My Annual Review of 2017 and What to Expect in 2018
Annual reviews are a time where you take stock of what you did well in the past year, where you did not do so well.
We seldom like to write diary posts like this but at least some things have to be forced upon ourselves (you are not a blogger so you do not have to publicized it!).
I have even friends who write these annual financial review for their spouse for financial accountability and communication! That is hardcore.
This year end, I decide to save the effort by reviewing 2017 briefly, and some of the things that I hope to do in 2018.
I talk about the work, family life, wealth management, Investment Moats, BIGScribe, some pet application, the observation of the financial blogosphere.
Let’s get started.
Review of 2017
Work have been a Serious Drag
There are still a lot of people who thinks Kyith ran Investment Moats full time, but I do have a job as a senior engineer. I work in the applications and systems operations field.
Basically, if things don’t go wrong, people don’t thank you. When things go wrong, people will be calling your phone. Some of you might be in the same situation.
I was attached to this workplace near the end 2012. At this point, it would be close to the end of the 5th year. But this year was the year that I felt a lot of times, things are unbearable.
I realize a lot of the objectives at work wasn’t achieved, things drag on for far too long. Sometimes at work, milestones are important to let the organization know that things are progressing forward. It also lets the people know as an organization, something was achieved and preventing the employees from being distracted.
Perhaps its working on something for far too long. Job hopping every 3 years for the right reasons might be the way to go.
Family is a Mixed Bag
Much of life this year have been running from sleep, work, hospital, sleep. For this year, it has been particularly challenging in trying to get my mom to feel better on the road to healing.
Things did not turned out the way we wanted and its a toll on her, its also a toll on the family members.
After August, I had to spend like 3 months to get past a massive void in the house.
On another note, it brought the family closer together, and my nephew looks more mischievous and playable, so that balances up the year.
When I hosted and talk during BIGScribe’s Building Cash Flow talk in 2016, I give my assessment on the outlook of 2017.
The year ending in ‘7’ tends to be one of the worst year to invest along with year with ‘0’. The bull market have ran for a long time, much longer than the average bull duration of 4.5 years. This run have been an above average bull.
All things considered, this should be a year to be careful.
My prediction was horrendously wrong.
If you have based your wealth management on these predictions, you would have been cursing at me.
Yet in terms of wealth building, I have done OK this year (I so wish I have some cryptos!). That is because its one thing to make predictions and another thing to implement a portfolio that is forward looking and works.
If we based our wealth management on a 1 year time frame, and predictions such as what I have given in that talk, the difference in the predictions and the actual market performance might create more confusion which will affect your wealth building negatively.
But there is a hidden danger lurking.
I realize that I been living on other people’s research more than I like.
If you have a skill, and you failed to use it, you become blunt. And when you really need it , you realize you cannot do it yourself anymore.
I hate this feeling. It makes me feel like an impostor.
You are always constantly interrupted from doing deep work due to people demanding your time, be it family, work, business commitments.
The idea generation and the prospecting can be improved vastly.
I have less time to write this year, mainly because the mind is always being interrupted by something. Writing is deep work and you need more time to formulate ideas.
Some of the content that I wish to write more I was disappointed not to be able to put out.
It is especially insulting to myself when people call my blog a personal finance blog.
I also made peace that, by not being a full time blogger, I can only put out this much quality content.
In the end, your readers don’t own this blog, you do. So before you please and value add to other’s, you got to write about things you are comfortable with.
Investment Moats have also been invaluable for me to meet like minded people and I have made new friends through it. I wouldn’t have it other way.
This is also the year where my former web host decide not to take me on as a client. They decided that administering these smaller accounts, after moving to higher value clients, is too much of a hassle.
So I have to contend with finding a host, which route to take, and implement it. Till today, I am having to contend with not enough resources and unknown surges.
The blog is getting less and less prominent as I was not marketing it extensively, less good content being put out and less investment content being put out. In terms of unique pageviews, this blog have stagnate. This is bad for business going forward but you got to find a balance with what you are willing to do.
I won’t share my content if the context does not apply to the audience base. That is my stubbornness.
We had a good year in running events and some of the campaigns.
We wanted to bring finance content that the people on the ground can conned with at an affordable price. At the same time, we hope to set some standards, and encourage more content creators to write and continue to write.
We hope that we have delivered enough value in the talks that we organized. As we gather the good feedback, we also heed the negative feedback that came our way.
At the same time, I am proud how our Facebook Group BIGS World has turned out. It has become a very interactive little room where some folks (2800) who are touched by finance gather to discuss about.
BIGScribe was not profitable in the first year but we turned profitable in this financial year. But going forward, I think the road is tougher than we realize. Sometimes we felt that we are not strong enough to influence the change we want. We may also be not rich and powerful enough to influence the change we want.
We will continue to keep pounding, until we cannot pound anymore.
The Finance Blogsphere
After doing this for probably 12 years, I realize the landscape have changed a lot. Here are some of things I have noticed.
Bloggers today have more resources… on how to run a good finance blog
In the past, we don’t even know how to run a good blog.
I don’t even know how to construct proper English sentences (may be still don’t).
Nowadays, the folks interested in this subject can just see what works the incumbents does best, and do something similar to those that they can identify with.
They say it is more difficult to stand out, and I do agree that there are too many blogs and its difficult to standout. However, this is balanced off by them having more resources that we could never have at the start.
I do find that being first mover might not always be the most important thing.
Some of the things that you can do is:
- Write well in your own unique voice
- People will appreciate good writers (I realize I can read a piece about a stupid subject or about nothing if its so well written. One example of good writers are the folks at Sipping Coconuts, Cheerful Egg , 15HWW and Thumbtack Investor)
- Have pet content that you feel strongly about and write as if your saliva is dripping all over your posts
- Put it out in aggregators and large audiences (find them)
- Be willing to put yourself out not just online, but offline
Less and less people talking about individual stock investing
Having said that, Investment Moats started of as an investment blog but turns out, it seldom talks about investment nowadays.
This has been the case for sometime. There is a void of people talking about individual stock prospecting.
The whole landscape have been twisted by Motley Fools Singapore SEO Strategy. Beyond that, not a lot of blogs talked about individual stocks. This becomes extremely hard for people that picks individual stocks. What they are looking for is just a piece that talks about a company.
Just write about what you think about a stock, a certain aspect of it, or a deep prospecting piece.
Individual stock investing is niche. When you write about a stock, you will only garner limited views. The best way to make it big is to prospect well, write well, and develop a following so that you can sell some course/products to the people that wishes to attain to where you are.
However, this is is still a niche space. You won’t make it big unless you deconstruct things in a simple to understand manner for the mainstream crowd.
That takes a lot of work. Writing a piece like this takes a lot of work. There were a lot of times when I did the work, wanted to write about it, and realize that investment just suck and can’t gather the energy to write something about it. So sometimes I do understand why I don’t see a lot of pieces like that.
The high return on investment kind of finance content
Then there are the content about:
- Government Policy Changes and Your Money
- How to Generate Passive Income
- Financial independence Journey
- What I Buy and Sell
- Net Worth and Expense Update
- Dividend and REITs
- Credit Cards
- Short Term Savings Account
- How I save X amount in Y time frame
These bring the best return on your time.
There are several reasons:
- The mainstream crowd are concerned about how they can best game or take advantage of these policy changes. Or prevent themselves from being a vegetable head.
- They are directly affected by policies and these are the products that they use most frequently
- Mainstream do not invest, or rather their wealth building vehicles are properties and fixed deposits
- We all love income that you can earn without doing work
- Most people are financial voyeurs who wishes to be inspired by how others achieve their wealth, or want to find holes in other folks system
- After being enlightened, the mainstream love financial porn like these
The onus is that if you are writing on a niche financial area such as individual stock prospecting, portfolio management, retirement planning, DIY quantitative indexing, forex trading, trend following, you can connect better with your crowd by exploring these subjects to a certain degree.
At the end of the day, don’t make the same mistake as I do, by diluting the original content of investmentmoats. Focus on your area, explain to your readers well, and make them connect with your materials.
The secular bull market in well heeled middle income financial independence bloggers
I also realize we came a long way. We have touched enough Singaporeans with our content.
So much so that the concept of building wealth, financial independence is not so foreign anymore. The effect of this is that many above middle income couples, or singles are able to put away a lot of their above average income and build massive wealth.
Like Chris from TreeofProsperity says, many of us showed the way, and the possibility looks more real nowadays given that a lot in 3 years time can be earning $80,000/yr – $100,000/yr each.
The negative aspect will be what is seen in the Financial Independence Subreddit. Their accomplishment will be so befuddling to the rest that it alienates those people that do not earn so much. You will have a class divide into those that pursue a normal financial independence, and those that pursue a smaller financial independence.
It is inevitable that this will mirror what will happen in Singapore, where the middle class is split into 2 separate class.
We risk making financial independence the toy for the well-heeled middle class, something the rest of the middle class will think this is what is very wrong with the Singapore Society.
The mysterious absence of the debt clearing finance bloggers
Singapore finance blogging is very different from the USA.
This might be down to the Asian culture that there are some topic that we are more or less ashamed to talk about.
Has it ever occur to you…. that there are NO finance bloggers in Singapore talking about the massive debt they are in and how they chronicle their journey to clear it?
Everyone starts off with no debt, very low debt, and proceed to accumulate their wealth.
In March 2017, there were 32,000 borrowers with interest-bearing unsecured debt of more than 18 times their monthly income, which accounts for 2 per cent of total unsecured credit users in Singapore. Collectively, they owed $4 billion, which is 0.2 per cent of total banking assets.
There should be a lot of folks going through clearing large amount of debt.
Perhaps debt is not a topic that is readily discussed in the Asian context. Perhaps, we cannot find an enlightened soul that resorts to clear his/her debt and write about it.
However, this is perhaps something that should be discussed more. But not many folks have the experience to feel what its like to be in high interest debt and write about their journey.
The Shift to Videos and Other Media Platform
What I do observe is that the algorithm on Facebook do prioritize videos and groups more and more.
In fact, videos are the way to get people to connect with your pet subject.
The folks nowadays have very short attention spans and not many of them can read a long written piece. However, they would watch a video if its coherent.
This is something that is worth exploring.
However, you have to be gungho to put yourself out there and expose your identity and financial life to other people.
Personal Wellness and Development
If you look at my annual expenses for 2017, there is more rich life expenses spent. Much of it is due to meals I have meeting with people I met through Investment Moats and BIGScribe.
I tend to enjoy these meet ups but I wonder if every time we have to meet up at places that are more extravagant. I wish meetup can take place in a market place like Maxwell, some market where the food is cheap. You probably won’t remember what you eat, but what was discussed.
These meetup lets me know different perspectives of the world out there, how others view a similar financial situation.
However, the more that I have these, the more I realize I cannot have dinner with Dad and do deep work. So I think I should manage this better coming new year.
I went on an experiment to eat a lot of junk last year. The idea is to prove whether there is a direct link with eating nonsense and my health.
The conclusion is that while they do not show up immediately, I think the do contribute to the deterioration of the health. This December is the first year I get the persistent cold cough that many are suffering. I have never had it in my life. Perhaps my condition have weaken a lot due to this.
The skin lesion took a turn for the worse after my mother’s passing. This was again another surprise because many sources says that you should not be stress because stress will aggravate psoriasis. But the most stressful period tends to be the period before the event.
It validates my belief that not all stress is equal. The stress that aggravate these problems tend to be unique. You just have to find out what it is.
The sleep issue is becoming more of a problem because I felt that my brain processing abilities to be seriously a shadow of what it was. When you do not have enough sleep, it links to cortisol build up, your brain do not garbage collect, a lot of toxicity develops.
Something has got to be done. It is an area that needs prioritizing.
Plans for 2018
New year new plans. Hope I get some of them off the ground. A lot will depend on my productivity.
Personal Wellness and Development
I find this to be the most important because your health and wellness will drive a lot on how well you do in other things.
I will end my junk food experiment (shit… I still have 2 packs of snacks) and go back to eating clean. I took up some TCM under my aunt’s recommendation so let’s see how that goes.
I will be choosing my time better, and spending more time executing things rather than spending time reading. I read something Todd Tressider said that you are either a knowledge consumer or a maker. You seldom can do both.
The negative thing about consuming less media, be it reading, watching is that you have less idea for BIGS World, or Blogging. Let’s see how this go.
I hope that by planning and executing, doing deep work, things get done, you get more fulfilled, you have less regret in your brain when you go to sleep and it becomes better.
I will come into 2018 lacking ideas.
As I get to this stage where wealth accumulation is almost completed, portfolio management becomes more important than what stocks to invest in. As I reach the idea portfolio size, the goal shifts more from wealth accumulation to wealth preservation and de-accumulation.
I become cognizant that it is better that the portfolio do not have a massive draw down.
The way to combat this is through:
- portfolio allocation – higher cash, bonds, pseudo bonds holdings to reduce portfolio volatility
- risk management – be more stringent when looking at each investment opportunity from the potential risk perspective from my expected return model.
I hope to kick start more of my own idea generation and prospecting this year. I will still let the tenets of investing such as value, cash flow and expected return guide my decision making.
If there are no good opportunities then so be it.
Eventually, the portfolio will slowly reduce the cash, bond, pseudo-bond allocation to move the allocation more to equities. This will follow the rising equity glidepath method that attempts to make the portfolio last longer instead of the traditional retirement portfolio mix. (You can read Wade Pfau and Micheal Kitces’s Reducing Retirement Risk with a Rising Equity Glide Path)
The idea again, more deep work, more planning and executing.
The quantifiable aim for the wealth is to accumulate $100,000 more. Let’s see if I can do it.
I should also study more of these emerging alternatives such as cryptocurrency and hashgraph. I am still kicking myself that an IT engineer is so behind the curve on this.
I have made peace with how much I can give.
Firstly, there are folks who asked why I do not conduct courses. The truth is it takes work. It also takes confidence in my ability to deliver and commit to delivering.
And you need to have adequate competency in the subject.
I don’t think I am equipped in all these areas. So let’s leave this to the guys who are better in this area.
However, I would wish to be able to break down my content so that its easier for you to make sense of them. It will be free and available. You can find them under the resources in the drop down.
- Build Wealth Foundation. This is what you need to kick start your wealth building journey. I think I have written adequately for this section.
- Active Investing. This is something new. I have past content that I have written on this subject and they are rather jumbled up so let’s see if I can arrange them properly. If you see that its bare, its because I haven’t do much
- REITs Investing. I written adequately on this subject, but there are some fundamental stuff that still needs to put in. Let us see if I have time.
- Financial Security, Independence and Retirement. I haven’t have a coherent section here, and though I have written a few articles on this area, its time to arrange them
- Redesigning your Life. While making and managing money is important, what drives most of us is our philosophy about life, how we live life. I think this section will sought to challenge your current internal operating system and see if it reinforce the way you live your life, or you can make a change about it
Posting frequency will be about 1 to 2 articles per week.
Work – Tentative Timer for Unemployment : 18 Months
I always laugh at my friend who have a “ORD” timer till the end of his scholarship bond. I think with the advances in technology, a lot of kids like to do this in their army computers to count down to the ORD date…. only to realize reservist is coming up soon!
2017 was tough working mentally and I hope 2018 things will flow better. I hope that I can execute more things and be more focus about tasks.
The next year will most likely be my last hurrah to earn a paycheck like a normal employee before I start doing odd jobs here and there.
So I set a time frame of Jun 2019 to quit my job as an IT Operations Engineer.
Personal Project – An Opensource Zero-based Budgeting Software
I haven’t coded much since I did my Dividend Stock Tracker, an Android To Do List app that burnt me out and tried to create a PHP version of StocksCafe, which shows me how backward I am when it comes to web development.
I was someone taken aback how much people are picking up Python programming in various levels. I think programming is the new mathematics.
Budgeting is something I am happy to talked about but I realize many of the budgeting applications out there do not do zero based budgeting or envelope budgeting well.
Most of them that does well, is a subscription software as a service.
There are applications like Seedly that pulls your transactions read only from DBS, UOB, SCB, OCBC but its not going to change your behavior that easily. The automatically tag your transactions to particular category. I do believe sometimes you need to put your transactions in more meaningful names.
There are people that I wish to on-board them on basic budgeting but I realize they have to pay for it. The best I found so far that is free is Financier.io.
What I hope to do is:
- Develop the basic database structure for how a zero based budgeting system would be
- The basic skeleton logic of zero based budgeting without the UI
With this opensource it so that people with time on their hands and passion can take this and run with it. If it becomes a paid application that is OK. But I do hope someone develops something like GNUCash that is more intuitive for Zero-based budgeting and keeps it opensource.
That way, more people that wishes to budget and change their behavior, can benefit.
I have a feeling this will be on the back burner until my brain improves but if there is any developer who wishes to take this and run with it do contact me and let me know. I can try to explain some of the logic behind this, the portion that I manage to deconstruct.
Well I hope its been a great 2017 for you. If its not, try to see if there is anything you could do better in 2018.
One thing to note: Take this opportunity to snapshot some of your net worth. It will allow you to see if you progressed well financially next year the same time.
Thanks for reading Investment Moats for the past year.
Hope the market don’t collapse on us.
Godspeed to the crypto-investors. Hope to see GMGH being the first crypto-FI person we know in Singapore.