ACJC Fun O Rama 2008

Fun O Rama, is a Fun Fair held by ACJC Students once in 2 years. Basically it is a one day event where students set up game stalls, haunted houses, food stalls and AC gifts stalls to raise funds for the school. During my year, my class managed 6k if I am not wrong. Cannot really remember the numbers.  

The above picture is the traditional Dunking Machine! And the Principal is ready to be DUNKED!

Check out the Crowd! I have been to 4 Fun O Ramas, and they have all been crowded. Thank goodness it did not rain, at least when I was there. I wish I could go up to one of the classrooms and take a photo to have a birds eye view of the crowd.

Fun O Rama is also about meeting up with old friends. Manage to catch up with lots of my ex-class mates, found out that one of them is getting married! Joel, my best wishes to you and your future wife!  

Also met up with my room mates in Boarding School. One of them is MediaCorp Artist Nat Ho! He is my room mate when I was Sec 2. A very humble and down-to-earth guy.

Anyway, it was a great day of catching up with my old friends. On top of that, reminicing those good old days! I do miss school! Thinking back of those days, even as I was very active in competitive Squash, but I really hope I have done more CCAs, like trying out drama and choir. <deep sigh> 

And as the famous ACS saying goes,

THE BEST IS YET TO BE!

Employees fighting a losing war against Inflation?

Inflation has been a hot topic recently. It has affected many businesses and more recently the end user – you and me.

To sustain business, business owners (Employers)

1 Fight to keep a competitive price. This can be achieved by “Lean”-ing their operations, eg: Reducing Operating Cost, change design and material, outsourcing, retrench, etc.

2 Differentiate their products. This can be achieved in different areas like quality, reliability, customization, after-sales services, innovation, etc.

3 Passing on the extra cost to their customers, whom later will pass on to their customers, so on… If the first 2 options failed, usually this final option will be used.

So how does an employee fight inflation?

1 Keep “Operating cost as low as possible

Is that possible? Live further away from work places. Eg: Punggol? Reduce cost of entertainment, Eg: Less movies, Less Fine Dining, etc. I find it very difficult for an employee to cut its “Operation Cost”, especially on necessities like Housing, Transportation & Food. Cutting cost at the expense of Standard of Living is also not very popular as Lifestyle is especially difficult to change when it comes to Lowering of Standard of Living. 

2 Passing on the extra cost to its customers

Is that possible? Very often businesses can increase the price of its products and services as this is completely under the owner’s control. What about an employee? Unfortunately, an employee does not have the right to increase the “price” of the service he/she offers. Employees can re-negotiate the for a new contract, but in reality, Employers tend to give pay raises only when he has the budget to do so, or the employee is providing services that can bring in extra revenue. Then again, employers only pay their employees enough to keep them working. Inflation is out of the equation. 

3 Differentiating our products 

I notice many of my peers (Engineers & Engineering Undergrads) are “re-inventing their services” to bring in more “Revenue” by switching to higher dollar valued services like jobs in the banks etc. Of course, here we do not take into account of the “Cost” which can include intangible items.

But what I want to conclude is, are employees fighting a losing “war” against inflation?

When fighting against Inflation, Employer can pass on their cost to customers. Employees cannot, as we are the end user. Fog eg: A Designer’s operating costs are all end-user items: Housing, Food, Entertainment, etc. But the services they provide needs to be sold to the Marketing & Sales Department, which in turn is sold to Contractor X which in turn packages it and sells it as a HP printer to the end user – You and Me.

So what strategy can employees use to triumph against Inflation? Do we simply give in? Or is there no other way, than to change profession for more revenue (regardless of cost)? or transform to become an employer?

Before ending this post, I wanted to vent some of my frustrations against Inflation. This is what this post is about anyway. And it seems to be higher than the 7% inflation mentioned in the newspapers.

Housing: 16% increease

Half a year ago, I was renting a room in Tampines for S$430 a month. Now, I cannot get a room for less than S$500 in Tampines region.

Transportation: 45% increase

About half a year ago, before the Taxi Hikes, Taxi from Tampines to Town cost me ~S$22 at 8pm. Last week about 8pm, I paid ~$32.

Dining: 28% increase

A decent meal for 2 in a Restaurant on a Saturday night 1 year ago would cost me $30 – $40. Recently, at the same restaurant, this would cost me $40 – $50.

Breakfast: 25% increase

I eat “Dou Hua” at least 2 times a week for breakfast. The uncle at the Tampines stall has been selling me 80cents, till 2 weeks ago. It really shocked me. I am paying $1, or 25% more, for my bowl of “Dou Hua” today.

Cost of Financial Freedom

Achieving Financial Freedom, has been many people’s dream. But At What Cost?

I always know that I need to save money, invest money and make my money work harder for me. But do I know how much I need to save and invest? 

Here is a spreadsheet, to calculate the Cost of my Financial Freedom, in 6 Steps!

This spreadsheet takes into account of inflation and time value money, in an attempt to make this calculation as realistic as possible.

Download the Spreadsheet here, and Try it! And let me know your feedback.

The results simply blows me away. And I realized that Inflation does make Life Very Difficult! To live the kind of lifestyle that I envisioned and achieve Financial Freedom (Assets are able to create enough passive income to sustain my lifestyle) at the age of 40, I will need to start investing $4500 per month at a Return of Investment of 10% per annum, starting NOW till I am 40. For 35, that would be $8000 per month! These figures assume a constant Inflation of 3% per year. Without Inflation, those figures will be $2200 and $4400 respectively.

Well, and of course, that begs the question, is what I am working on now going to bring me anywhere near Financial Freedom?

And, if we are to make a drastic change to our career/lifes now, is it worth paying the cost of our financial Freedom?

Just some Fruit for Thought!

Amazing A320 Landing!!! A Narrow Escape!!!

“A Lufthansa Airbus A320 aircraft nearly crashed landed, after winds of more than 150mph caused a plane to sway to one side, so much so that the left wing GRAZED THE GROUND!” source 

Watch this video! Personally, I am glad I am not on this flight. And Great Job PiloT!!!

Porter Ellett – The one arm Basketball Player

This story is about character, determination & the attitude of a champion.

Porter Ellett lost his right arm in an accident when he was a young boy.  He helped his school win a state title in baseball and is now leading the basketball team in the playoffs. From his previous match, he has 16 of his team’s 50 points, with steals, rebounds and a blocked shot. His coach, Kade Morrell, calls him a natural leader for the team.” source

From the video (you can watch it from here), you can see a steal followed by a lay-up, with JUST ONE ARM!! It is really inspiring to see someone fighting and rising above ‘dis-ability’ with such character and at such age – showing that with enough character and determination, anyone can be a champion! 

Hats off to you, Mr Ellett!

Stop and Think

Am I ‘Alive’?

Am I living someone else’s life?

What I am writing now, has been discussed by many people, and there has been many great literature published on this topic. My personal favorites are Steven Covey’s Seven Habits, Steve Job’s Stay Hungry & Stay Foolish, and more recently Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture.

Why Stop and Think?

I have read Seven Habit’s 4 years ago. I experienced the ‘paradigm shift’. Around the same period of time, I read Steve Job’s Stay Hungry & Stay Foolish speech. I knew I had to find what I love to do.

4 years later, which is now, I realize that 7 habits had positive impact over my past 4 years, but no where near how I envisioned it to be. And I am no where close, and does not seem to be moving closer to living my ideal life. What is going on?

I have short term goals (Fulfill my obligations as an employee, Financial Goals, etc) and I work hard towards them. These short term goals; are they society’s expectation of me, or is it truly what I want in life? I do get confused sometimes. Quoting from 7 habits, we can be very efficient, but not effective. I can be climbing a ladder very fast, but does this ladder get me to where I truly want to go?

I guess most of us live in an environment where we are constantly striving to live up to the expectation of our society, family and friends. We have been trained to do that since young. We are so busy fulfilling these expectations that we forget to look inside. What are my expectations for myself? What do I want to do with my time on earth?

I was talking to my friend the other day, catching up with each others lives. It suddenly hit me that I knew (with some certainty) where my life’s goal post is, but I am not running towards it. Its frightening to know that I am currently moving along with the flow. Even more frightening, this flow will not bring me any nearer to my goal post. The further I move, I realize it is going to be tougher for me to get out of the flow, and to live life the way I want to do it. And it really hit me pretty hard. Wake up Sunbear!

So, this post is written and posted to constantly remind myself:

Before I continue being effecient, Stop & Think! Be Effective!

And I hope this post will prevent others from falling into the same trap I am falling into, because it is always easy to live in comfort zone, and to follow the flow.

My Singapore Dream

Stage 1 – I was 15 years old.

 

I started my quest for The Singapore Dream at the age of 15. I studied very hard to do well in exams. My dream is to get into Singapore’s university.

 

Stage 2 – I was 19 years old.

 

From where I come from, there are no equal opportunities for tertiary education. When I received a letter from NUS, awarding me a scholarship to study in Singapore with 3 years of bond, I thought, “This is the best day of my life.”

 

I did not know what I want to be in the future. I have yet to find my place in this world. But that is secondary. My dream for the next 4 years is to keep my scholarship, and get a degree scroll that will get me a job to live comfortably.

 

So I chose a course which I am confident I can do well providing that I put in lots of hard work. During the 4 years of my tertiary education, I studied hard, practiced past year papers, I chose courses that are easy to score and I did well in exams. I graduated with an honors degree, which did get me a decent job.

 

Stage 3 – I was 23 years old.

 

I became a Singapore PR because I wanted to get extra 14.5% into my CPF account, and I want to be able to switch jobs as and when I like without worrying about maintaining an employment pass in Singapore.

 

Renting a 3m by 3.5m room in a HDB flat (which is costing me more and more), and spending 2 hours on public transport (which is also costing me more and more), I feel miserable. I dream of living in condo and driving a car – the two Cs.

 

So, I invested most of my time in work.

 

Stage 4 – I was 25 years old.

 

After 2 years in the workforce, I started to do some math together with my wife (whom is living the same dream). A condominium will cost us at least S$1m. We do not have such money. Loaning S$1m from a local bank with 3.8% interest over 30 years, we will both need to fork out S$4700 every month (on top of CPF OA). We both have a combine income of S$7000 per month. 20% of our salary is already deducted for CPF, and if we use up 67% to repay our loan every month, we are left with S$910 to live a month. Not a good choice.

 

So I figured that I will buy a HDB flat using my CPF, since I will not be able to touch these sum of my hard earned money till I am 55 when I withdraw my PR and pledge not to work in Singapore anymore. I did not want to borrow money more than my monthly CPF OA can pay. My calculations tell me that our CPF OA (me and wife) has a monthly input of S$1600. With S$1600 of monthly installment, we were able to borrow S$350,000. So, we selected a 3 bedroom HDB flat at Marine Parade which cost us S$360,000. I thought, “Now we can spend our take home pay elsewhere, Good Choice!”

 

We spent it on maintaining a car – S$1500 a month. Our standard of living cost us – S$1500 a month. Annual Vacation and other indulgence – S$1600 a month We put S$1000 onto investments.

 

Stage 5 – I was 30 years old.

 

I have 2 kids, my monthly expenditure went up. Also, I want to provide top class University Education to them in 15 to 20 years. It is expected that Tertiary Education cost will be about S$100,000 for a degree over 4 years. To save up S$200,000 in 20 years, each month I set aside S$500 at a 5% annual rate of return.

 

Now, with our increase in monthly expenditure, we no longer have any savings, and no longer earn enough to maintain a car (rising fuel prices, CoE and ERP). No car, no condo.

 

So, we both decided to work harder for our promotion and pay rise.

 

To focus our efforts to bring home the money, we hired a maid to take care of our children.

 

Stage 6 – I was 40 years old.

 

My kids are older now. I spend most of my time doing work and do not spend enough time with them. I compensate my lack of time by providing them the best possible standard of living. I upgraded my flat so they can each have their own room. Now, I owe the bank even more money, and have to fork out a monthly loan repayment.

 

I realize that I do not have any passive income. My lifestyle, my flat, my car, my children’s education etc. depends heavily on my wife and my job. We cannot afford to loose our jobs.

 

Our objectives for the past 10 years were to work hard to secure our income which is our jobs. And it seems like that will be our objective for live. We have lost our freedom.

 

No time to spend with our teenage children, no time for our ageing parents, no time for sports, no time for friends. Weekends are either for work, or for recuperation – to prepare myself for the next week.

 

Stage 7 – I was 45 years old.

 

My skills became obsolete. I was retrenched. And a series of problems suddenly fell into place.

 

I finally had time to reflect.

 

45 years of lifetime has passed, what have I done? What have I achieved as a person?   

I realized that I have become part of a system, spending my time and energy to fulfill society’s expectation of me. A robot with no dreams.

 

What are my dreams? How can I make a difference to the people that matters most to me?

 

Is it too late for a change?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Which Stage of life am I at now? Is my life a script that is already written for millions of people? Is this what I want?

 

Stop & Think!

 Disclaimer: The above story is completely fictional. If any events or character in the above story is similar in any way to any real life events, it is completely coincidental.