COVID-19 & Your Investment Portfolio

The past couple of weeks have been the most insane period many investors have ever witnessed. The media has done a great job reporting it, there’s a lot of information out there. A lot of us are concerned and we should be concerned.

However, at times like these, we need to examine the facts. The fact is that COVID-19 is an event. It’s not structural, it’s not fundamental. And because it’s an event, we have to look back in history and we know how events like recessions eventually turn out. It’s not an “L” chart – markets don’t get knocked down and stay stagnant. But rather, it is a “U” or a “V”.

What you need, is to be very vigilant about your risk budget – making sure that you’re taking appropriate level of risk always make sense, especially in times of heightened volatility and the volatility we see now is probably going to continue. I believe we may possibly be down as much as 50% from the highs, similar to the financial crisis of 2007-08.

At this point you may question – why don’t I just get out and then get back in? Well, two reasons:

  1. First of all, you can be wrong. (I’ve learnt this the hard way at the beginning of my career.)
  2. Secondly, you would really have a hard time getting back in and the market does whatever it needs to do to prove people wrong.

Stock market volatility is akin to a roller coaster ride, it is dangerous for investors to unstrap themselves suddenly during the ride. Instead, during this period, it is advisable for investors to stay strapped in (invested) and average down the costs of investments in order to benefit when markets go up again.

To this day, I see people who got out in 2009 and never got back in – they missed a complete 10-year bull market. Warren Buffett has said, “The stock market is a device for transferring money from the impatient to the patient.”

And why will the markets go up again?

Historically whenever a recession happens, all of us – billions of human beings worldwide – always put in the collective effort needed to bring up our global economy again. 

In fact, governments are now doing all they can to ride us through this storm. The Federal Reserve has cut interest rates down to 0 – 0.25% to support America’s biggest corporations in meeting liquidity needs. The Bank of England has announced a similar plan. The International Monetary Fund has also pledged to mobilize its USD1 trillion lending capacity to help nations counter the outbreak.

So, don’t get caught up in the short-term emotion and the noise. Take care of yourself. Take care your family. And if you have an investment portfolio with me, rest assured that I’m paying attention to your portfolio during this period. If it needs to be re-balanced (when your equity-to-bond ratio shifts 20% or more), I will contact you promptly for a discussion.

Simple Financial Tips That Can Make A Difference

tips2018 has certainly flew by and wow.. we’re going into March already? Perhaps now is a good time for us to do a stock-take on our money. Here is a couple of tips on how to keep more money in your wallet this year.

1. Don’t Do Mental Accounting When Building Your Budget
Mental accounting means the behavioural thinking of having different piles of money for different reasons. You might have a “jar” that says this is for emergencies or a vacation, and you’re putting money in there every month – at close to zero interest rate.

Then you also have a credit card debt. You mentally classify it as a different thing and pay your debt with income each month.

Financially, this doesn’t make much sense. Money is fungible, it really is all the same. You shouldn’t have a jar with money sitting in it that’s getting no interest or growth while you still have credit card debt.

The solution is to think about all your money as the same. People like to put cash in different buckets for different reasons, but that’s mental accounting and we need to overcome that hurdle.

2. Prepaying your mortgage
Some people add a little extra to their monthly payments to pay the loan off faster. This brings up a common question – is this a good use of the extra cash?

With current mortgage rates at under 4%, you should not be prepaying your mortgage. In fact, mortgages have really low interest rates and are designed for long periods of payments, and you should stick to that payment.

Prepaying it means you are giving up opportunity to use that money elsewhere – whether it’s paying off credit card debt or just investing it, putting it aside for retirement. If you’d be getting 8% returns on your long-term investments, why put your money in something that’s only 4%?

So from a financial planning standpoint, it’s not a good strategy. Nonetheless, people feel comfortable doing that. I know you want to feel like you’re paying off the house faster, but resist if you can.

Brexit: What Should I Do with My Portfolio?

Brexit_orig

Since the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23 June, global markets and currencies have reacted negatively to the uncertainty, with a significant falls across all major equity markets. The British pound fell to a three-decade low against the US dollar – its biggest one-day fall on record. Markets are likely to remain volatile until it becomes clear what Brexit will mean for the UK and the rest of the EU.

What does all this mean for your portfolio? Clearly, no one knows for sure. But no matter how markets react in the next few months, you should follow this advice: Don’t let fear of the unknown – or your emotions  make your investing decisions for you.

Why we let emotions drive our investments. We tend to be controlled by our emotions regardless of circumstances. We become overly excited and ready to invest at the worst possible times. And when it comes to deciding how to invest, we often rely on poor advice, a hunch or worse – speculation we heard on the news or the radio. On the other hand, we sometimes let our fears and emotions keep us out of the game altogether.

How to take the emotion out of your investment strategy. Whether you’re worried about how global events might affect your portfolio or just fearful in general, the best investment strategy is one built for the long term. In other words, once you map out a lifelong investing strategy with your financial advisor, you should have confidence in that strategy regardless of the blips you’ll endure along the way.

While it can be fun to “play” the markets, investors should refrain from playing or risking too much on a handful of bets. It is much more prudent to keep your investments boring by broadly diversifying across big and small companies, domestic and foreign companies, and between stocks and bonds.

If your portfolio is properly diversified, stay cool and await developments.

At the end of the day, investing is a game of consistency – one where the investors who take the longest approach usually win. And when it comes to emotional investing – whether out of fear or confidence – the only way to win is not to play.

Money Advice that Don’t Grow Old

Personal finances2

Many recommendations I’ve made are as applicable today as they will be in future, and they bear repeating. Here are some of the best financial moves for you to consider:

1. Understanding and managing your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about money is as important as understanding how money works. Our brains are programmed to make poor financial decisions. Exploring your money history and learning to identify your unconscious beliefs about money can change your financial behaviours forever. It is important to gain control of your finances and become comfortable using money as the valuable tool it is.

2. Building an emergency reserve to cover living expenses for three to months if you lose your job or experience a business slump is a necessity. If you are retired, having one to three years of cash available to cover living expenses can help you avoid taking money out of investments when their value has declined.

3. Retirement will happen, sooner than you think. Start early — as in the day after university graduation — and be consistent in investing at least 20 percent of your paycheck.

4. Learn to appreciate the word “budget”. Creating a way to track and manage income and expenses is an essential skill to thrive financially. Numerous free or inexpensive tools, like Mint.com and Expensify, can help.

5. Run from consumer debt. Personally, I use credit cards for almost every purchase for convenience and cash back rewards. However, it’s of vital importance to pay the card off every month, without fail.

6. A house is a home, not an investment. Don’t buy more home than you can afford, and don’t buy without a down payment.

7. No asset goes up forever. Price declines, even crashes, are part and parcel of investing. It’s essential to understand that the value of your portfolio will fluctuate. Be prepared to ride out downturns. Selling in a down market is a big mistake that will cost you dearly.

8. The fundamental strategy for managing market ups and downs is asset class diversification. This doesn’t mean having money in different banks, with different brokers, or with different fund managers. It’s about having a good balance of mutual/exchange-traded funds that invest in SG and International stocks, SG and International government bonds, real estate investment trusts, commodities and junk bonds.

9. There are no free investments. Pay attention to the fees associated with any investment, as well as how the advisor recommending any investment is compensated.

10. Pay yourself first. The most successful savers and investors I know simply take all their fixed expenses, taxes, and retirement plan contributions off their income earned, then spend the rest. This means learning to live on 30% to 50% of how much you earn. Certainly, it isn’t easy, but one of the most valuable money habits to cultivate is to save something for the future, instead of spending everything that comes in.

You may have likely heard of these pieces of advice before. There’s a reason for that: it works, and never goes out of style.

A Quick Guide To Retirement Planning

Many people work their entire lives with one goal in mind – retirement. It’s one of the most important life events that is experienced by most people.
From a personal and financial perspective, achieving an easy, well-funded retirement is a lifelong process that requires early planning and commitment to a long-term goal. Once you reach retirement age, you can then enjoy the benefits of a comfortable retirement in which you have more than enough money to cover your living costs.

Managing Your Retirement

When it comes to retirement planning, the earlier you can start in your career, the better off you will be.

The problem, however, is that most young people are not thinking about retirement. After all, when you are in your 20s or 30s, being 65 or older can seem like forever.

Even for older people, it can be daunting. While everybody would like to retire in comfort and financial security, the amount of time and complexity of creating a successful retirement plan can make the whole process somewhat intimidating.

As a matter of fact, retirement planning often can be done very easily. All it takes is a little homework, an obtainable savings and investment plan, and the long-term commitment to preparing for your retirement years.

How Much Do You Need for Retirement?

After you stop working, your expenses don’t stop. In fact, given the fact that you probably will be dealing with more health issues, they are likely to be higher.

So how much money do you actually need to fully fund a comfortable retirement? While an exact answer is impossible to give, there are some factors that should be considered:

Medical Expenses – If and when you become ill, you are going to want the top-quality medical services that are available. Most people don’t want to have to depend on charity or welfare. In Singapore, everyone is entitled to MediShield Life benefits. But this publicly funded program only covers minimal expenses. And there often is a gap between what the government will pay for and what you actually need.

Living Expenses – You are still going to have to live indoors, wear clothes, eat food, and have heat and fresh air to breathe when you are retired. All of these things cost money. Even if your mortgage is paid off by the time you retire, you are still going to have to pay property taxes, homeowners insurance, and maintenance costs.

Other Expenses – A comfortable retirement includes such non-essential expenses as entertainment, transportation costs, and other expenses that don’t fall into the other categories.

Add these all up, add the rate of inflation between now and your retirement date, and you have a general idea of how much money you are going to need for your retirement. Now all you have to is multiply that number by how long you expect to live!

Start Planning Now

Retirement planning is a process that takes decades of commitment in order to achieve the end result: The comfortable retirement you deserve. The concept of saving and investing money in a retirement fund may seem daunting, but with a few basic calculations and commitment to a realistic plan, you can achieve it.