Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 10 Milestones & Tombstones

10th wedding anniversary. The Aluminum Anniversary! Yum Seng! Honeymoon is over la, but the hard work starts now in raising the kids to be good beings. Yeah, life is no longer just the 2 of us, life revolves round the kids. Hopefully in many moons to come, these 2 kids will bring us the honey!

9 days 6 nights Tour De Italy in November. That was the out of the box equation by the travel agency. The extra 2 days were spent in airports and lost to time zone. Visited Rome, Pisa, Florence, Venice, Verona, Milan and a short trip to Swiss border! (Postcards from Bella Italia, posted on 27 Nov).

888 Fatt! Fatt! Fatt! Slow and steady in assets accumulation. The extra cash was forced to work hard for its own good. Long term is the game. Even though the share market tanked, the only way is up! Other newsworthy piece was that the wills were done up nicely. Sorry dude – nothing for you! (Long Term Investment Goals, 16 Sept & Seek Wealth, 22 Dec).

7 years old daughter survived Primary 1. The horror stories on pressure and difficulties in coping with the screwed up education system were all unfounded. Yes, the education system could definitely be improved. No, the kid did not dread going to school. As a bonus, she indulged in badminton and dancing and thoroughly enjoyed herself! Being an all rounder is the way to go! (Dance, Little Lady, Dance, 5 Aug & So You Think You Can Dance, 30 Jul).

6- June 2nd – new kid on the blog! http://metta88.blogspot.com. The rest is history! (New blogger in town, 2 Jun).

5- May 4th – first visit as a hospice volunteer to spend time with cancer patients at Oncology ward at GH. There is so much to learn from these patients and their caregivers. Tour of duty is every first Sunday of the month. (An Evening With Cancer Patients, 4 Aug).

4 Death! Mom lost 2 persons dearest to her within 2 months; her hubby (3 Oct) and mom (3 Dec)! RIP - dad and granny. (Obituary, 3Oct & Obituary II, 3 Dec).

3 – Mar 8 12th general election – Enough is enough. Malaysians voiced out via the ballot papers. The out of touch ruling party lost its 2/3 majority and 5 states. Many deadwood, arrogant and big headed politicians were consigned to the history book!

20th anniversary for VI Class 88. It was that long since we sat for our SPM and last met some of the mates. Great reunion on 1 Nov! The comradeship was still strong and it showed in the football field as we won the VIOBA Inter Batch Football tourney. (High n Low, 2 Jun).

1-first appearance in a golf tourney in Saujana. It was only my third outing on the green but it was definitely a day to remember. Yeah, how I wish I was the numero uno!

Goodbye 2008!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Festive Cheers

Some market humours to usher the festive season. Courtesy of Jay Leno & others.

1. US has made a new weapon that destroys people but keeps the building standing. It is called the stock market.

2. Do you have any idea how cheap stocks are? Wall Street is now being called Wal Mart Street.

3. The difference between a pigeon and a London investment banker. The pigeon can still make a deposit on a BMW

4. The problem with investment bank balance sheet is that on the left side nothing is right and on the right side nothing is left.

5. I want to warn people from Nigeria who might be watching our show, if you get any emails from Washington asking for money, it is a scam. Don't fall for it.

6. Bush was asked about the credit crunch. He said it was his favourite candy bar.

7. The rescue bill was about 450 pages. President Bush's copy is even thicker. They had to include pictures.

8. What worries me most about the credit crunch, is that if one of my cheques is returned stamped 'insufficient funds'. I won't know whether that refers to mine or the bank's.

9. YAHOO - What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $250 per share.

10. WINDOWS - What you jump out of when you are the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $250 per share.

Merry Xmas & Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

10 Poisons at Home

10. Mothballs

Mothballs emit one of the most unpleasant household scents. As they convert from a solid to a gas, you do not want to inhale too much of it. Studies on one active ingredient, paradichlorobenzene, found that it can cause cancer in animals [source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]. Other types of mothballs use naphthalene, which after prolonged exposure can destroy red blood cells. The chemical can also stimulate nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

If you must use them, put them in a sealed container in an area with separate ventilation from the rest of your house. Wash any clothing that has been stored with them before wearing it since the vapors will have absorbed into the fibers. For a safer, natural alternative, cedar chips should work as well.

9. Pesticides

Pesticide is a broad term that includes insecticides, fungicides, disinfectants etc. In 2006, the American Association of Poison Control Centers received nearly 46,000 calls regarding children under 5 years old who had been exposed to potentially toxic levels of pesticides.

Be sure to ventilate any enclosed spaces after applying a pesticide. If hiring a pest control service, ask them to review the chemicals before they spray.

Better bet is to keep the house clean and make it unattractive for the pests to visit!

8. Pressed Wood Products

Pressed wood products include particle board, fiberboard and insulation. They are like the hotdog of timber products, taking bits and pieces of logs and combining them together.

However, the glue that holds them can cause a sticky situation. Some use urea-formaldehyde as a resin. Formaldehyde exposure can be dangerous, possibly setting off watery eyes, burning eyes and throat, difficulty breathing and asthma attacks. Scientists also know that it can cause cancer in animals, which leaves open a possibility for the same in humans.

Because of construction materials and smaller spaces, trailers and prefab homes often give off higher levels of formaldehyde emissions.

7. Chemicals in Carpet

Carpeting has come under greater scrutiny because of the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) associated with new carpet installation. Although it is not inherently dangerous, people have reported health problems associated with it.

The glue and dyes used with carpeting are known to emit VOCs. However, the initial VOC emissions will subside after the first few days of installation. To be on the safe side, request your retailer to unroll the carpet and air it out a couple of days before bringing it in your home. You should also keep the newly carpeted area well ventilated during installation to minimize VOC build up.
Better bet is to stay carpet free!

6. Laser Printers Chemicals

A 2007 study from the Queensland University of Technology in Australia found that some laser printers give off ultra fine particles that could cause serious health problems. Another study from the National Institute of Public Health also confirmed that laser and ink-jet printers can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ozone particulates.

Tests have shown that concentrations of the released particles return to normal levels after a couple of minutes. The emissions varied with the type of printer, its age and toner cartridge.

If you are sitting next to a printer while reading this, stop breathing!

5. Lead Paint

In 1991, U.S. declared lead to be the greatest environmental threat to children. Even low concentrations can cause problems with central nervous system, brain, blood cells and kidneys. It is particularly threatening for fetuses, babies and children because of potential developmental disorders.

The intact paint on a surface won't kill. Only when the paint begins to peel away, it releases the harmful lead particles that you can inhale. For that reason, do not try to remove lead-based paint because that will liberate the toxic metal. Leave it to a professional instead.

This paint set off the widespread recalls of toys from China in late 2007. Retailers feared that children could ingest the paint, possibly contributing to brain damage.

4. Air Fresheners and Cleaning Solutions

Air fresheners and cleaning solutions freshen and sanitize our indoor habitats. However, a study by University of California found that when used excessively or in a small, unventilated area, these products release toxic levels of pollutants. This comes from two main chemicals called ethylene-based glycol ethers and terpenes.
Air fresheners are linked to many volatile organic compounds, such as nitrogen dioxide. Some fresheners also contain paradichlorobenzene, the same chemical in mothballs.

Cleaning your bathroom shouldn't make you sick, but you must keep air circulating through the area as a precaution.

3. Baby Bottles

Canada has taken the first steps to outlaw the sale of baby bottles made from polycarbonate plastics, which are the most common type on the market. The plastics are made with a chemical called bisphenol-a (BPA). When heated, these types of baby bottles can release BPA.

What is wrong with a little BPA mixed in with a baby's formula? BPA has a structure very similar to estrogen and for that reason is referred to as a "hormone disruptor." Hormone disruptor can interfere with the natural human hormones, especially for young children.

Other common products containing BPA include refillable plastic bottles, compact discs and some plastic eating utensils.

2. Flame Retardants

Commonly used in mattresses, upholstery, television and computer casings and circuit boards, flame retardants have likely saved many lives by preventing unexpected fires. However, science has revealed a darker side to these chemical superheroes, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, found in a variety of consumer plastics.

Studies have linked PBDEs to learning and memory problems, lowered sperm counts and poor thyroid functioning in mice. People can inhale them through air and dust or ingest it by eating animal products that contain it.

1. Cosmetic Phthalates

Phthalates, also called plasticizers, go into many products dotted around your bathroom and vanity, including hair spray, shampoos, fragrances, deodorants.

Why worry about this chemical additive? Like BPA mentioned earlier, these hormone-like chemicals are linked to reproductive and developmental problems in animals. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes a potential for lowered sperm count in boys and premature breast development in girls.

Chemicals rule our lives, no doubt about it. The more we consume, the more we will behave erratically and be paranoid! Perhaps make it as part of our New Year resolution to cut down on excessive consumption! Toward a healthier lifestyle!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Seek Wealth

Wealth to the foolish can become a trap to him,
Wealth to the wise is a way to free himself.

We can begin with an inspiration and with a proper aspiration. We shall perspire to work on it diligently. We wish to travel. This becomes an inspiration. Then we begin to plan (aspire) where we want to go. We make an effort (perspire) to make the dream comes true. Similar process if we are seeking wealth.

Wealth can be classified into ;
a. the tangible such as cash, properties, assets or intangible such as honour, recognition, health.
b. the spiritual such as virtue, wisdom, generosity, truthfulness.

Those in youth, while they are energetic, if they do not strive for wealth, when they grow old will be in trouble.

Once we acquire the wealth, how do we spend it? The manner of spending our earnings could be divided into followings:

i) Spend on the necessities for ourselves, family and people around us such as food, housing, clothing, education and charity. Life is full of obligations and responsibilities. We do not live alone. Therefore we have to spend on others for mutual benefits. Contribute back to the society!

ii) Spend and invest in spiritual development includes building places of worship and supporting those who strive for spiritual purity. Printing of books in memory of departed relatives is a noble way to spend for the deceased.

iii) Spend on investments includes retirement planning, children education, training to improve our own skill etc. Also spend to protect own wealth such as insurance, will etc.

iv) Spend or rather save for the rainy days. We do not know when the uncertainty in life would happen. Sickness, recession, accident, unemployment are some of the uncertainties in life. Give up a smaller happiness for the greater one.

The whole purpose of seeking wealth is to spend it in the manner that gives us happiness within the moral framework. Spend within our means and limits in the moral manner. If we happen to lose all our wealth, we should not be upset because we know we have put them into good use.

If we lose your wealth, we lose nothing,
If we lose your health, we lose something,
If we lose our character, we lose everything.

Be contented with wealth because there are other sources and ways of gaining happiness.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Credit Crunch To Topple Sports!

There is a lot of money in modern day sports. The stakes are so high that it is becoming common for sportsmen to cheat by way of taking performance enhancing stimulants. However sports don't exist in a bubble as the global credit crunch starts to burst them. Motorsports are still reeling from Honda's pullout from F1 and Subaru's timeout from World Rally.

In football scene, there was a comment by Wenger, the French gaffer of Arsenal FC. "..the current financial climate will change the attitude of many clubs. I come from a little village of farmers where I was educated that when you earn £100 you do not spend £100. For me when you earn £100 and you spend £110 it is like cheating. A club must live within their own resources, not artificially supported.

The economic crisis will force many clubs to rethink the way they are run. It seems too many believe football exists in a bubble, away from the financial crisis! Football depends heavily on the financial markets, sponsorship and television rights, all of which are suffering right now."

This musketeer is well educated by his folks. Perhaps he was a financial guru in his previous life before professional football era! Live within own means! So unlike his London neighbour, a certain Russian who could be suffering right now!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BFM 89.9

There is a new radio station in town. BFM 89.9 The Business Station. Those driving around Klang Valley with their eyes wide open would have seen advertisements at the back of taxis. The infamous all day long jam along Jalan Tun Razak, with no other pretty rear sights in sight except the rear of a taxi, was the 'perfect' setting for my love at first sight with 89.9. Mama Mia!

Following are excerpts from the website www.bfm.com.my - "BFM is a 24 hour radio station focused on business news and topics. Think of CNBC or The Edge but on radio. Core programmes include latest business news and stock market reports from Malaysia and other financial centres as well as interviews with business personalities, financial analysts, entrepreneurs, technologists and marketers. BFM also offers business education programmes spanning areas like marketing, finance, technology and business productivity to raise the business proficiency of the Malaysian public".

So far so good - tuned in to some of the interviews and did learn a thing or two. Love the regular market snapshots too. The 80s music and forgotten rock anthems were bonus! "Bonus Funky Music!"

"BFM targets business executives, finance professionals and the investing public. There is no specific age target as the business audience spans all adult age groups. It is their interest in business that defines the listenership, not their age.

Nevertheless, BFM is likely to appeal most to a mature audience. In this respect, those between 35 to 55 of age will be able to identify most with BFM".

Yeah, I definitely fall into this category! Trying to age gracefully! "Botox for Me!"

There is also the fun and creative part in branding BFM. They are constantly forming words with letters BFM. There are business spin like "Bankers Flee Mortgages", political spin - "Barack Foils McCain" etc.

"Brooms For Ministers"
"Bond Fund Manager"
"Banknotes Fixated Missus"
"Bloody Famous Macha"!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Land Banking. Profitable Scheme or Scam?

Malaysians are quite receptive to investment products. It was reported that some 2,000 Malaysians have invested over RM50m in foreign land banking schemes. These schemes offer plots of land in foreign countries for investment, notably in England and Canada. However the bad news is the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) is investigating three of these companies!

SSM decided to take action because of recent developments in Britain. Financial Services Authority stated that these companies bought land in areas which have not yet been granted planning permission and subdivide them for sale. These plots may be located in greenfield or greenbelt zones.

(Greenfield refers to previously undeveloped land, in a city or rural area, which is currently used for agriculture, landscape design, or just left to nature. Greenbelt is a designation used in land use planning to retain areas of largely undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land surrounding or neighbouring urban areas.)

In June, FSA asked the British High Court to wind up the country largest land banking company, UKLI Limited, for operating as an illegal collective investment scheme. In its press release, FSA said over 4,500 investors had paid some STG69 million (RM385 million) to buy the land, but none of the land sold was ever granted planning permission.

I did attend a presentation on the above investment scheme in a leading hotel but did not take the plunge as I prefer buying real property onshore!

Investors can contact SSM at 03-40476111/6222 or email enquiry@ssm.com.my to verify the status of schemes that they are interested in.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Alternative Source of Income

Deputy Minister in the PM’s Department urged those who are retrenched to seek alternative source of income including exploring multi-level marketing products. He said it was during an economic slowdown that people should try their hands on new ventures to survive.

He added that from January until now, about 28,000 have lost jobs, with an average of 2,000 to 3,000 workers laid off a month.

Personally, I had attended many multi level marketing presentation, conducted by friends and relatives. Of course, I did sign up as member with a few companies either to consume the products or just to lend my 'support'! However I have yet to find the 'motivation' and interest to eke a living out of it. Sure, they are many rags to riches and success stories but this trade is not my cup of tea!

I have nothing against this trade. In fact I do believe it is a great way to make a living, as it provides passive income! However, I prefer to indulge in the investment route to churn my passive income!

See you at the top!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Saving Strategies

10 banks have reduced their fixed deposit rates following Bank Negara recent cut in the key interest rate. From Nov 25, the minimum rate set for 12 months FD is 3.5% per annum. The minimum rate set for one-month FD remains at 3% per annum.

We have seen outcry from the investors especially the pensioners who are not in the position to gamble on riskier investments. Chances are they would have to continue to place their hard earned savings into FD. It is a double whammy. In addition to battle higher inflation and paying more for the the necessity goods, now they are faced less income from their investments!

What about the younger investors? Generally the 40s and 50s are in the peak of their earning potentials. The suggested investment portfolio should be 60% equities and balance 40% fixed income. Start to reduce exposure on higher risk investments, as the age catches up.

As for the 20s and 30s, even though there might not be lot of money since you are just starting out but you have time on your side. The temptation to spend is great but do balance it by planning for the retirement age. At this age, you can afford to take more risks with the investments. Don't be too conservative. Let youth works to your advantage. Suggested portfolio allocation = 80% in equities and 20% in fixed income.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Doctor Doctor

Last week, the Health Ministry stated that every month, at least five doctors are found to be suffering from mental illnesses. This is a very worrying statistic. I believe with the crazy workload at the public hospital, it is the perfect tonic to go mad.

Many top students chose to study medicine although not all had the qualities to be doctors. Besides the long hours with added pressure, doctors have to put up with unhappy faces and deaths.

Personally I have seen some of these doctors in action for the past year. I am not qualified to comment on the technical aspects but I do have my thoughts on some of their inter-personal skills. Although I do empathize with them, they have to realize that the ‘customers’ are becoming more demanding and ‘educated’. They are no longer there just to save lives but be an all rounder and take the rap especially during the ‘no hope’ situation. They have to wear various hats, and act as counselor, messenger and are the perfect fall guy! No wonder they are sick!

Alternatively, those who do not have the aptitude to be a doctor, take up nursing. There is a huge demand for nurses and currently, a fresh diploma holder could command close to RM2,000 per month. After a couple of years experience, the Sheikh oil money could be tempting! Apparently, many Filipino doctors are retraining to be nurses and head to US as the wages as nurses are much higher than staying home as a doctor!

Perhaps, being a financial guru or accountant is a safer bet! Less chances of being ‘kuku. Instead of seeing blood and death bodies, get to see figures and count other people’s money!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Worse Is Yet To Come?

The Employees Provident Fund’s (EPF) total investment income for the third quarter fell 60.4% to RM2.06bil from RM5.2bil in the previous quarter as its investments, were affected by the global economic uncertainty.

The EPF said due to the current global economic uncertainty, stock markets across the globe had fallen significantly, including the local equity market.

In the same period, the KL Composite Index fell 243.81 points, or 19.3%, to 1,018.68.

They really know how to time the announcement, don't they? End of third quarter should be end September but it took them till December to announce the result. Look like they are urging us to reduce our 11% monthly contribution to 8%. Read this - don't sign the form to maintain the 11% monthly contribution cause we could not manage them, too hot to handle!

You have been warned so don't blame us if we announce the full year result in due course! Serious food for thought!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Obituary II

Exactly 2 months (3 October) after losing her husband, mom lost her mom, i.e. my grandmom at 4.50pm, due to old age. Grandma was 84. She did not fully recover from an infection two weeks ago but up to that moment, she was still an alert lady who could still move around the house on her own.

Born and bred in Kuala Lumpur, she led a full life, leaving behind 8 children (plus 4 deceased), 34 grandchildren and >20 great grandchildren. She was a lovely and caring lady who raised the family well. An independence and mentally strong lady who passed down these traits to many of us including mom and myself.

She never fail to amaze me with her resourcefulness and up till today, I will get goose bumps just by the sheer mention on how she single-handedly delivered her own children (including my mom!) at home! When she went into labour, she would boil water.. and the rest is history.. No first class medical facilities with top notch pain killers with the services of renowned gynaecology!

Note : Grandpa passed away in 1989. Grandma will be buried next to him this Sunday!

Back To School

Amidst the current global credit crunch, with uncertain job security, perhaps you could seriously contemplate to pursue your postgraduate study. It is the survival of the fittest. Employees have to be more efficient, well rounded and competitive.

Firstly, talk to your employer. It will be great if you get his support. It will be a bonus if the study is sponsored; it is a vote of confidence in you.

Now, the tough part is to choose the program. The number of postgraduate programs is on the rise. Spoil for choices, yeah! It is tempting to choose the easiest, shortest and cheapest. Not a good move. Learning that cannot be translated into values is wasted. The values gained from the program should be substantial. Additionally, make it an enjoyable journey, to gain knowledge and not purely for the paper chase.

8 criteria to ponder:

1) Specialize or opt for general management? – Depends on your career plan / direction, whether you want to be a specialist or be Jack of all trades.

2) Reputable, recognized and accredited program – Obviously you do not want to be caught with your pants down after aiming for the stars.

3) Content – Depend very much on criteria no. 1. In addition to prescribed texts, be prepared to explore broad range of publications. There are also many gems to be unearthed from the wired world. Learn this word - Plagiarism!

4) Methodology of delivery – Is it a traditional classroom delivery with interaction, case studies, project work etc or distance learning which has minimum interaction? Do you have the discipline to do your own work or do you need frequent interaction to knock sense into your wear and tear brain?

5) Teaching resources – Are the lecturers qualified practicing managers or academicians or a good mix? The academicians can deliver the best concepts and theories while the practitioners share their experiences. The lecturers are to facilitate and lead, not so much to teach. Learning takes place from many aspects- from class discussion, study group and personal research!

6) Weekday or weekend – Do you have the power to stay up after a long day in the office? The after office hours traffic could cause lateness. No fun to play catch up, and you might be lost for the next few hours. Be prepared to miss weekend parties, though!

7) Venue and distance from home – Obviously you would want to avoid long distance traveling that could drain your energy level!

8) Cost – Important aspect but not the only criteria. Obviously brand name, reputation and perceived higher quality programs cost more. Look for value for money. In addition to sponsorship, you could withdraw from EPF Account 2 and could explore financing from banks.

Finally the easy part. Embark on it with a serious desire and commitment to work hard. Make sacrifices and the reward would be sweet. In addition to self satisfaction and knowledge gained, the program should translate into new career opportunities, be it a climb in the corporate ladder or seeking out on your own! Then there is also the new friends found that will be ‘saved’ into the networking database!

Happy Studying.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Looking for : Networking

If you are in Facebook, check out how many of your contacts has the above tag.

Networking is a must to bring colour and breathe life into our lives. It connects and builds relationships both in our personal and professional life. It gives us new ideas, prospects which could lead to new businesses, career advancement, life partner and macam-macam lagi!

Here are some tips to make networking a fun event:

1. Remember names
People naturally feel friendly toward us if we have made the effort to remember names. This act itself will be a good start and he or she will be keen to be a friend.

2. Create conversations and be a good listener
People love to talk about their lives. Ask a few leading questions and most people will keep the conversation going. Before we know it, we are friends for life. Personally I have many new found friends from the simple topic of football or cricket! For all LIVERPOOL FC lovers, please stand up!

3. Care and interested in other people.
People love to be associated with loving and caring beings. Do really care about these people. Sincerely offer our shoulders to cry on during distress moments.

Happy Networking. Please do share your proven tips as the above list is not comprehensive.