Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ugly Vegetarian Albino

Once upon a time, there lived an ugly albino who had a kind heart. He was a vegetarian. He was in love with Dino. Huh? Did I get your attention?

The power of storytelling is something that we fully understood and enjoyed as children, but somehow forgot as we grew older.

Our brain waves would change during a presentation when the presenter says the magic words, "Let me tell you a story..." Those that are about to doze off would be jolted. Unconsciously, bodies lean forward, ears prick up, and attention levels jump.

We seldom remember key points stated as stark, bare facts. But we do remember stories and the powerful principles and messages that are subtly embedded inside them.

This awesome power of storytelling is something that we can harness to advance our own career and even social life. However please do not overdo it until the extent of bullshitting!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Learn To Invest

DPM is asking the Bumiputra and Indian investors to take up the remaining two billion Amanah Saham Malaysia (ASM) units as the Chinese have already snapped up their quota of 999mil units.

He was quoted “This clearly shows the level of understanding among the Chinese when it comes to investment and financial planning for the future.” Susah dahulu, senang kemudian!

He also urged parents, teachers and the media to play their part in educating the public, especially the young, to save and invest from an early age. He added that while the Government encouraged domestic spending to boost the economy, it wanted the people to save by investing their money in proper financial instruments such as unit trusts.

He said the additional income would come in handy for future planning.

Some current statistics on the fund manager, Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB).

The net inflow of money into unit trusts has been healthy despite the current global uncertainties with RM5bil invested in PNB related funds as of this year. This was in stark contrast to the scenario during the 1998 financial crisis, which saw withdrawals of almost RM1bil every month from unit trust schemes.

PNB enjoyed a net inflow of more than RM10bil into its funds last year. PNB had a total of 9.3 million unit holders, with a total investment of RM87bil. PNB had invested in 281 companies, of which 230 were listed on Bursa Malaysia.

Friday, April 24, 2009

What Is Life?

Life is suffering, impermanence. Acknowledge it.

We work hard, piling long hours in our workplace for a more comfortable life and to fulfill our responsibilities and commitments. Along the way, we sacrifice and neglect many things notably our health. We start to take things for granted. The pace of changes in the dog eats dog society could make us worse off, as we try to keep pace with the Joneses.

We should start being pro-active in softening the uncertainty. Try to manage and ride through the obstacles and turmoil as part and parcel of life. Set the direction and noting that death is certain. We could prevent more headaches and suffering by practicing our religion diligently. Keep the good moral conduct, be moderate and train the mind.

As we could not totally eradicate the suffering, try out these prescriptions : save a portion of our hard earned money, take up a life insurance scheme, draw up a wills and practice harder.

If we are diagnosed with a serious ailment, we could not command a demanding job. Think about the existing financial commitments and medical expenses. If our properties are damaged, we might need to replace urgently. If we are gone from the present life, who is going to feed our loved ones, who are not getting any younger.

By going along with the nature of life, we would not be easily shaken and disturbed emotionally and spiritually. By having financial planning, we would protect ourselves physically and materially.

Prevention is better than cure. We need loads of commitment and total involvement to lessen the suffering. Undeniable, the ultimate solution is to be free from this vicious cycle!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

One Pence Mortgage

A couple in Britain pays almost nothing for the mortgage on their house. When news broke out about a British couple paying a paltry one pence (five sen) a month for their mortgage, it set tongues wagging.

However it came as no surprise. After all, banks are paying what pensioners grumbled were “less than peanuts” interest for their hard-earned savings. They seemed blessed as their interest-only mortgage payments plunged from £1,500 (RM7,950) a month to almost zero.

On closer examination, it doesn’t appear that rosy. While the base rate on their £400,000 (RM2.12mil) house in south-west London, had plunged from 5.5% to 0.5% they still have a huge debt that is not getting any lower. The principal, that is.

Perhaps, they could have negotiated with the bank to maintain their payments and reduce the mortgage. This would have reduce the amount of interest they have to pay down the years. Regardless of the interest rate, the top priority should have been to pay off the debt (principal) as much and as quickly as possible.

Paying an interest-only mortgage is risky business, more so when the property value continues to slide, especially during an economic crisis. They bought their house in 2007 and property have depreciated by about 20%. That means it is worth about £320,000 (RM1.69mil) or less. In other words, they would have lost about £80,000 (RM424,000) on paper – despite having to pay almost zero interest on their loan.

Having said that, the worst off are probably pensioners and widows who had saved all their lives and survived on the interest from their savings. These fat-cat bankers are paying little or no interest on savers’ accounts.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Where Are We In The Financial Crisis?

The answer is that we are in transition. The crisis has turned a corner, but obstacles lie ahead. Government interventions in the financial sector and the real economy are starting to gain traction.

This is a major change. Two months ago, the major economies were in free fall. A full global downward spiral in which the damaged balance sheets in the household sector led to reduced consumption and then reduced investment and employment. Similar damage in the financial sector led to very tight credit, reduced consumption and investment.

Those relative destructive interactions and dynamics have started to abate.

The downward resetting of asset values was inevitable as was the reduced consumption and increased savings that they caused. The uncertainty leads to fear and cautious behaviour on the part of consumers, businesses and investors. Defer the purchase of a car until you figure out what your house is worth or whether you will lose your job. Wait until the asset markets clearly turn before jumping in to buy bargains.

The effect of these sensible choices is a collectively destructive outcome in which asset values and activity in the real economy decline beyond the point required to get rid of the imbalances that initiated the crisis.

Cue the government. In the past two months, governments have taken actions that over time will short-circuit some of these negative feedback loops. There are stimulus packages of varying sizes. Governments are consuming and investing for us on an interim basis until stability and confidence are restored.

These programs are only starting to be implemented and we have not felt the full effect. The anticipation of their impact is having a more immediate effect on business confidence and asset prices. The financial side of the equation is equally important and complementary. The impact of the stimulus comes in rounds.

The government hires me to repair a bridge and I spend my income generating / expanding business and employment somewhere in the economy. These subsequent round effects are called multipliers. Their size depends on the financial system. Specifically, if consumers and businesses can’t get credit or if asset prices are still plunging, consumers and businesses remain cautious and the multipliers (the second, third and fourth round effects) muted.

Restoring credit at reasonable prices and building confidence so that value investors return to the asset markets will therefore amplify the impact of the fiscal stimulus and vice versa.

So where are we? Probably at the start of the process of turning the corner.
That can happen quite quickly in the capital markets and much less so in the real economy. In equity markets, rallies similar to the current one are likely, based on what might be called the reduction of extreme pessimism.

But the real economy continues to lose jobs at a rate in the US of about 650,000 a month.

That will take time to decelerate. How fast will determine how much further damage there is to credit quality and hence the ultimate issue of solvency in financial institutions.

Edited from an article posted by Michael Spence, a former dean of Stanford University’s graduate business school and a 2001 Nobel laureate in economics.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Emotional Tales From Hillsborough

This is the follow up to yesterday article - Hillsborough Remembered.

Eddie Spearritt, Survivor who lost his 14-year-old son, Adam
There was a policeman on the track. He must have been five or six feet away from me. I was screaming and begging him to open the perimeter gate. You can scream your head off when you’re screaming for your son’s life. I was right at the front and I'm screaming that Adam had fainted, I think at one stage I even said he was dying, but he didn't open the gate. I woke up in hospital on Sunday evening to find that Adam had died.

Trevor Hicks, Lost both his daughters, Sarah, 19, and Victoria, 15
I was profoundly and forcibly transformed by Hillsborough. Within a few hours I had lost everything of real value, my daughters Sarah and Victoria, my status and responsibilities of Dad and Husband, my respect for the British establishment and any reason to look and plan for 'the future'. All my values and beliefs were shattered. Years on I am slowly rebuilding a different life, trying to 'make the best of a bad job'. I still hurt like hell and keep wanting what cannot be, but like it or not, life will go on, Mother Earth keeps revolving, time doesn't heal, you just get better at dealing with it.

Chris Mann, Survivor
Being afraid happens to us all. That day, for a few minutes in those enclosures, everybody shared the same fear. I survived because somebody went under a barrier. I was pushed up against it with no way of lifting myself over. My ribs felt like they were about to snap at any second and my lungs were on fire. I reached out and pushed up on the nearest thing. As I was pushing myself up, I looked round and realised that I was pushing someone else down. I wanted to stop, but I knew if I did, I would go down with him. So I didn't stop, and he went down, and I still don't know if I killed him.

Neil Fitzmaurice, Survivor
We were pushed forward into the pens and we just hit the fans like a wedge. It's at this point I realised how out of control things had become. Then I realised I was basically paralysed from the neck down. I had no control over my body. The panic hit me because fans were building up behind me. You'd move five or six feet and then there'd be another crush. I couldn't see the game - all I could see were heads. My senses were being attacked - touch, sight and sound. The noise was deafening and I'd forgotten there was a game on. People were starting to fall and if you fell you didn't get back up. It was blind panic.

Fans were trying to climb over the chicken wire fences and I distinctly remember many being thrown back in by the police. The crush intensified and I looked round and saw people fainting. Some were lifted in the air and it was as if they were floating.

I was only seconds away from losing consciousness. I silently did a deal with God, looking up and telling Him: "Get me out and I'll go to church every day." It sounds ridiculous now. Someone near me was trying to lift themselves up and as he did his elbow ended up in my throat. It wasn't his fault, he was just trying to get out. I moved my head and he lost his balance, so he put his hand on my shoulder and I was pushed back. This meant I pushed the guy in front of me and he fell. For one reason or another there was suddenly some room. There was a guy next to me with a Crown Paints Liverpool top. He was about 40-odd and I was 17. I grabbed his arm and we started moving towards the steps in between the pens that led to the pitch - but the safety gate designed to ease congestion was locked. We started lifting some people over the fence. There was this guy - he was purple and grey. I presumed he was unconscious but it turned out he was dead. As we lifted him up I told him to get onto the pitch once he was over the fence, but as soon as we let go of him he just thudded to the floor. That's when I knew we had to get out of there. I climbed onto barrier, down and onto the pitch. I fell on my back and I distinctly remember a completely blue sky. I totally switched off from everything going on around me.

Other Survivors
I couldn't believe what was going on. No one could move, not an inch. People around me were contorted in whatever position they'd been compressed. Heads were locked between arms and shoulders, the faces gasping in panic.

I was bent forward, from the waist, my full weight pressing down on people in front of me. At first the pain in my back was sharp but then it was in my chest. Suddenly, I knew I was going to die.

I realised that the guy next to me was dead, his eyes were bulging and his tongue out. It was sheer horror.

I saw a young boy go down and knew that was it for him. He went under people's feet but no one could do anything about it. The pressure was so great.

Fans screamed at the police on the perimeter track to open the small evacuation gates on to the pitch, but they just seemed transfixed. They did nothing. As fans tried to climb the overhanging perimeter fence, officers on the track pushed them back into the crowd.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

96 Reds - Hillsborough Remembered

"Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that." Bill Shankly

Twenty years ago, on April 15th 1989, over 25,000 Liverpool supporters travelled to Hillsborough, Sheffield to watch the FA Cup semi-final match against Nottingham Forest. 96 of them never returned!

What should have been a fantastic day for the club and the fans turned into the scene of the most horrific football disaster the game has ever seen.

96 Liverpool supporters were crushed to death. Half of them were 21 or younger (youngest was 10 years old, cousin of present club captain). To the families and friends they left behind, they were simply a dad, a son, a brother, a sister, a cousin, an auntie, an uncle, a granddad, a boyfriend, a husband, a soul mate and a best friend.

If you are not a football fan, imagine you and your mates were looking forward for a great evening watching your favourite artiste performing in a concert hall. Something bad happened and you lost your mates, forever!

Initial details were sketchy in those days without mobile phone and Internet. Three days later, on Tuesday, Liverpool awoke to a sickening headline. The Sun’s infamous “The Truth”, reported that “some fans picked pockets of victims; urinated on the cops and beat up PC giving kiss of life.” It was soon established as lies and cover up! The police had tried in vain to cover their tracks, first lying that Gate C had been forced open and then blaming drunken fans for the chaos that they failed to control.

(Perhaps our mata-mata are taking a cue from their colonial bobbies!)

Four months later, Lord Justice Taylor published his findings into the disaster, after he was commissioned to investigate the causes behind the tragedy. (Correct, correct, correct - we have similar Royal Commission over here too). The inquiry named the cause as failure of police control “a blunder of the first magnitude.”

Police froze and failed to control the huge crowd lining up at the limited turnstiles. Fifteen minutes before 3pm kick-off, they decided to open exit gate. The fans flooded on to the already overcrowded standing terraces of Leppings Lane. The police failed to divert them to other less crowded areas. Hundreds were crushed against perimeter fence.

Lives were never the same again for many survivors. There was a sense of guilt among those who had gone home alive that day! Many suffered from post traumatic stress disorder. There were documented cases of mental breakdown, marital woes and suicide!
There are many moving articles and tributes that can be found on the Internet. Check out

1) After the tragedy, generally all football stadiums had been converted to all-seater and the removal of barriers at the front of stands.

2) The city boycotted the paper and till today it did not recover its loss of 200,000 circulation in Merseyside!

96 Reds live on in our memories. RIP.
May all be well & happy, be free from mental and physical suffering!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Invest in 747?

Continue to learn and challenge yourself and your brain will continue to grow. Learning over time enhances memory and the survival of new brain cells. - Anonymous

Even the aviation industry is not being spared!

Airlines have announced plans to take 1,700 planes out of service as fewer people fly. United Airlines is retiring all 94 of its Boeing 737s by year end and Northwest Airlines has cut its old DC-9 fleet by about a third.

According to aerospace data firm Ascend Worldwide, the number of planes in storage has jumped 29 percent to 2,302. That includes 930 parked by U.S. operators alone.

Eventually, some will be sold, scrapped and some remain at desert facilities in southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. One of them, Evergreen Maintenance Center scraps roughly 15 planes a year.

The deserts in the U.S. Southwest have become one of the top destinations for airliner storage because of the perfect combination of cheap land as far as the eye can see and a dry climate that preserves the planes. Planes deteriorate quickly in high humidity.

An airliner that has been stripped of valuable parts like the cockpit, the landing gear, and the doors can still yield as much as 80,000 pounds (36,300 kilograms) of aluminum.

Those that are still airworthy will be maintained to attract the potential buyers. (Similar to second hand car garage?) Storing a 747 with the required maintenance checks costs $60,000 a year!

Too much cash to burn, how about getting a 747? - now everyone can fly!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Guide to Smart Investment

A mate of mine, Razali has just launched his maiden book. Check it out in the bookstore or online
Get a copy to get some useful tips on investing in shares. The timing is right to ride the wave!

Panduan Bijak Melabur
Menguasai Selok-Belok Pelaburan Saham

Ramai pelabur yang melabur dalam pasaran saham tidak membuat sebarang penyelidikan sebelum membeli saham. Mereka mendengar nasihat broker, saudara-mara atau bisikan khabar angin daripada rakan-rakan tanpa menyiasat kesahihannya.

Mereka tidak sedar bahawa kaedah pelaburan sebegini mengundang risiko. Ramai orang sanggup meluangkan banyak masa membanding harga dan kualiti barangan di pasar raya. Namun apabila membeli saham, mereka rasa malas untuk membuat penilaian dan analisis sewajarnya. Keputusan pelaburan yang maklum dan bijak penting untuk menjamin keuntungan.

Buku Panduan Bijak Melabur ini akan dengan membantu anda:

1. Membuat persedian sebelum melabur
2. Mendapatkan sumber maklumat berguna
3. Memilih dan menilai saham
4. Mementukan masa paling sesuai untuk membeli
5. Membuat keputusan untuk menjual saham
6. Mempelbagaikan pelaburan
7. Membina portfolio saham dan aset anda

Menggunakan analisis asas, anda akan menilai syarikat yang menjadi sasaran pelaburan dan bukannya semata-mata meninjau pergerakan harga saham dengan carta. Malah, jika anda rasa anda tiada masa untuk membuat analisis, anda boleh menggunakan jalan pintas dengan meneliti analisis yang dibuat oleh pakar pelaburan.

Selepas membaca buku ini, anda akan lebih fasih dengan selok-belok pelaburan dan menggunakan sepenuhnya segala maklumat yang dikumpulkan sebelum membuat keputusan untuk melabur. Sebenarnya pelaburan saham tidaklah sesusah yang disangka. Secara kesimpulannya, maklumat dalam buku ini akan membantu anda membuat keputusan pelaburan yang bijak dan maklum dalam segala keadaan pasaran.

Buku pertama saya ini setebal 230 muka surat dan diterbitkan oleh Truewealth Publications (Syarikat milik Azizi Ali). Harganya ialah RM39.90.

Common Pitfalls of Parenting

1) Leaving it all to the maid
Successful parents do not always bring up successful children. Due to commitment to work, these parents tend to leave their children totally in the care of maid. These kids would be deprived if the love and affection from parents.

2) Not allowing them to help out
Children are never too young to help out. Doing chores help them to develop. Folding blankets, making beds not only improve motor skills but give them a sense of responsibility that boost social development.

3) Praising only the A
Praising makes them happy. However don’t just praise after getting the exam result. Praise them on all occasions – when they sing, dance etc. Recognise and appreciate all their abilities.

4) Telling yourself “They are just children”
Your child spit at someone but all you do is just ignore it saying he is just a child. When parents do not correct such behaviour, children will grow up thinking that act is okay! This will lead to anti social behaviour. Start now.

5) Letting them learn solely from TV
Children may understand words but will not know how to use them until they practice them. Thus real interaction is essential. Join them watching TV and talk to them. Discussion will develop speech and language skills and encourage creative thinking.

6) Using threats and lies
Do you use ‘There is a ghost outside’ or behave and I will buy you ice-cream?
That is the easy way out but these are negative thoughts and false hopes that are been instilled in the children. They are vulnerable and confused easily.

Ideas by Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr Teoh Hsien Jin

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Growing Old in Style!

To be humble in front of your superiors is duty
To be humble among your peers is courtesy
To be humble before your subordinates is nobility
- the late Tun Ismail Mohd Ali, ex Bank Negara Governor

A study published in Internal Medicine found that older people who exercise at least 3 times a week were abut a third less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia as compared to who exercised less. It is also important to get a good night’s sleep because the body regenerates during sleep. Even a 15 minutes power nap does wonder.

So start ditching the computer and get into your sports gear, if you want to live to play with your grandchildren! Also move the television out of the bedroom and get some proper sleep!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cash is King?

It is not always easy to do what is no popular but that is where you make your money. Buy stocks that look bad to less careful investors and hang on until their real value is recognized.

Successful stocks don’t tell you when to sell. When you feel like bragging, it is probably time to sell. I have never bought a stock unless, in my view, it was on sale - John Neff on Investing.

Are you adopting a wait and see attitude and put on hold your investment decisions? For employees are you having sleepless night thinking about potential financial shock either through loss or reduced income? Therefore it is a must to have some cash reserve at these times. The rule of thumb is to have at least 6 months worth of cash reserve. Budgeting is useful to trim excess fats from monthly expenses.

If you have cash, you might want to consider :

1) Invest in real estate. There are people in need of cash and are desperate to sell. Prices will fall.

2) Buy businesses. Time to indulge in ventures that you enjoy doing and earning money at the same time.

3) Buy undervalued shares. Identify undervalued shares that have strong fundamentals with good prospects. Market operates in cycles. Invest with a long term perspective.

4) Invest in unit trust. Allows professional fund manager to manage your portfolio when you do not have the time or expertise to do your own research.

5) Other investing options like gold, currencies, antique collection etc.

There are many opportunities when the market is down and everyone feels the situation is hopeless. Do your homework well and not afraid of the perceived risk. Change the investment strategy bit not the fundamental principle, which is to search for value and make profit in the future.

In recession cash is king because it allows you to capitalize on these opportunities at attractive prices / bargain. If you are sitting in a pile of cash, strike it when the right opportunity comes along otherwise your wealth is diminished by inflationary pressure.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Are You Smarter Than A ...?

A lot of people will let you down, that is life. But at least you can learn from the disappointment and ensure you do not make the same mistake. - Lindsay Bannerman

Reading is the great escape. It is a great way to reduce stress by gaining knowledge and solve problems. It can be a source of inspiration and provide hope.

It allows imagination to run wild and free. In the long run, it does not matter what you read but how much you read. Read while standing in line or stuck in traffic jam. The more you read, the more you will want to read because you will quickly discover its short and long term stress reducing benefits!

So guys switch off your Astro box and bring out your book!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Corporate Social Responsible

Many of us join association because we believe in the work they are doing and what they stand for! - From Volunteers

WalMart the world biggest corporation has warned its suppliers they will be banned from selling goods to the company if they do not meet supply chain standards. Meeting social and environment standards is not optional. Be warned, company that cheats on the age of labour, that dumps scraps in rivers, does not pay taxes and cheat on quality. If a company does not meet the above and do not heed warning to improve, it will be banned from supplying to Wal-Mart.

Perhaps the corporate big wigs over here could implement the same standards. This move could be more 'powerful' than Earth Hour!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Big in Japan

According to Bank of Japan's quarterly "tankan" survey for March, confidence at major Japanese manufacturers has fallen to an all-time low, dragged south by an unprecedented drop in global demand and a deep credit crunch.

The closely watched sentiment index for large manufacturers stood at minus 58 - the sixth straight quarter of decline and the worst reading ever. The index's previous lowest result was minus 57, hit in June 1975.

The Bank of Japan surveyed a total of 10,441 companies between Feb. 23 and March 31, of which 98.5 percent responded. The figure represents the percentage of companies saying business conditions are good minus those saying conditions are unfavorable. The lower the number, the greater the pessimism.

The world's second-largest economy, which had relied on overseas demand to drive growth, is in its deepest recession since World War II.

Major exporters including Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp. have moved quickly to adjust to the collapse in global demand by reducing shifts, suspending factory lines and slashing thousands of workers. While their aggressive moves have suppressed inventory levels, it's a troubling sign for families losing those jobs.