The 2012 Cheerfulegg Review

Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joka2000/80198350/sizes/m/in/photostream/All the blogs in the world are reviewing 2012 at the moment. In summary, the world didn’t end, Obama got re-elected, the Euro crisis didn’t blow up, and most importantly, Singapore saw a record number of sex scandals. And they said Singaporeans don’t have enough sex.

So I thought it’d be a good time to do a little personal review of my own. I got this idea off Chris Guillebeau’s framework on annual reviews, which he cites as probably the best decision he’s made in terms of working towards multiple goals simultaneously (He’s probably one of the most successful bloggers around, so there’s definitely something going on there).

So this post is the first of a 2-part series on annual reviews. In this post, I’ll review 2012 and what it meant for cheerfulegg.com and for parts of my own life. I’m basing it off Chris’ methodology, and if you haven’t done a 2012 review of your own yet, I highly recommend that you give it a try.

It involves answering 2 questions:

  1. What went well this year?
  2. What didn’t go so well this year?

Yeah, I know it sounds like one of those corny-ass “After-Action Reviews” that your company is so fond of doing – I thought it was pretty lame when I first read it too. But after spending an entire day reflecting on it, I got pretty surprised by the results.

So – enough preamble.  Let’s get started.

What went well this year?

(Please don’t take this section as a bragfest. I try to be as objective and transparent as possible in any reflection and including both the good and bad stuff)

*I grew and developed cheerfulegg.com to a level that I’m pretty happy with for its one-year existence. It’s probably one of my proudest accomplishments of 2012. An idea of what this blog has managed to achieve in the past year:

  1. 71 new posts, to grand total of 77 posts since it started in Dec 2011.
  2. A post that got featured on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed section, generating a record 16,000+ views for that month, and 220+ WordPress followers.
  3. A brand new “cheerfulegg.com” domain name
  4. A cheerfulegg VIP list, which grew to 85 subscribers within a couple of months
  5. Being accepted on blog aggregators theFinance.sg and PaperBlog.com

* I developed, followed, and refined a personal finance system. Writing a book about it really helped because it forced me to solidify the ideas. It isn’t perfect yet, but it’s at a point where I’m about 80-90% satisfied. Will be sharing more of it in some publications that I’m working on.

  1. I apologize if some of you were confused by my previous posts about multiple saving and spending accounts, sometimes with different names and purposes, etc.  It was all part of a process of trying it out and making improvements to make the final version simpler and more effective for everyone. Sometimes I just had to write about it here in order to crystalize the idea.

* I successfully achieved my saving and investing goals, entirely thanks to a system of automation I set up to take care of everything.

* I introduced fixed income and Singapore asset classes into my portfolio, adding a further level of diversification. Contemplating if I should add gold in the coming year (Its historical real returns aren’t the best, but it might be a good diversifier. Check out this blog for more details. I’m still thinking about it though).

*The markets have also been pretty kind to my portfolio this year, which was really encouraging for my first full calendar year in sticking with a passive, indexed-based investment style, which has worked out pretty well thus far.

 What didn’t go so well this year?

* I severely underestimated the effort required to write a book. After spending the best part of August – November writing for three nights a week, I had a 82-page first draft, which was about 60% of my planned book. And I hated it.

It’s not terrible, but it certainly fell short of the vision I had for it as something fresh, engaging and different from the other “how to get your personal finances in order” books.  I’m still going to finish writing it, but I’m now humbled by the effort and the dedication a project like this requires. In the meantime, I’m headed back to the drawing board and I’m only going to ship it to you once I’m satisfied with it.

* I attempted to start some freelancing projects, which pretty much fell through because I couldn’t find an idea that suited me, or that I had enough time for.

* I got fatter this year. Fareals. A combination a dropping metabolic rate, a new job rotation that required me to sit at my desk for longer hours, and my focus on cheerfulegg.com and the book resulted in some serious weight gain. An exercise plan for 2013 is definitely in order. I also definitely didn’t sleep as much as I would have liked.

* I made a conscious decision to give up dance, at least for now, even though it was my entire life just 2 years back. I’ve been pursuing it as a passion for 12 years now, but I really  want to pursue new adventures with this blog and the book. With a full-time day job, it’s pretty much impossible to commit to writing AND dance at the same time after office hours. Still though, I get that twinge of longing whenever I watch YouTube videos.

 Possible goals for next year

I’ll talk more about these after I’ve finalized my plans for 2013, but 2 things that are definitely in the works are:

* Going back to the drawing board to redefine the book, interviewing people to really understand them and coming up with fresh, new ideas. Check out my room wall at the moment:

Ideation

* I now know that this is going be an ongoing process, and it might take several months or more than a year before I see some results. However, this isn’t going to stop me from shipping some stuff out for everyone who’s been waiting patiently for it.

* In the interim, I’m working on pushing out 2 mini-products in 2013 – which are a lot less complex, but still pretty damn awesome. Stay tuned for those 🙂

Happy 2013 everyone!

The First Mention of My Top-Secret Project

So I might as well be upfront about it right now: I’m writing a personal finance guide for young Singaporeans.

I honestly have no idea on how it’s gonna turn out, or how long it’s gonna take to write. But the pre-research I’ve done for the past couple of weeks from various interviews has given me some very positive results, so I’m super psyched about this project!

Before I go any further, I’d like to really understand what’s important to my potential readers. So if you’re a young Singaporean (21-35 years old) with a full-time job, or if you’re about to start working, I’d love to hear from you via this really short survey. It should take you less than 5 minutes to complete, but it would help me tremendously.

A Bonus for Your Efforts

Now, I know that most surveys are annoying to fill. So to show my appreciation, I’m creating a free gift that might be useful to you. Remember how I’m always preaching about opening a Long-Term Savings account? You’ll want this account to have as high of an interest rate as possible – because that’s where the bulk of your savings will go.

The trouble is, it can be a pain in the ass to find a bank with the right interest rate. Most banks tack on so many conditions to their accounts that it can be really hard to compare them. So… I created a Singapore Savings Account Cheatsheet that compares the interest rates and summarizes the conditions, so you don’t have to do the legwork yourself. This itself could be worth more than a hundred bucks – If you have $25,000 in savings, even a small 0.5% increase in your interest rate could mean a difference of $125 a year.

I’ll email the cheatsheet to you in a couple of days if you submit your email address and sign up for my private list in the survey.

Also, it would be supermegaawesome if you could share this survey with 3 of your friends – It’ll really help me to get better insights, which will in turn help me to write a better book for you.
Here’s the link to the survey again: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/T9BTPYS. Thanks in advance! 🙂

Death of A PC (And Why Insurance Rocks)

So yesterday, my work computer died. Like completely, irrevocably died. I tried to resurrect its poor heart by pushing “Please wake up” in Morse code on the power button, but to no avail. The damn machine remained as lively as a librarian’s toenails. It was 9.04am. May it rest it peace.

“DAMN YOU, TECHNOLOGY!!” I yelled, as lighting flashed across the sky. Okay, I exaggerate, but I was pretty damn frustrated. I really, really, really needed my computer to work this week because I’m moving departments (yay!) and needed to teach a colleague how to do my old job. If I didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to do his job well and I would just ruin things for everyone.

And so I was pretty frustrated, partly because things like computer crashes were never supposed to happen to me. They happen to people who watch porn in the office, or download music into their work computer, or don’t click the “eject” button before removing their flash drives. I didn’t do any of those things – I treated my work computer like a baby, but the damn thing still crashed on me! (If my employers are reading this: Obviously, I’ve been working way too hard. Time for a salary review?)

But after crying over the remains of my poor computer, something struck me that totally made my day – Last Friday, my colleague decided that it was a good idea to save a copy of my files onto his flash drive so that he could go through them over the weekend. The flash drive was booted onto a spare desktop, files were copied, and lo and behold, I was up and running again. THANK YOU, USB!!!!

So this incident got me thinking – you never really know what the hell is going to happen to you, do you? You could run virus scans regularly and still crash your computer. You could sweat it out on the running track 3 times a week and still die from a heart attack. You could drive slower than a granny on a tricycle, and still get hit by a speeding maniac taxi driver (which is like, all of em). Life is unpredictable as hell, and no matter how careful you are, or how much preparation you make, there will be something that you didn’t anticipate, and Murphy’s Law states that that is the exact thing that will happen.

I’m not an insurance agent (or a ‘financial planner’ as they call themselves these days – gawd, what a misnomer), but I was talking about insurance with a friend over drinks some time last year. She felt that insurance was something that was probably good to have, and something that she should look into, but it’s like preparing for one of those far-off possibilities that you could get cancer, or crippled, or die. It just seems like almost an impossibility when you’re 27. Yeah, I know, I feel that way too.

But I’ve also read the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, who talks about his theory of “black swans”. (No, I’m not talking about the Natalie Portman movie here, though that was awesome). His contention: just because you’ve seen white swans all your life, doesn’t mean that you can conclude that black swans don’t exist. Because all it takes is for you to see just one black swan, and that causes your whole theory to come crashing down. And the nature of “black swans” (the fashionable term for “low probability, high impact events”) is that they can sometimes cause some serious damage.

So just because it’s never happened before, or just because you think you’ve taken all precautions, doesn’t mean that you are completely safe. Smart, savvy and financially independent people know that anything can happen that could destroy your savings in an instant: the death of a breadwinner, a hospitalization of a loved one, or your house burning down. So they take steps to mitigate that risk by getting insurance. To be honest, you may never actually use it, so lots of people see it as throwing money away. But I’d rather shell out a little bit of money every month, to be able to sleep soundly knowing that I’m insured against the risk of wiping out my savings and investments that I’ve worked so hard to build up!

Note: I think insurance is important, but don’t get me wrong here – I’m not saying that you should run out and buy like a ridiculously expensive plan and pay $20K a month in premiums. In fact, I think the insurance industry is structured in a way that incentivizes agents to sell certain plans that may not be in the best interest of the insured – More on that later! I’ll also blog about the types plans that are the most cost-effective, while providing the protection you need. Stay tuned 🙂