Tag Archives: personal finance

Final post for the year 2017

Yesterday marked the end of the last trading day for the year. On the whole, it has been a great year even though the advancement of STI could not match that of the other markets like Dow Jones, Nikkei 225 or Hang Sheng Index. Still, it has been a decent climb of about 18%.

Looking back, it has been a good year in the backdrop of the stock market performance. It is also a year that 2x baggers or even 3x baggers touch-lines were crossed after having invested and accumulated those stocks for some time. Apart from the need for good stock selection, other essence such as patience and mental fortitude to act against times of adversity are also the necessary ingredients to make them happen. But again, life has not been without woes. Comfort Delgro did not perform as expected as it tussled between the bulls and bears the whole year long. The only saving grace has been that a huge percentage of this stock holding was purchased at an average cost of about $1.50 level many years ago and partially sold around its all-time high 2 years ago, thus providing a good cushion as the stock price fell from about $2.48 to $1.98 this year. Another was Midas Holding, which perhaps, was one of those things that we act out of character from time to time.

Taking a longer term snapshot of my stock investment journey, I would have considered that it has been a great blessing. Despite the close to nothing active income for the past 9 years, the stocks advancement had well-compensated for it. The focus on long-term goal has worked well for me to continue to accumulate stocks slowly. It has also taken a lot of pressure off unlike the younger days. This has enabled me to do and develop things that we do not have opportunities to lay our hands on while working full-time.

Perhaps, the generally low interest environment, coupled with the generally mild inflation, in the new millennium has benefitted stocks. By this time, many of us would have forgotten the hardy times when the fixed deposit (FD) rates of around 5% in the late 90s and around 10% in the early 80s. Going forward, I believe going back to the days of FD at 5% could still be some way off, but still, 2% or even 2.5% could be within striking distance in the next 2-3 years barring unforeseen circumstance.  So, to expect the stock performance for the next 2-3 years to be as good as this year would probably be too far-fetch. It could even be down significantly if the unexpected happens.

Until today, I still lament over the first 10 years of my investing journey. It all started even without knowing that a cheque-like paper attachment on a perforated A4 paper was indeed dividend from this company call Singapore Bus (a predecessor of Comfort Delgro). Unfortunately, it had been trial-and-error methodologies that lasted a good 10 years until the Asian financial crisis struck in the late 90s. The greed in me then was trying to chase every single so-called money-making opportunity that came along, attending countless hours in seminars on Saturday afternoons and weekday evenings. Still, I did not make good money in the early nineties when the stock market was red-hot and end up incurring losses when the Asian financial crisis swept across Asia in the end of 90s. In hindsight, I could have probably done much better if I had sought proper guidance and adopting strategies that suited my personality. By today, I do not attend any of these seminars or even some annual general meetings (AGMs) anymore. I think I could have spent those times to learn and improve other skills and to develop things that I can leave a legacy. That said, that was also the time of awakening that had helped laid the foundation stone that enabled me to rely on this investment mode to this day. After all, we cannot learn how to swim without drinking some pool water or learn how to cycle without falling off from a bike. There are always learning lessons no matter where we are in this journey.

Going forward, maybe it is also time to tone down on stocks and focus on other developments as stock investing may become a weary chore.

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 28 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is the instructor for two online courses on InvestingNote – Value Investing: The Essential Guide and Value Investing: The Ultimate Guide. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Two important life lessons when investing in stocks

It must have been 20 years since I attended a remisier course leading to an examination that would enable me to become a full-fledge remisier. After all, I had just completed an MBA course and, this would enable me to skip one of the two remisier modules, thus short-cutting my way to become a remisier should I chose to be one. Just like any other school-leavers after a few years of work on the same job, I was contemplating and exploring a career change. I was no rookie in stock trading (I say trading because I was really trading) at that time. By that time, I probably had already had 6-7 years of stock investing experience as a client. My personal objective to attend the course was very simple. Even if I decided not to take the examination (in the end, I did not), I might still be able to learn a one or two things about the stock-broking industry. I believe the course fees must have been about $200-$300 and the whole course was taught over a period of about 2 or 3 days (can’t exactly remember). As I have already been working for several years, it was a small sum to pay to learn something, perhaps to help me develop another career path, just in case.  After all, I had already paid or have been paying for several high-ticket items, such as my MBA course, marriage plans, housing renovations, car loans, insurances,  etc.,  and many of those things that crossed into our path after we left school. So, in comparison, it is not going to break an arm or leg to pay for the fee to attend the course.


That was a long time ago, and frankly, I had forgotten most of the things that the practice remesier taught. If you ask me today, I think the lessons were pretty boring. They were just brute facts that were to be dumped into our minds and for us to re-produce them during examinations. The hand-out notes were no better. They came in the form of a ring-bind and were about one-inch thick in black/white photocopies in fading print on half-yellowish papers and were not exactly organized. These two factors would have been an ideal condition to put one into a good sleep within the first 10 minutes after sitting down especially given the nice air-conditioning environment and after a long day’s work. But still, there were at least 30-40 eager attendees listening attentively to the lessons.  Perhaps, there were one or two key reasons for this. Firstly, at that time, all the trades have to go through a broker. Whenever we buy or sell stocks, whether they are many board lots or just one board lot, they still have to be handed by a broker or remisier, who have to physically key in our trades. So, a remisier or a broker had a very important role to play in the whole transaction process if we bought or sold securities at that time. Thus, becoming a remisier was an ideal dream that many people were trying to get their hands on. The other reason, a very important one, was that stock market at that time had been enjoying about 7-8 years of boom, except for a temporary disruption due to the 1st Gulf war in 1990. (I actually have an important lesson to share for this episode as well, but I will leave it to another session in order not to digress too much from the subject matter.) It was a lucrative career if one was able to get into it. Can you imagine each transaction of about 1% commission in just 2 minutes of telephone conversation for just one counter! After all, the memories of the great boom of the 90s around 1992 to 1994 had not faded in people’s mind yet.


The point that I wanted to make was not because of the teacher or the notes. It could even be that I had been day-dreaming in most parts of the course. But there were two points that the teacher pointed out that still had a bearing on me in all the investing years that followed. They were actually off-the-calf sharing and were not part of the lesson proper. He shared with us some stories of people (without quoting names or mention anybody specifically, of course) who became bankrupts after losing big in the stock markets.  It was demoralizing. Here, we are trying to learn something to become a remisier, and there the teacher was telling us about bankrupt stories. Perhaps, he just wanted us to be mentally prepared when we entered this industry. But still, he ended up with a positive note. Based on his personal experience, he shared with the class that there were generally two types of people that do not do too badly in stock investing. They are:

(a)    People who do not trade on contra.

(b)   Those that are “one-lotters”.  (Yes, he really said “one-lotters”.)     

At that time, I did not think much about what he said as they were just passing mentions to inject some life into the lesson.  No offence to those who play contra or on margin, I never play contra. I pay for my trades faithfully and on time. So I cannot share very much on the experience of contra. Perhaps, he was coming from a point of view as a remisier, and that he had to take on the financial risk when clients did not pay on time. However, later checks with another one or two broker seemed to confirm this point. Frankly, the purpose of checking was not to talk down or expose those who like to play on contra. I have no authority to do that. I just wanted to know how I could develop my investing character not to be along those lines that exhibited high chance of losing money. The 2nd point was more impactful for me. Apparently, he had coined the term “one-lotter”. I could not find it in an English dictionary.  He meant to class those people who only buy or sell one lot of a counter whenever they make a transaction. Previously, one board lot refers to 1,000 shares and not 100 shares as it is now.  Basically, he was referring to the fact that some people buy or sell only 1,000 shares no matter how good or how bad the market was. It suited me right from the start. Think about it, when we first graduated from school, our salary was close to $2,000 per month for a fresh graduate. Even after some years of working, it was probably $3k to $4k per month. After deducting for our CPF, provide some pocket money to parents, monthly payments for some high-ticket items, I am not sure if I could even save $500 per month in the first year or $1,000 after some years after I graduated from school. How many board lots of a counter can we really pay per trade? At most one. Even for some high-priced stocks, we still needed to save for several months before we could even buy the first board lot. At that time, for example, Cycle and Carriage (C&C) (not yet known as Jardine C&C) was trading at slightly above $10, and OUB (a bank subsumed by UOB) was trading around $8.50. But as I look back in history, taking on one board lot at a time may not be a bad idea. Many of the stocks that I have accumulated today in many thousands of shares were the results of buying one board lot at a time. It may not be the fastest way to riches, but it certainly is a safe and conservative way. Do not underestimate its cumulative power. It enables us buy on dips and picking up opportunities that might have slipped through the fingers of many.


Stock investing is a journey. It is not an end by itself. The stock market will outlive any of us. The investing journey may be long and arduous, but each small step that we take, we are one step nearer to where we want to be.  I am thankful to the teacher for the off-the-calf sharing.  They turned out to be more useful than the lesson proper as I looked back in history. They helped shaped my investing style in the later years. To be continued…. 

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 27 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

It’s time to take stock of how our stocks performed this year

At the close of calendar year 2015, the STI ended at 2882.73. And today, the last day of trading for year 2016, the STI ended at 2880.76. In effect, the STI lost less than 2 points or less than 0.07% for the year 2016.

However, if we were to slice the STI movement month-by-month within the year, it tells a different story. In the first two months, namely January and February, the STI actually fell below 2,600, down more than 10% from the beginning of the year following the uncertainties in China due to the sudden devaluation of the RMB. The free-fall that triggered the circuit breakers in the Shanghai stock exchange seemed to instil more fear than stabilising the market, causing even more selling when the market resumed. In the meantime, the oil price that reached a high of more than US$100 per barrel in 2014, had been falling throughout the year 2015 and was heading to below the $30 per barrel by January 2016. There was even a widespread fear that it could even go below $20 per barrel. Needless to say, the two simultaneous events that happened at the beginning of the year caused the Straits Times Index (STI) to dip ferociously from 2882.73 to below 2,600 losing more than 10% in less a month during January.


By early March, the oil price had somewhat stabilised at around $30 per barrel and made a u-turn gradually towards the $40 per barrel level. The STI that has been tracking the oil price also climbed gradually passing the 2,800 mark. However, the oil price that had been gradually falling since second half of year 2014, had already brought irreversible damage to the offshore and marine (O&M) sector. The share price of many stocks in this sector was relegated to super penny stocks when it was between 70 cents to a dollar just one to two years ago. Defaults become a commonplace for many bonds that were raised during the good times 3-4 years ago. The default of Swiber bond in the middle of 2016 triggered many O&M bond-issuers to seek bond-holders approval to re-structure the coupon payments. To date, these issues have not been fully resolved and they are likely to snowball into 2017. In the meantime, the bond defaults also spread to other sectors such as properties as well as other asset class such as perpetual bonds. Several short-term bonds and perpetual bonds that like Oxley Holdings, Aspial Corporation and Hyflux that were issued in the first half of this year had the share price fell below their respective issue price. Much to the expectations of stock investors, the surprised Britain-Exit (Brexit) in June 2016 turned out to be a non-event, at most affected a few isolated stocks on the SGX. 


Then, of course, the spectre of interest rate hike began to be in the forefront of investors’ mind again by the last quarter of 2016. The widely expected first interest rate hike became a reality in December after the American presidential election in early November. Shocking the political scene was the selection of Donald Trump, who was considered a rookie compared with Hillary Clinton. The interest rate hike in December as well as the expectations of more hikes into 2017 shifted the whole investing landscape. Bank shares were widely favoured while REITs and property shares lost their shine.


With the US presidential election behind us, it is likely that the FED has more leeway in calling the shot. Consequently, the fear of more interest rate hikes will continue to haunt investors going into the year 2017. REITs and property developer counters are likely to continue under pressure, although there could be a possibility that the government eases the property curbs especially when the economy is not functioning as expected. Although interest rate hikes are a great boost for banks’ interest margin, it is only good at the beginning of the interest rate cycle. Economic performance and non-performance loans are likely to put a lid on the banks’ profit margin going forward. In effect, the upside on the share price of banks may be limited unless the economy, on the whole, turn for the better going into 2017. Yields, be they bond yield, perpetual bond yield or REIT yield will continue to edge higher in anticipation of more interest rate hikes. This means the bond/REIT price is likely to stagnate or even experience downward bias if FED starts to be more aggressive in hiking up the interest rate. Although many REITs managed to re-finance and to resolve their loan issues for year 2017, they may start to feel pressure again into the years for 2018 and beyond.


Whilst the oil price has passed the $50 mark per barrel recently, it is unlikely to go very far beyond the $60 per barrel mark as shale oil is likely to supply aggressively into the oil market, thus putting a ceiling on the oil price. This means that oil rigs and peripheral industries such as OSV suppliers will still not benefit in the short term. Apart from the need for oil price to reach at least $70 per barrel level, it needs to remain sustainable at that kind of price level for at least 9 months before the oil giants can convincingly decide on investing in offshore exploration. This means that the profit visibility is still dicey for the oil and gas counters in general listed on the local stock exchange for the year 2017. For the other commodities, it appears that the worst is over after retreating in the last few years. However, it appears that the stock prices have already run up recently. Thus, I do not expect much upside unless there are some game-changing developments, which could tilt the balance in either way.

With that, let’s look forward to another interesting investing year!


Disclaimer – The above write-up is purely the opinion of the author, and it does not constitute an advice to buy or sell the mentioned stocks or the sector. Readers, who buy or sell stocks based on this article, are fully responsible for their own action.  

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 26 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

If we missed the best stock upsides

Today marks a little more than one month after Donald Trump won the US election. When he first won the election, the market at first reacted negatively, followed by a strong rally and then tapered off in the last two days. The banking stocks, in particular, were the biggest beneficiaries of this rally. DBS has advanced from about $15.20 to a high of $18.32 and then settled at $17.83, an increase of $2.63 or about 17.3%. Similarly Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) had also advanced $0.73 or 8.6% from $8.53 to $9.26. United Overseas Bank (UOB) also showed a significant increase of $2.31 or about 12.4% from $18.59 to $20.90. Of course, if one holds the bank stocks, the return for this month alone is extremely significant.

Despite the rally, many people still asked the same question just a few days ago– DBS bank, can still buy now? Does it mean that these people missed boarding a stationary wagon and is now chasing a moving one? Actually, if we look at the bank stocks, in particular DBS, it has been parking below $16 for many months, right from the beginning of the year or even before. Why do we need to wait for it to move up to chase it? Why can’t we buy it at our own pace and wait for the rising tide to raise our boat?  It appeared logical right now in hindsight, but seemed to be an irrational decision when the share price was oscillating between $15 and $16 per share for a long time. Very often, when a stock or the market rallies, the onset is often the sharpest and this is when the smaller players start to take note. By the time when one start to confirm, double confirm, triple confirm, a significant part of the upside has already been priced in the stock. So by the time retail investors start to buy into the market, perhaps there is only the last 20-30% upside. We always come across a statement to the effect that if we missed the best 10 trading days, our stock performance would just appear ordinary. Worse still, it could even be negative performance despite that the STI moved up significantly. To me, stock market has a place for both big and small players. Big players cannot play like a small player and a small player cannot afford to play like a big player. Big players buy into the market to cause the market rally, but the advantage of small players is to be able to buy into stocks without causing big ripples in the stock market. That’s where we should play to our advantage. Remember that our wealth is not just measured by the amount of money we have in the bank. Our wealth is measure by the sum of our cash, stocks, properties and whatever assets that we possess.  So, there is no need to be in cash all the time. It is important to engage the stock market all the time than to wake up only when the rally has already been well underway.

Happy investing!

For more, join me at investing note by clicking here!     

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 26 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Personal finance – Don’t forget about stocks

Two weeks ago, Singapore was knocked out of the Suzuki Cup, lost two games and drew one. As usual, there were always criticisms especially when we lost, but one of the comments seemed to be extremely common among the critics that we had been playing too defensively. In the first two games, we played defensively because we played with 10 men in the first game and then a much stronger team in the second game. By the time we are in the third game, we no longer found comfort in defending, and when we started to get into the attacking mode, we find our defence too weak to hold the opponents. It exposed our weakness. We ended up in a loss of 2-1 in the game. What lessons can we draw from these football matches. If we have been playing too defensively in these games, the best result is a nil-nil draw. If we are not careful, we can even lost the game, just like what we experienced in the second game when we lost 1-0 to Thailand when the goal came only at the 89th minute. Just like in football matches, playing too defensively in our personal finance may not help us. If we keep saving all the time without any form of investment, we will find ourselves working extremely hard, especially in times of in inflation just like running against the track-mill. (This is also illustrated by my below-mentioned book.)


There is also another group of people, who just want to bank on that the market tank to 1800 before starting to invest. Of course, it is possible even if the probability is only 1%. The stock market may hit that in the coming years. However, if we were to look at the our stock market history, we only encounter two occasions that the market tanked more than 50%, during the Asian financial crisis and the global financial crisis. The period between the two of them was about 10 years. Most of the time, a drop of 20%-30% is considered very, very significant. At a current level of 2,900, it would take another significant drop of 38% to hit 1800. Think about this. At the level of 2,800/2,900, I would consider our economy doing badly. If it really gets to a level of 1800, then our economy must be really, really bad. Under that kind of circumstance, I am not sure we have that fortitude to invest. It could mean that any counters, even blue chips, could be in danger of going bust. Furthermore, if one were to think of buying in a big way when the ST Index reaches 1800, I am very sure there are many people out there also think likewise. Consequently, there are bound to be people trying to outsmart the market by taking a position before it reaches 1800, say at 1900 or 2000. So, the point here is that it gets more and more difficult when we try to time the market when it is very far from what we are now. Frankly, in our whole lifetime, we don’t really get many times that the stock market tanks 60%. If it comes, let it come. We do not need to time the market in hope to get a big upside while missing out many smaller opportunities that can happen from time to time. In fact, when the stock market really drop by 60%, we may even be the unlucky few to put our money into those companies which are about to fail.  

At the end of the day, just invest wisely and consistently. Every small step that we take is one step nearer to our long-term objective.

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 26 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Some notes about Investingnote

About two years ago when my stock-broker friend introduced InvestingNote to me, I was not exactly keen initially. The reason was that I have a business to develop and a family to take care. All these will draw away all my awake hours. Where can I find the time to socialize and get into it? Nevertheless, I still register my name, perhaps, to keep myself current with new developments as well as to know some investors and traders out there. It was a good decision. Today, I have met several distinguished investors and traders via this platform and had even met them personally.

In the meantime, InvestingNote has grown by leaps and bounds, and now with members in tens of thousands. All these came about because more and more features have been incorporated in the platform to have everything that we need to know about local stocks within the platform. Not only can we find the price chart featuring real time price, we can also discuss about the potential of each stock on the SGX with fellow investors and traders. Apart from that, one can also horn his trading skills making estimate about the share price of each stock for a particular time-frame. This can help one sharpen his investing/trading skills before taking the plunge using real money to buy or sell stocks. Frankly, I have not come across another platform that offers this feature.    

With all these said, there is no cost. You need not pay anything to be a member of InvestingNote. Registration only requires an email and a password, and is extremely easy. Just register by clicking this link.

Register me at www.investingnote.com now!

It’s an additional tool for your stock investing.

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 26 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.



于同样说法,一家公司可能每年都取得正数净利,但是现金一直没有流入,那家公司如果还没倒闭就可能已经摔入一段非常艰难的日子。 以下是我教育中心给一家在新加坡交易所上市公司所整合的数字。通常我们在年度报表只能取得两年贯的数据,所能看到的信息非常浅薄,所以本中心特意为上课的学生设置合计版才能够更深厚了解公司的动向。图案的一览表数据正是我从合计版所取出的讯息。


为了避免读者能够寻出讯息背后的公司,本人特地把真实的股价乘上了一个定数。这样,读者才能够于非常中立的目光探讨所呈上的讯息。如果我们只是单靠每年所发出的两年贯报表买入股票,我们所采取的买卖策略有大可能非常不理想: 一卖就跌,再买又跌,逢买逢跌。因为近几年来公司股价一落千丈,从2011 年每股$3.00 的高峰掉到2014年的$0.60,跌幅百分之八十。公司最近的股价更显著低迷,已经跌破了每股 $0.35 的大关。





Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 26 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Business model

When I first read about a business model to better understand why it was entangled in the bond feud with the note-holders, I felt quite loss. I read it again, but still I did not get a good picture of the working business relationship among the companies involved. Reading at the first level to understand the working business relationship among the various partners was quite a challenge actually. If comprehending just the working relationship among the business partners cannot be understood by a person who reads passionately about business news, I wonder how many people out there can fully understand it, let alone the legal and accounting aspects that the company had with its business partners. Certainly, not all the note-holders and shareholders are corporate lawyers and accountants to fully appreciate the legal and accounting aspects to fully understand the risks involved when investing in the company. In fact, when business partnerships get very complicated among business partners, it surfaces more links, and if any of these links weakens and give way, it is likely to cause a domino effect to bring down the company as well as a lot of companies associated with it.

By the same token, prior to Alibaba’s launch as an e-commerce website, Jack Ma, the chairman pointed out that he personally made fool-proof tests of the system. It means that he tried to mimic a fool trying to use the system. His argument was if a fool knows how to use the website, then it should be widely understood and useable by the commoners on the street. That brings me to the point – If one cannot understand the business model of the company, why bother to take the risk to invest in it. Why do we need to invest our money to buy headaches?

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 26 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Buy-and-hold strategy does not mean buy and don’t sell

For those who may not know, buy and hold strategy is a proven strategy and is used by long-term investors in hope to benefit from the capital appreciation of the component stocks in a portfolio. It is often associated with Warren Buffet (WB)’s style of investing, especially when he mentioned that the holding period for the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio is FOREVER. It is probably a sweeping statement, but many people had taken it to the extreme that when we buy a stock, we should not sell it. Of course, if we look at the ST index from its all-time high and compare it with today closing of 2869.74 as of 30 September 2016, one would have thought that by adopting the buy and hold strategy, one would have lost more than 25%. But does it really mean that buy-and hold strategy does not work anymore? Not quite. Otherwise, why would fund houses and insurance companies still continue to adopt such a strategy? Remember, these are big fund managers and when they hold a stock, they do not just own 2,000 shares. They probably own 200,000 shares or even 2,000,000 shares even if it means $20 per share. For the fact that they continue to use this strategy means that it is still relevant even with the advent of high-frequency trading computers. In my opinion, if it works for big funds, it should also work for individuals as well. And because big fund managers hold large quantity of stocks, we simply cannot expect them to empty their portfolio of, say 200,000 of OCBC in one day, and then buying it all back on another day on a short-term basis. In fact, most of the time, their portfolios do not change at all. In the way, they are practicing buy-and hold strategies. These fund managers have to think long-term in order to pay the clients and retirees, who are long-term stake-holders. The key here is to think long-term. (Sometimes, I am quite bemused by people who mentioned “Aiyo, must think long-term ah!”. Thinking long term does not mean that we do not sell a stock at all!)


Given the relevance of buy and hold strategies for large funds, can small retails players like us mimic the actions of these fund managers to make money? Certainly yes. The fact that we do not hold too many lots per stock, it is sometime easier for us to manoeuvre better than the fund managers.


Allow me to go back into my history. After falling and recovering from the bad experience in the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC). (Click here for the detailed history), my aim was to hold this great stock called DBS. On my record, I purchased 1000 shares at $14.80 in February 2004. (In fact, it was less than 10% below yesterday’s closing at $15.39 considering that they are more than 12 years apart.) My long term plan was to have at least 10,000 shares in 10 years. Based on this objective, my shortfall was 14,000 shares. The period between 2004 and 2007 was a fantastic time for stocks because the ST Index advanced all the way from below 2000 to its all-time high of 3,875.55 in October 2007. The global economy was doing so well that one very significant local political personnel was said to be saying “All the pistons are working at full force”, pointing to the perfect functioning of US, Europe and China. (Of course, we know in hindsight that Global Financial Crisis (GFC) came one year later and everything got imploded.) Needless to say, in between 2004 and 2007, if one were on the buy side and sold 1-2 months down the road, or simply buy and hold all the way, he should be able to make money. This is especially true for DBS, which is a good proxy to the stock market. Even though I have a long-term plan to continue to accumulate DBS in the long run, the speed of price advancement was so rapid that each time when I bought it, it became attractive to sell it off some months down the road. In fact, it was prudent to take money off the table because rapid advancements are very often met by rapid pull-backs. In such a situation, I could even say that I was trading, though not exactly short-term trading because each time my holding period was a few months. The share price of DBS in the period between 2004 and 2007 advanced from $14.80 when I bought it to a peak of $25.00. By the end of 2007, however, my shareholding in DBS did not increase at all because I had sold just as much as I had bought it. It was probably with some luck that the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) came along that I was able to pick up a lot more shares and subscribe more rights at $5.42. While I did lost some money on paper on the 1000 shares that I kept, it had been more than offset by the capital gains in the ‘trading’ that I made off from the DBS shares that I had bought and sold along the way. Furthermore, the GFC was probably a once in a lifetime chance to accumulate DBS. It came glistening right in front of my eyes. Such opportunities should not be missed at all cost. This was even truer for someone who had been bashed badly during the Asian Financial Crisis (AFC), and only to see opportunities slipped through the fingers from a low of 805 on the ST Index to more than 2000 within a matter of 15 months or so. (Click here to view my background).


Of course, one may argue why I did not even sell off my 1000 shares that I had been holding. The reason is simply that I am not GOD. (There is a Cantonese saying – 早知就没黑衣) I can’t predict the future. If I could predict the future, I would have even sold my 1000 shares and bought it back at the peak of the crisis. My long term plan, however, was clear that I needed to accumulate DBS shares in the long run, and the GFC provided me an opportunity to do so.


Then another opportunity came knocking again. After the GFC, DBS advanced again past $20 by late December 2014. Having come up from a relatively low base during the GFC, I managed to sell some shares at $18.50 in October 2014. At this share price, it would have translated to more than the market capitalisation of DBS before the GFC when it was at $25.00. (The reason was that DBS raised rights of 1-for-2 shares during the GFC.) I would have thought that the share price would not go beyond that point, but the general optimism pushed the share price further up to past $20. I sold again at $20.20 in December 2014. It finally reached $20.60 in early 2015. Of course, the crash in the oil price and a series of ‘scares’ in the last 18 months or so, made the share price of DBS came tumbling down again to less than $16, which now becomes a super strong resistance level. When it reached a level of around $13/$14, it allowed me to buy back those quantities and even more than I had sold.    


In a similar way, I have been reducing my SPH shares for the past 1-2 years because I felt that the fundamentals of SPH are weakening. It is not because of bad management or SPH was making wrong investments. In fact, I believe that the management has been quite good, peppering shareholders with good dividends. That was why the share price has been quite well-cushioned enabling me to sell a bulk of my stocks off at above $4.00, except for the last 2,000 shares which I sold recently.  The fact is that media and publishing business is under a huge threat from the internet, which is highly accessible locally. The threat is beyond their control and that is why the profit from the print business is dwindling. The only thing that probably helped them along is the SPH REIT, which probably had already hit a plateau. Of course, SPH is not sleeping and is on a look out for fantastic investments that may pop out along the way, but until today, it is still not there yet. Of course, when the price becomes attractive again, Perhaps, I may be back in again.  

So in summary, buy-and-hold does not mean buy and don’t sell. Sometime, it is prudent to sell and take money off the table even if the stock has not reached its full potential. Very often, there is a need for stocks to digest a bit before they can climb further. In fact, as it is DBS is now hovering for the past six months or so below $16. If I had not sold anything and stood only on the buy side from 2004 till now, I probably would have made only from my dividends and not too much from the capital gains. It is the long-term strategy and, of course, some luck that counts. It does not mean buy and don’t sell.

Good Luck!


Disclaimer – This post is not a recommendation or an advice to buy or sell the stocks mentioned here-in. These are past performances. They do not reflect future performances. 


Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 26 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.

Look at each stakeholder’s perspective

Every month, when I receive my credit card bills, I would almost immediately go to the internet and post-date the payment to 1-2 days before date due, and make sure that the bill is paid in full. As far as I am concerned, I am a AAA-customer of the bank. My question is – does the bank like me? Well, not quite. Why? Simple. The bank cannot derive a profit out of me. The bank is there to make a profit, and if it cannot earn a profit out from me, I am quite sure I am not its best customer. In fact, the best customers for the bank are the ones that only pay interest without any default, and not even those that pay up part of the principal sum, let alone those that pay the full principal sum. From my perspective, the bank views me just as a credit-worthy customer and not a profitable customer. Of course, the bank will not deprive me for being a credit card customer because it still needs to maintain a healthy ratio of those who pay on time and those who only pay part of the principal sum. What is my point here? A bank’s perspective can be different from its customer’s perspective. 


In a similar way, a bank’s interest in lending to corporate may be different from a retail bond-holder’s interest even though both are lenders to the same company. Banks minimise their risk by securing physical assets as collaterals. That’s why they are in the business of secured lending. Given that banks have already secured the assets, their primary interest would be to achieve profitability when they lend out the funds. However, that cannot be said for an unsecured lender in retail bonds. The primary objective of an unsecured lender should, in my opinion, to focus on the risk to ensure than principal sum is protected and be returned with interest when it is lent out. However, very often, the promise of high returns tends to blind us. If we do not analyse a bit deeper, we may miss the whole picture altogether.   In fact, following the default of Swiber, several companies (need not mention them) had met with bondholders or note-holders to re-structure their debts as well as to change the payment conditions that come along with it. To get the bondholders’ support, companies very often have to make higher promises. However, higher promises do not mean safer promises in future. In fact, it could put the company’s financial future at risk due to the higher promise. One pertinent question is – how can we be so sure that the business environment in the future will be better than it is now?

Unfortunately for the bondholders or even shareholders, we do not have much say in the company executive matters except to raise some concerns. By the time, when such a meeting is called upon to discuss the re-structuring of debt payment, the damage is often already done.

For investors, whether we enter an investment as a bondholder or as a shareholder, doing it right first time is of prime importance. The effort needed to back-track is often arduous and painful.

Good luck.    

Brennen has been investing in the stock market for 26 years. He trains occasionally and is a managing partner for BP Wealth Learning Centre. He is also the author of the book – “Building Wealth Together Through Stocks” which is available in both soft and hardcopy.