Monday, June 26, 2017

The importance of Cultural Capital when changing careers

Image result for doji hotaru

This blog has in the past discussed two forms of capital. Financial Capital represents whatever wealth you have in your personal balance sheet and represents what most of us are comfortable with. Human capital is the net present value of our unearned income. We are less familiar with this concept because it corresponds to what professions we have chosen  and it can also increase in value with more investment into lifelong learning.

While financial and human capital are two sides of the same coin. Cultural capital comes from a different coin entirely. The idea of cultural capital came from a sociologist called as Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu defines cultural capital as one that is derived from skills, tastes, posture, clothing, mannerisms, material belongings and credentials. For example, fans of high-end audio can use their financial capital to get the latest and greatest audio devices from Adelphi plaza, but it take cultural capital to develop an interest and speak convincingly about Classical music and know the difference between Debussy and Bach.

As I'm in the middle of a massive career shift myself, I have on recently started to understand how powerful cultural capital can be and this is often ignored by the readers of this blog who probable spends a lot more time working on their other forms of capital, it may be wise to occasionally try to understand the "feel for the game" as you net worth goes higher. Beyond a particular point, your wealth will not be able to grant you access to certain pockets of power but beyond a certain point, you may find it easier to proceed with Cultural capital.

In modern society, there are many situations where either you get it or you don't. Bourdieu coins this term habitus or "feel for the game". Transitioning from IT to the Law, you notice pretty dramatic changes in the "feel for the game".

Previously in IT, there was a hollowing out of engineering talent to the field of banking and whoever is left normally came from polytechnics and private universities, to have a "feel for the game", you need to practical and problem oriented to earn the respect of operational staff, hence the best IT managers start at the bottom, or at the data centers. At the entry level, you need to be resilient, a little rough on the edge and speak Singlish as it facilitates quick problem solving  and intimate working relationships which are built on trust.

This worked at the bottom tier of IT support where problems are solved on a daily basis but can fail at the upper tiers where problems normally involve contract law and some financial mathematics. The "feel of the game" and mannerisms change as you go up the IT ladder.

As you climb up the ladder, you have to start developing some proper IT project management skills which means talking to business people. At the mid-level IT investments must be aligned with business objectives and skill-sets typically become more finance-like with an emphasis on budgetary controls and internal rate of return calculations.

At this stage the "feel of the game" changes. Your mannerism become more formal. Language patterns become based on simple plain English. At the stage some IT Project managers also change their appearance because they start to wear more expensive watches to try to match their business counterparts. At this stage, if you are stuck at the NCC Diploma level, taking project management training only gives you the skills to do the work but not the mannerisms required to get a "feel of the game", which is why project management remains predominantly a game for University degree holders.

( But do not be dismayed, as cultural capital can be earned over time )

As I transition into a legal career, the "feel of the game" changes even further. While SMU has equipped me with the skills of being lawyer, I have to develop new forms of cultural capital to navigate this Brave New World which Law School has not prepared me for.

Hanging around in family court, perhaps I am a little over sensitive when I noticed a subtle war going on between different counsel. The women are trying to outdo each other with their handbags. For the men, perhaps the weapons of war are their watches, which is the only politically correct jewellery that men are allowed to wear.

Even more fascinating is the use of language. I doubt you can taken seriously even if you employ the simple English taught in schools. I observe some occasional Shakespeare thrown in to written documents (But always in a subtle manner). The manner of speech in legal work is elegant and rich with metaphors. It's no accident as lawyers typically from the Arts stream in Junior College and many have Drama and Debating experience.

While most engineers would not even have the time to build up the cultural capital to enter a new industry sector, I was fortunate in that I spent 3 decades of my life playing  Dungeons & Dragons which never allowed us to create artificial barriers between the Arts and the Sciences. You need to understand the the statistical properties of a fireball spell but you also need to have a firm grasp of how matriarchal society like the Drow would function in Menzoberranzan to have a great gaming session.

A few weeks ago, a very senior old lawyer used the word "Amanuensis" in an email, it was hilariously intimidating. This would drive most of us, including lawyers, to look it up in a dictionary. I was exposed to the word because Amanuensis in D&D was a Wizard spell to summon a disembodied scribe to copy a scroll or spellbook into another document. So I was able to guess that the word meant some kind of scribe.

Sadly, cultural capital cannot be earned overnight. There is no cryptocurrency which can speculate to up your stash for Bourdieu-coins.

But if you wanna mine for Cultural Capital, playing D&D might help.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Equity Management #17 : More random thoughts on margin investing.

Here's an update.

This week on Wednesday the kind folks of Maybank Kim Eng bought me and two other finance bloggers to lunch to apologise for the margin call made on my account.

( As I was the only guy who got margin called, I accused the other bloggers of getting a free meal out of my misery ! )

The lunch was somewhat hipsterish -  we ate octopus at this place called Venue by Sebastian. The highlight of the session if not so much the free food but just how surprisingly insightful the folks of Maybank are.

I always thought that most of the finance folks you meet in the industry are the run of the mill guys who can spout finance after passing a few CMFAS exams.  It takes personal effort to read finance literature and even very "smart" guys who claim to be in the know will just talk about about becoming the next Warren Buffett. It was a really enlightening meal.

This article shares some random thoughts about margin investing :

a) Brokerage firms can't promote margin investing as much as they'd like.

I learnt that actually our local regulators are quite wise and proactive in preventing the promoting of margin trading because it induces folks buy stocks that they can't afford. We agreed that this point that this is a good idea because the traditional idea behind margin investing is to buy penny stocks and magnify capital gains.

Only a small minority will use margin trading to magnify yields and minimise trades. It's almost up to us financial bloggers to talk about responsible leverage investing without any inducement from corporate firms.

b) Lifecycle Investing by Ian Ayres and Barry Nalebuff

This was the clincher that convinced me that there are seriously smart folks in Maybank Kim Eng.

Their staff mentioned this book which I read quite a while ago about why, for younger folks, it may be wiser to use some amount of leverage to magnify stock market returns. The book is mathematically rigourous in their approach but it was unable to induce me into action then because I still felt that it was safer to reach financial independence first before even thinking about looking at margins.

I strongly suggest that readers consider reading this book before even getting into margin trading to understand that a more deliberate approach to magnifying gains can be designed to speed up your journey into financial freedom. I'm going to see if there is a way to squeeze this book into my next talk in July.

c) Some preliminary numbers on the risk of default.

I was digging up some of my previous backtest results from the talks I gave last year and found that for most of my dividend screens, whether they are for dividend stocks or REITs, I am looking at a standard deviation of around 12% after a decade long backtest (I use the square root of semivariance). So if you project a return of 9%, a 2-standard deviation event will set you back around -15% and this has a probability of around 2.5% of happening. My backtest for dividend stocks in 2016 had annual returns of 17%.

So this is a strong case for my margin ratio of 200% as I will need a massive drop of 30% to trigger a margin call, this is mathematically expected to occur in less than 1 out of 40 years.

Of course, I just need to beware of the fat tails that I've not been able to mathematically model. Unless you are Nicholas Taleb and have your own prime broker, you are not likely to survive a Black Swan event anyway.

d) Mental accounting and margin trading account.

Investment Moats asked me why don't I just have a unified trading account with a margin facility. I replied that its because I have a mental accounting bias.

In this case, it is justified because Maybank can offer 2.88% interest on 200% leverage so I have to go through the process of opening a new account. I just met an old friend today who claimed that if I go with him on DBS Treasures, I might be able to get financing at merely 1.6% but I can only leverage up to an additional 50%-70%. I guess different providers will come up with a different scheme to attract investors.

At the end of the day, a margin trading account is aspirational and you should not be trying to pay off your basic expenses using leverage. A portfolio that pays the bills should not employ leverage.

For now, I doubt I would recommend that anyone start margin trading without a portfolio backing them up that is ten times the size of the margin account.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Investors Exchange 2017 : 50 Shades of Dividends Investing !

Investor-ExchangeImage result for 50 shades handcuffs

I'm really excited to talk about our next event which will feature 7 speakers and last one entire Saturday afternoon on 29 July 2017. This event will be the first time BigScribe would be selling tickets for 250+ seats.  You can place your order through this link.

This time round, I'm really excited to be on the same panel as Teh Hooi Ling, who is currently the President of Aware and my super-senior in the NUS Masters of Applied Finance programme. I have to admit that I am the fan boy this time and I have all of Teh Hooi Ling's books.

For this upcoming talk, I probably am the most light-weight among the speakers because I do not come from the finance industry and do not manage money professionally.I will try to balance my talk between two extremes : One one hand, I will talk about financial independence and my personal investing journey but I expect the folks want to show up for the hardcore investing bits so on that aspect I hope not to disappoint the audience.

As of today, I have only started building the outline of my talk and you should expect the same intellectual rigor that I apply to all my presentations.

For the hardcore aspects of my talk. We should be covering the fundamentals of dividends investing, key asset classes that deserve consideration if you are interested in investing for dividends. I will also cover in detail of the more interesting statistical properties of dividend stocks and, depending on what my findings are from my next appointment with a Bloomberg terminal, how you can super-charge a dividends investing portfolio with leverage.  ( Because now I know ! )

For the softcore aspect of my talk, I will try to weave a story about how consumption is evolving and how you may be able to achieve your savings goals with much more class than perhaps during my time when I was trying to save for my financial future.

The unifying theme for my entire presentation is, of course, based on 50 Shades of Grey and how to break free from a brutally savage corporate master.

The most light-weight speaker must overcompensate with the most alluring and seductive theme for this upcoming event. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Spending that counts - What we know from the latest surveys on the rich.

I am currently reading The Sum of Small Things : A Theory of the Aspirational Class by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett and it looks like I would have to update some of my thoughts on saving and spending to the latest findings of social science research.

Apparently, it is no longer cool to get into conspicuous consumption. Rich people no longer show off their expensive fashion and toys. Because the middle-class can consistently use credit to purchase the trappings of material wealth, the rich in the US are moving onto other things to maintain their social and cultural distance from the hoi-polloi. This trend has gotten the progressives particularly worried because the rich are no longer spending in a stupid and flashy manner and almost every dollar now is being put to increase income inequality in Western societies.

I will just share three things the aspiration class are spending on these days to maintain their social economic status. If you are observant enough, you will be able to find that financial bloggers also tend to spend very tactically within these three categories :

a) Labor-Intensive expenditure

The first category care utility driven rather than status driven. The new rich prefers to spend on things to give them more time.

The rich has maids to assist them in house-work and childrearing. Some even pay to have people do the gardening for them or to walk their dogs. The aggregate effect of buying time with money means that they have more time to spend either making more money or quality time with their kids. Social scientists are now detecting ( to their dismay ! ) more quality time wealthy individuals are spending with their children.

Even in Singapore, sociologists are detecting that richer families tend to believe in more filial piety.

b) Experience-driven expenditure

The second category are non-utility driven but also non-status driven expenses. Travel comes into this category but I can imagine many kinds of expenditure of this category which does not result in much travel. Some blogger friends have been very public about the staycations they pay for. Even I would be going on a staycation after my internship in early July.

I do not really agree with the author that travel and experiential goods are non-utility driven. Doing charity work in Lhasa may be something nice to put in a resume to distinguish yourself from other candidates. In the age of Instagram, being able to relax next to the beach is no longer something you get to keep to yourself.

But you can't deny that money being spent on experiences is going up over the next few years.

c) Consumption that counts

The third form of consumption which scares the living crap out of liberals is that the rich is starting to buy things that really count. From time spend attending seminars to subscriptions of the New Yorker and The Economist. Wealthy women, already very well read compared to their less-educated peers, are spending more effort breastfeeding their children ensuring that their children gets a huge jump over their peers.

This blog supports category (C) the most because, individually, investments that really count cost very little money but may require years of education and study to exploit fully and will pay dividends over hundreds of years as your children gain a permanent heads up over their peers.

What does this mean for the big picture ?

Rich people will stop acting rich. They will retain ways to signal to each other their social economic status but they will stop inflicting psychic damage to attract the envy of the middle class.

But income inequality and social mobility will suffer even more once the rich learn to invest their time and money properly.

Friday, June 16, 2017

One thing modern workers need to do to stop digging their graves.

This is going to be a short article as I look forward to paying off some sleep debt.

Once of our upcoming talks in August was supposed to be lifelong learning but for very valid reasons, it did not pan out, so we will probably be going ahead with something else later this year.

I've done some preliminary readings on lifelong learning for my own benefit and discovered this insight about lifelong learning which is not shared public about - you need some degree of career mobility to benefit from lifelong learning.

For lifelong learning to really benefit a worker, he needs to be able to effect a change in his/her work environment to exploit his new  skills. At the personal level, I was somewhat a negative example of this insight. After getting a Masters in Applied Finance and passing all my CFA exams, my IT career was doing rather well and I never really did make the switch into a finance role. I do not have much regrets because I was able to derive an alternative income by building my own portfolio.

A lot of other workers are not so lucky. If you are over your 40s and struggling to pick up some new qualifications note that the research shows that the odds of you being able to exploit your newfound learning is limited. To test out your new skills, you might have to jump ship but the career mobility of a 40-something worker is somewhat limited so the odds of increasing your income from lifelong learning is also limited. The research paper has recommended that the government make it their role to provide career mobility for middle-aged lifelong learners.

So the modern worker must begin lifelong learning at a younger age and not wait for too long to begin developing cutting edge skills which are suited for tomorrow's corporate environment.

Which leads to another problem - You need to make time to pick up new skills !

Workers of the future may need to look for corporate cultures which release them from work on time so that they can invest in their own human capital by picking up new skills and keeping up with the industry. Otherwise, workers will become sitting ducks while being employed and may even  waste too much of their own time developing non-transferable skills that can only be used in one corporate setting.  It only takes the next technological change to render them obsolete.

In this aspect, multinationals continue to be attractive relative to SMEs.

Multinationals are also more exclusive and can afford to be selective based on paper qualifications.

At the end of the day, you can't really blame local graduates for only wanting to work for the biggest and most elite international firms.

Its a valid survival strategy.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Equity Management #16 : Troll Portfolio.

It is interesting that some folks who I did not expect to follow my blog are observing this margin trading experiment so here's another update :

Apparently the good folks of Maybank Kim Eng do read my blog and called me up to apologize for the "mistaken" margin call. They also told me that they were not sharing email accounts and my broker did make a mistake and triggered the margin call on Saturday.

I took their word for it because my problem is solved and the system is reflecting my margin numbers correctly. I'm also very forgiving because I am borrowing at only 2.88%, smart readers might wanna hop in after I help these guys even out their operational kinks but the choice is yours.

So let's  recap what a margin ratio is :

Margin Ratio = ( Value of shares pledged + Value of shares bought using margin financing ) / ( Amount of financing - Cash collatateral pledged )

In my case, I bought about $20,000 of shares and put in $10,000 of collateral.

Starting Margin ratio = ( $20,000 )  / ( $20,000 - $10,000 ) x 100% = 200%

Suppose I lose 30% of my REIT portfolio a few weeks later  and the value of my stocks dip to $14,000.

Margin ratio = ( 14,000 ) / ( $20,000 - $10,000 ) x 100% = 140%

This is the exact amount that triggers a margin call from Maybank and they will write to me to ask for a cash top-up or they will sell off my portfolio.

As such, your margin ratio is somewhat like the number of hit points like in an RPG game. If it dips below 140%, you suffer a margin call which is the equivalent to making a death save in D&D.

Because every quarter my portfolio will generate some dividends into my account, I hope that this would gradually increase my margin ratio over time.

For RPG players, this portfolio behaves like a D&D troll without a maximum hit point cap. Ignore it for a while and it will recover lost hit-points over time. But I guess we'll find out about that aspect of margin trading soon enough as I might face even more operational issues by then.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

It gets worse - I got margin called after one day of trading !

This is so hilarious, I must share what happened to me yesterday for everyone to read.

Yesterday at around 1pm, I received an email from Maybank-Kim Eng telling me that I got a margin call. In that email, I was told that can either pony up $7k or they will sell off $22k of my shares.

I've only traded for a day. With a cash collateral of $10,000, I bought about $22k of REITs and even made $60 on the first day and I received a margin call a day after that ?!?!?

The news almost gave me a heart attack.

At around 3pm yesterday, my broker wrote me back telling me that it was a mistake and nothing needs to be done on my side. Apparently, a colleague was allowed to use the broker's name ( I'm not even sure this is ok from a compliance perspective ! )  to write to me telling me that I got a margin call even though there wasn't one.

You can imagine how disastrous this operational issue is if my broker decided to take a holiday on Monday instead and someone else decided to sell my shares - I might have lost around hundred bucks as the broker sold off my shares. Worse, my margin trading experience would have only last one day and we would never figure out what happens when dividends get declared.

I bet by now, a lot of you might think that I might be better off with another broker but I'll be sticking around at least to document my experience for your benefit. But more importantly I would still hope to achieve 2.88% for my financing costs.

I have no idea what's going to happen on Monday, but I'm tracking every communication with my brokers moving forward just in case I need to say hi to the regulators next week.

Do share a comment or two if you are a Maybank Kim Eng customer.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Inconspicuous consumption and the theory of platforms.

I felt that a recent article on AEON sums up my approach to life for the past 2 decades.

Today I'd just like to talk about platforms, why they matter in a world of inconspicuous consumption and follow up on margin trading which is causing a small stir on other financial blogs.

a) Platforms matter 

The article on inconspicuous consumption discusses new ways by which people signal social economic status. All of these approaches are fairly cheap in terms of money but can be horrendously costly in terms of time. I use a more general term of platforms when thinking about modes of inconspicuous consumption. In IT a platform can mean a class of operating systems like Windows or UNIX, on it's own it does nothing much but with applications it can power the biggest MNCs on planet earth.

Breastfeeding in the modern era is a truly super-expensive platform. The mother needs to be highly educated to understand the benefits of breastfeeding a child for a prolonged period of time ( such as  a year ) and the father needs to earn enough to cover the mother to breastfeed her child. It is way cheaper than milk formula but the time costs are super prohibitive. The benefits last a lifetime.

b) The right magazine as a platform

The Economist costs on $13.50 an issue and I buy it every other week. It's not expensive. What's expensive are the years of education required to appreciate and apply what's on the Schumpeter and Free Exchange columns. I only started reading the Economist because legal cases were dry and I needed something to relax when I was a law student. Now after having done some heavy-duty research in real life cases and starting to see repeat patterns in judgments, some Economist articles are starting to look heavy in comparison.

Reading the Economist is super rewarding. It occasionally goes beyond analysis, attempts to predict political results and they are intellectually honest when they fail. And there is the benefit of signalling to other readers of the Economist that you mean business.

Now compare this to Harvard Business Review which costs three times as much with reductionistic articles that make management leadership look like a cake walk.

c) Margin trading as a trading platform

I was alerted by fellow bloggers that a small discussion cropped up at CW8888 over my attempts to pick up margin trading. You can access the link here. As I am more of a student than a master, I prefer to just read the thread and adjust accordingly if my own investment thesis is wrong.

Margin trading is also a platform. You can open an account and not put up a margin position at all. I've demonstrated that getting a trade started can take a full week. We have yet to explore how dividends get credited into the margin and whether there are hidden charges. Even if you do not support my investment thesis, having an account on standby would be useful in another recession where you can leverage yields of up to 15+% to exploit a market recovery.

I've only has one trading day in my margin account. By any standard, I am a beginner. But what I am doing has never been recorded in any book or taught in any seminar. You need to imagine that this is not a small margin account to make coffee money, it is 1% of a fairly substantial core portfolio which can recover the full investment in dividends over 2-3 months, after which another $10,000 gets leveraged by 200% into the margin account system. No hard-earned money goes into this account. The hard-earned money from legal work goes into the core portfolio which is unleveraged.

There is also no exit over the short term from the margin account, dividends are removed after the portfolio hits a critical mass to pay off my mortgage payments so that I can relieve my CPF-OA account of monthly deductions. This will happen much later, but the dividends are fed back into home equity.

The prediction that the market will turn against me in 2018 has been well noted. I backtested a REIT portfolio and it has an approximate standard deviation of about 12-13%. A 30% drop is a two standard deviation event, I project a less than 2.5% chance of that prediction coming true.

( Please correct me if my math is wrong. )

Ok, gotta go for a wedding. Catch you guys tomorrow !

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Equity Management #15 : Finally managed to start margin trading today !

Once again, my Equity Management textbook is stuck in my condo but I'm staying at my parent's place tonight so I don't have any advanced equity investing ideas to share with everyone. Right now it seems that everyone has been very excited about the Sanli IPO that made some other financial bloggers very happy today.

I missed out the fun because I saved two quarters of dividend residuals to get my margin account started.

I sure hope that the most challenging part of the process is over.

As there is a decent chance that I would have to start all over again as a rookie in a new industry, I thought perhaps I need a new platform to take on some calculated bets on the stock-market. This time, I am trying to start a small hedge-fund like operation at home.

My first step upon rejoining a new workforce is this :

Build a separate portfolio that yields around $2200 per month at 10-14% yield after leveraging by 100%. This way I would only need a satellite $240,000 portfolio to offset a $500k plus mortgage. My core portfolio can generate around $2k excess savings a month and my new (and very low) paycheck can cover the rest. Because I have access to leverage, I am no longer under much pressure to hunt for yields above 8% which can be very risky. I can now include some 7% yielding REITS which have some amount of growth potential.

So, as of today, my first $10,000 has been committed to this margin portfolio - $230,000 left to go.

Here are the steps I took to get to this stage :

a) First I signed up with Maybank Kim Eng who sponsored my last talk.
b) As the accounts were set-up, I get my ID and pin from them after around 3-5 working days.
c) I figured out how to transfer money from my DBS account into my trading account and do just that.
d) The painful parts come at this stage, the money take days to clear and then lands in my cash account rather than my margin account. I contact the broker to ask him how to move the money into a margin account and act as a collateral. Without doing this, I have 0 limit to my margin trade.
e) It takes a further few days for the money to shift to the margin account. I had to contact the broker today after it has been delayed a couple of times.
f) The broker did something at his backend and I started trading at 4pm today.
g) Right now, I still can't see what's my margin because it will only update tomorrow at 9.30am.

I pushed my money into my account on 31st May 2017 and I made my first trade only on 8th June 2017. I still have some questions in my head :

a) Why can't I have a button to push my cash account into my margin account ?
b) Does the money from the bank always default to the cash account and I will need to call my broker to transfer it ?

( My margin account does have a different number so maybe I have to change the parameters to transfer the money. )

If some folks have gone through this process, please share your experiences and hacks in the comments section.

I will update everyone again next week on how things would have gone.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Some insights from "Rich People Problems"

This is not a book review and I am not going to spoil this story as I think that if a Singaporean wants to read a piece of fiction, he should look no further than "Crazy Rich Asian" trilogy by Kevin Kwan that's going to be made into a movie soon.  

Instead, I'm going to put my my very imaginary and non-existent "English Literature hat" and flesh out an interesting feature of Kevin Kwan's writing throughout this novel.

Kevin Kwan name-drops a lot in his works. 

Whether you think of Kevin's name dropping of world class brands and designers as a feature or a bug of his work of fiction, his description of the brands worn by characters in the story intensifies when he is describing the antagonists of the story. For example, primary villain and fashion victim Eddie Cheng wears a bespoke Sartoria Ripense suit, Corthay squirrel suede chukkas and A Lange & Sohne Richard Lange "Pour le Merite" watch ( I can't even ). 

You can actually tell when the author decides to become a lot more merciful with name-dropping when it comes to describing the protagonists of the story. Nicky Young, when referring to his cousin's wealth, jokingly asked her for a David Bowie CD compilation worth $89.99 from Amazon. Throughout the novel, the good guys brands demonstrated either some understated style or was a beneficiary of something experiential rather than material. 

Here is an example of something that many financial bloggers talk about - When a choice presents itself when spending money, always choose an experience rather than a material good. Another words, between a round the world trip and a car, choose the round the world trip. This is the new orthodoxy amongst the new generation of consumers. 

Actually, I've been quite bothered by this rule of thumb for quite a while. If you observe the Instagram postings of your millennial friends, how many sunsets or unicorn rainbow shake pictures does it take to drive an average person into depression ? Furthermore, computer games are probably one of the more addictive forms of experiential goods. 

In this case, a good piece of fiction might contain novel solutions which have yet to be found in social science journals. As it happens, some of the most precious objects given to the protagonists of the story contain an interesting back story. In this particular story, a pair of earrings given to Rachel Chu hinted at a very interesting story of her grandmother in law during World War II which was pivotal to the resolution of the entire story arc.

So perhaps the material-experiential spending model is incomplete. 

Advising folks to spend money on experiences may end up encouraging hours spent on World on Warcraft or cracking the next boss on Dark Souls III. Computer games are a class of experiences which are capable of allowing a person to achieve a state of flow for a modest subscription fee.

I think a better model would be material-experiential-existential.  Next time ask yourself :

  • What is the meaning of this purchase ? 
  • Does buying this product or service say anything about your personal identity and what you stand for ? 
  • Does it give you a meaningful level or achievement or allow you to leave a legacy for others ?

At this point, it is entirely possible that computer games are still a worthy investment because it gives people a level of achievement and meaning that real life simply cannot allow some people to attain. 

Once we get to the point where people prefer to find meaning in the virtual rather than the real, we will be in serious trouble. 

Friday, June 02, 2017

What can we learn from Male Gaming Hermits ?

This is probably the only local financial blog which talks about the latest phenomenon in the US that may already be a mainstream lifestyle in Singapore.

Young males, especially those without tertiary qualifications, are not just refusing to settle down and have families; they are withdrawing from society, living with their parents and trying to spend as much time playing computer games as possible. The current crop of computer games are highly immersive and addictive. One example is Horizon Zero Dawn with cybernetic dinosaurs and another is the Zelda game on the Nintendo Switch platform.

Academics are working furiously to study this phenomenon. When lowly educated males become unemployed in the US, a large proportion of their time gets re-allocated to playing computer games whereas women would simply devote more time for their families. Labour participation amongst these class of blue-collar males have to recover from the GFC.

More interestingly is that economists now consider gaming to be leisure luxuries. Consider a product like pornography - the more time you spend watching it, the less you want to continue to watch it, so it generates diminishing returns when you exchange your time to watch it. ( Interest wanes typically after ejaculation. )  

Games are the opposite of porn. As it turns out, playing games like Skyrim and Horizon Zero Dawn makes you want to play more games. As computer games become more sand-box driven like Skyrim and addictive, virtual reality will be more rewarding than reality. I can imagine the next Opium War being fought over computer games in the next 20-30 years.

The academic writing on this can be found on a Google search but I did not seek permission to cite their writing.

What I did immediately after these series of article is that I stopped PC gaming altogether.

Eric Barker's Barking up the Wrong Tree is so good, I am contemplating doing up a series on it after I am done with Equity investing. We can turn gaming to our advantage by gamifying our real lives.

WNGF is a framework designed by gamification guru Jane McGonigal. I am now trying to incorporate the WNGF framework for my upcoming talks.

  • An initiative must be Winnable. At least for the rest of 2017, until I start my training contract, I want to give financial talks in every BIGS event.  That's if the directors will continue to lt me do it. I win if I get to give a talk. 
  • The initiative must be Novel. Each talk I give will be unique, thoroughly researched, and one of it's kind in this commercial space. I have refrained from recycling my slides so far.
  • There has to be Goals. I will target every talk that I have been invited to speak for, my goal is a sold out crowd which have so far been met because we are reasonably priced and have small venues. I'm not sure whether we can sell out our next talk because it will be BIG.
  • There has to be Feedback. We now have a feedback forms for all our events, I also make it a point to answer questions which we did not fare so well in during Q&A.
So there you have it. 

I've practically quit PC gaming and made BIGS my next gaming platform.

Our next talk is in July, marketing will begin later so I hope to catch you then !