Saturday, February 27, 2010

Singlehood versus marrying a foreigner. Which is the bigger threat if you are single and looking for someone ?

According to a survey done in 2000, only 5% of Singapore singles want to remain single eventually. Although the faith in marriage as an institution has eroded, many singles are still interested in settling down. This article tries to arm singles with what to look out for when choosing a mate.

A discussion with a friend yielded some insight into what a single Singaporean should be looking out for.

Let's start out with a few assumptions:

a) If there are more singles than people who marry foreigners, singles are choosing single-hood because it is a better choice than marrying a foreigner. Pro-marriage singles need to compete with the concept of single-hood to find a spouse.

b) If there are more people who marry foreigners than singles, then marrying a foreigner is a better choice. Pro-marriage singles need to compete with foreigners to find a spouse.

The original discussion was focused only on Singaporean men marrying Vietnamese foreign talent, obviously that number is small so I've constructed a more interesting question that can yield itself to statistical measurement.

According to statistics which you can look for in the web, we can say with confidence that less than 20% of the Singapore population will be single once they reach 45 years old. ( According to census in 2000, number of singles in is about 15.5% for men and about 14% for women. )

Now, let's look at marriage trends. Based on recent marriage trends, only 52.5% of marriages registers in ROM are Singaporeans who marry other Singaporeans, deducting the number of marriages of foreigners with foreigners registered in ROM, about 40% of Singaporeans marry a foreigner these days.

So let's come up with an approximation of numbers to answer the question :

20% of Singaporeans prefer and thus, stick with single-hood. The rest are married.
Given recent trends, 40% of marriages are local-foreigners. 60% of marriages are local-local.

The final breakdown is as follows :

20% single, 48% married to a local, 32% married to a foreigner.

So clearly, the argument that a Singaporean will need to compete to single-hood versus foreign talent is not as convincing as the argument that Singaporeans will turn to foreigners if they cannot find a local spouse. This argument remains even stronger for Singaporean men as more Singaporean men are married to foreigners in 2008 than Singaporean women.

What insight can you possibly wean from this conclusion ?

a) If you are looking for a spouse, you need to be better than a foreigner. For men, it may be accumulated wealth and facial symmetry. For women, it will likely be based on waist to hip ratio and other predictors of sexual attractiveness.

b) If you simply cannot find a local spouse, it is possible to find a foreign spouse. This occurs often enough in Singapore to be a major lifestyle option.

c) But if you can't even find a foreign spouse, you will need to consider the possibly that you are not doing enough self-improvement to defeat singlehood which is currently the "weaker opponent". The solution is continuous self-improvement to become a better person for marriage.

I think this analysis is not complete. it would be interesting to break the figure down for Singaporean men versus Singaporean women. Most marriages with foreigners are committed by Singapore men. There is still a possibility that Singaporean women rather be single than marry a foreigner.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Switch and changing spending habits.

One of the best things about the Internet is that now its possible to buy e-books the moment they are freshly available at Amazon. Using some tech savvy, I was able to read Switch by Chip and Dan Heath before it even arrives in local bookshops ( and at a ridiculously low $15 SGD ).

Switch is an immensely useful book, an equal to the authors' previous bestseller Made to Stick. It has a chockful of advice on implementing changes in behavior and in organizations.

Here are some ideas ported over to personal finance in the local context.

a) Saving money is a rational decision but somehow the saver must absolutely have an emotional need to want to save money. For me, I recast the meaning of money as personal freedom and see financial independence as an act of defiance against shoddy Singaporean management and the authoritarian regime that wants Singaporeans chained to their home payments.

b) Savings require an infrastructure or system to make it happen. I have recommended a separate DBS savings plus account to sock away money the moment payday arrives to create a savings commitment immediately even before a single cent can be spent.

c) You will need to hang out with frugal friends so that peer pressure will prevent you from putting your money aside for a rainy day.

d) You need to formulate simple concrete rules to reduce your expenses such as "take taxis only after 12 midnight." or "buy soupy lunches with liquid content to save on buying softdrinks"

e) Breaking down payday into weekly paychecks and insisting on a weekly budget may be easier than working on a monthly budget.

f) Find out what a frugal and happy person does and emulate his/her success.

Anyway, you'll probably find better ideas from Switch as its principles can be universally applied to any domain.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The CCA vacation and my fashion line.

I've been busy launching my role-playing game product on for the past few months and one of the things I was thinking about when I completed the project is to take a break from all my CCAs. As many readers can see, I've been busy after office hours since the day I started work. I spent my first five years studying my IT and finance certifications and spent the following five years writing books on finance.

For a change I wanted to free my mind from the burden of always being focused on doing something. The aim is to release all the pent up creative energies which has been a powerful blessing and curse for me in this lifetime.

It's been one week since I started on my CCA holiday and I have FAILED dismally !

After completing my e-book and started a new blog on ENWORLD to market my stuff, that Engineering Muse of mine struck again, this time inspiring me to start my own fashion line.

Let me introduce to all of you to my Prosperity Gear designed my yours truly !

a) Innocent T-shirt with a Vietnamese theme.

My first creation started as a joke when I was hanging out with my friends. All of a sudden, some dude blurted out " My my, you have a yen for strong dong !". That statement is dying to be monetised. My first creation is a T-Shirt which is innocent unless you hang out with a group of forex traders or finance folks. This is guaranteed to make you a life of the party when you for a dinner organized by the CFA Institute.

b) Lovey-dovey T-shirt.

My next creation is something I'd like to do for people who want to succeed and find love at the same time. In a singles gathering, sometimes its hard to advertise that you are money savvy unless you can somehow print your salary on your clothes. This T-Shirt explains that a good spouse is like equity, best to buy and hold. Financially savvy people make the best spouses. This is certainly a sensitive way to advertise your personal strengths.

c) Hetty Green shopping bag.

My final creation showcases the fact that the financially savvy have a great capability for irony. What is an ugly old lady doing on a shopping bag ? Hetty Green is the Legendary Miser of Wall Street who was so stingy she hesitated to pay her son's medical expenses and caused him to have a leg amputated in the process. No other shopping bag is created to remind the shopper to be frugal at all times than to channel the legendary frugality of Hetty Green.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Three week break from blogging.

To all fans,

Right now I'm about to complete my e-book for my role-playing hobby so I need to focus on this project exclusively over the new year.

If you are, in fact, a D&D 4E player and you are interested in what I'm trying to do, pop me an email and I can even send you some play-test materials.

On the markets, so far there is'nt any change in my portfolio. Looks like my decision to have an investment moratorium until May seems to be the right thing to do so far. Here's hoping that some bargain hunting can take place then.

See you guys in March !


Thursday, February 04, 2010

On Art, Art investing and the worst book I read in ages !

If Seth Godin were right, this is how you write best-selling non-fiction.

First, try to understand and define the zeitgeist of the times. Channel the anger of the audience to motivate them to listen to you. Seth successfully does this and taps into the anger of Americans on outsourced jobs and the mismatch between what higher education promised versus what it actually delivered.

Second, prepare a set of qualities that would be universally and helpful in one's working career. Stuff like having talent, being engaged and going the extra mile for the customer.

Third, create a new lexicon for the reader and keep hitting them until it sinks in. Everything that is good, productive and useful is redefined as Art. Following a process is not art. People who follow process are bound to lose their jobs to India. Only someone who turns his work into a form of art can then join the hallowed ranks of the Linchpins - those who add so much value that they can't be fired from their jobs.

Finally, keep the empirical support of your ideas to a minimum but occasionally pepper your chapters with street-wise advice, nothing substantial because otherwise, someone may come around to falsify it.

The last time I checked, Linch Pin racked up 5 stars from amazon from 120+ reviews. It was a good score. Better than my personal favourites authors Daniel Pink and Tim Ferriss.

This is one book I love to hate. The insight and some actionable ideas are kept to a minimum, instead Seth spends a lot of time telling the readers how much he understands them. One way by appealing to the lowest common denominator if you are Ivy league educated is to keep telling these guys how the education system has failed them. I doubt the system failed Seth. He correctly identified that schools have only two purposes :

a) Teach people to solve interesting problems.
b) Teach people to Lead.

Someone this smart should know that schools are there to socialise people into productive citizens, most folks go to school to prepare for the industry. To make that happen a lot of tradeoffs are made, some rote learning will have to take place and some people will have to take a cut in self-esteem.

Another angle which Seth has taken which irks me is that it patronises right-brained people. I think all societies these days deal creative types a fairly cruel hand. Hence traits which are traditional strengths like analytical skills and the ability to grasp language is carefully packaged as Art to appeal to these people. This, I suppose, gives the open-minded non-conscientious types hope that things can get better. ( We know that statistically if you are not conscientious, things tend to get worse. Being open-minded just makes your destruction occur must faster. )

One of my cards I play when people rail against a technological savvy and analytically centered world is that statistical tools have even cast light on the fine arts. In Skate's book on Art Investment, the best artworks tend to occur when an artist is in his 30s-40s, the most expensive art tend to be landscape followed by abstract followed by female nudes. No one gives a damn about male nudes, BTW.

In this illuminating book, two key factors determine the value of a piece of art. Provenance is discount rate that is determined by probability that the art is fake, has export restrictions or may be stolen good. The other factor is simply an irrational factor, yes, is there a greater fool who is willing to pay for this piece of art.

To most people, labelling the best skills in the corporate world Art gives them warm fuzzy feeling of being treated as a human being and not just like a cog in the machine. i wish them all the best.

After all, would'nt engineers be simply poets with better employment opportunities?
If we can accept that, then Poets are engineers who can't count.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

More on high-frequency trading and building a personal hedge fund.

My search to understand more about high-frequency trading has led me to the following book, which has garnered quite a lot of good press.

I figure that even if I do not learn very much on writing programs on arbitrage, I should be able to pick up some domain knowledge which can be useful at work.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

My first smart phone : Google Nexus One

I gave my old Nokia a Viking funeral last month as it had accompanied me in my journeys through three companies and survived countless of IT escalations. It was a very good run with my Nokia except that, by now, the buttons of the Konia has started failing and I really needed to punch the buttons hard to get an SMS out.

Not knowing very much about smart phones, the primary reason that I chose a Google Nexus One is that it's not an Apple iPhone. The second reason is that I liked the open Android development platform and the way it encourages continuous innovation and open competition between phone manufacturers.

I would'nt want to brag about the specifications of my phone but I just to highlight some of the uses I have put my phone towards.

Here is a snap-shot of my Nexus phone side by side with my other favourite toy, the iRex Technologies DR1000S e-reader.

The two pieces of gear demonstrates one of the current applications of the gadgets which I have which is to play a Dungeons & Dragon game without pen, paper and dice. My e-reader displays a PDF print-out of my character sheet of a 5th level Kalashtar Bard. The Nexus one ran an application called DicePro which allows to roll any of the polyhedral dice that's required by the game. So far, the experience has been fun as I have lightened my load for a game tremendously.

Other applications of my Google phone has been as follows :

a) I use Evernote to capture my ideas while I am travelling and ensure that these ideas get logged. This is crucial for non-fiction writers as an insight can strike me anytime and anywhere.

b) A new skill can be picked up via audio-books on my device to ensure that if I can't get a seat, I am always learning something new.

c) My compulsion to monitor my portfolio ( despite it's low turnover ) on the go is met with 3G and Yahoo finance.

d) I scan the barcode of books in MPH and Borders and determine the prices the books would sell on Amazon then decide to place my orders later when I get home or buy on the spot. Too bad I can't do this for household products.

e) Keep updated on my friends. Just sent out a request to look for a CRM solutions provider to my network of friends on Facebook.

f) Hopefully, when my wife is free to tape me on Qik, I will be uploading some lectures on my ideas on financial planning.

In summary, I'm not sure if I actually own a phone anymore these days. It's a powerful information machine which can sate my voracious appetite for more information whether its information on my portfolio or who some of my lady friends are dating.