since ages about buying a new Honda City for himself, and in turn I will be able to take the Myvi my mom currently using, to work. I am more than happy for the suggestion, since I don't have to fork out another sum for auto purchase. Once I start driving the car to work, I will try my best to beat the crowd on traffic. That means I will have to depart from home very early at 6am and reach the Bank at hopefully by 6:35am. That way I will have no excuse not to go gym and exercise my butt off, I have been giving too much excuses prior to this. Nobody is going to take care of your own body if you don't even give a damn on it.

Oh! One amazing feat I never expected myself to have achieved, that definitely worth mentioning, is I have stopped drinking carbonated drink altogether, all thanks to a dear friend who encouraged me not to. It's been two months now, and I have no desire at all to drink any sip of it. I am truly encouraged and I hope you will be encouraged too. If I can do it, so can you! Now my next challenge is, to gradually reduce my sweetened drink consumption, ultimately stop drinking them altogether.

That's it for now... Kudos if you have read it this far, you deserve an applause. (Y) A real gem that I have yet to uncover, but I truly appreciate you.

I am going to be more active from now on, and will probably write some reviews on the books I have read and going to read. Hope that will help you in one way or another. Stay tuned!

Signing off.

Favourite Music! =)