Friday, October 10, 2008

Borrowing money is a bad thing ?

BOA, Washington Mutual(WaMu - everybody says Wa-Moo), Wachovia - familiar names to us as we see those names whenever we go past Sunnyvale financial district in California.

Local and foreign media have put so much focus on the financial crisis and analysts have provided us with details of the causes and effects.

Why were Asian banks not hurt as badly as Western (US, and European banks) ? Many attributed to the way money was spent by the banks. If you go deeper, it is really in the culture and education we were nurtured in since young.

As an Asian brought up in a traditional family in Singapore, "borrowing" money is typically seen as a bad action. It means you are "poor". It means you are "not doing well". Mom used to say:

"Don't take on loans and incur the interest rates. It's not worth it".

"Pay off credit cards bills all at once. Don't delay payment and get fined for it. Don't pay by installments and get charged interests."

"If possible, pay the bills (that can include BIG items like house and automobile) upfront".

So, is taking loan really a BAD THING ? Yes & No. Of course, thanks to the conservative teachings of Dad and Mom - I consider myself (and is) a risk-averse person when it comes to financial planning/investment. Also to the point I could not really understand - when some of the people I know (not so close that I could call them "friends") chose to pay 0% interest installment when they purchase a washing machine and a refrigerator from Courts. But when thought more objectively, maybe I can understand why. To them, it is not a matter of being seen "poor" or "rich" when they go by installments. They are using this ever-popular evil (especially in this turmoil times) word called LEVERAGE.

Similar to the Western culture (I don't know about Europe) eg in the USA, BEING IN DEBT may not necessarily be a bad thing. And they don't call it DEBT, they call it LEVERAGE. That is how people like you and me use loans to build credit. Till today, I don't know the specific dynamics behind this but put in simply - if you were to purchase an automobile today (say eg. a new Toyota Corolla cost only about US$16K), some people will advise you to go on a car loan even if you could pay the whole lump sum upfront. Because when you take a loan, and are able to re-pay the loan, your credit rating goes up? Then in future, when you want to borrow money for something more critical or important, you could get a loan more easily? Something like that. I told you I am not an expert in this!

Too much of a good thing becomes evil ! The cause of this crisis is the result of OVER-LEVERAGE!! I think the"ang-mohs" need to learn about being thrifty from Asians and Asians need to open up their concept of "borrowing" at the same time!

Then, all of us will be smarter in future.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

New York Times, then now Malay Mail. Yippee!

I chose this site to "announce" it first, since this site has LOWER (secret) traffic following, compared to my main blog at Teczcape - An Escape to Food. Freakonomics.

In fact, I just had a cooking post up in Teczcape - An Escape to Food and did not want to create another new post so soon.

OK. interview with Malay Mail is up! ^o^ I am The Food Escapist as featured in Malay Mail, 9 October 2008.

This "light" must have followed me, after my snippet feature in New York Times (online 30 Sept 2008, print 1 Oct 2008).

Hooray! At least something to brighten me up before I start the dreary work week from next week onwards.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Contrasting views all a matter of perspectives

My Dad is going to jump at this - "S'pore top choice for expat parents" published in My Paper, 9 October 2008. It re-emphasized his point that Singapore......"is very good what ...a lot of foreigners want to come here..."

Yes & No. If your automobile and gas are paid for, your living (meals and transport) expenses are paid for, housing paid for, your children's education are (partially?)paid for, your medical bills paid for, who would NOT say - S'pore is TOP choice ?

TODAY, also 9 October 2008, had another report on "Here today, gone tomorrow" of expat children. I have no question about a good early education they are able to receive in S'pore. Most importantly, they can make use of this opportunity here to gain perspectives on the Asian culture, learn another language - all these eventually help them to gain access to MORE (note: I did not say "better") opportunities.

Get the missing link of these two tabloids? So, expat parents and children are just here to tap and make use of the good system and opportunity, but will eventually leave one day...back to their home country or somewhere better.

So, Dad (I wish) should know going out from Singapore does not mean not returning. Singapore is but so limited in the kind of industries it is trying to nurture. Other than IT, biotech (maybe) and oil & gas, I wonder where will all the engineering(civil, mechanical) grads go to - take some MBA and go into investment banking, probably ? And unfortunately, Singapore does not have many relevant opportunities for hubby. If other countries "need" his skills/knowledge, just like how Singapore "need" them, then we are just following the footsteps of those foreigners whom you cited as your example, right?

More convincing to be done to open up their perspectives.

And of course, still thankful we are alive today, to keep dreams burning.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Different views of employment

Most of us who are employed or looking to being employed or even choosing "not to be employed"- we all have our reasons for doing so. The hierarchy of needs directs to a environment where the basic bread and butter needs to be satisfied first. Someone needs to bring in the bacon, right? With that, you come to decide other factors - eg. how big the bacon should be, how many people can that bacon feed, the taste of the bacon, the quality of the bacon, the fat content of the bacon, and maybe even the color of the bacon...blah blah blah...blah blah blah.....

I've come to terms with all these for a long time. Almost boils down to what our government says about having kids being personal choices. If you already have the basic bacon, employment then becomes more of a personal choice, at least to me. What deep social problems overall unemployment will it slackens the economy etc etc...another blah blah blah...blah blah blah session next time - to be put up by some great magnificent policy maker or statistician out there. Not me.

But I don't think the local government will ever encourage people, esp mother/father (depending who brings back the bacon) to NOT work. They even want old people to stay active and work till they are 55, 60 or even 65. For what? I ask. You see old people clearing plates/dishes and cleaning up in food courts and hawker centers. Well, they must "earn" their keeps because if they fall sick, nobody will look after them....they have no savings....CPF is not enough. OK. I know. They are always old people who are enjoying life. Sometimes, you just have to walk around different zonal estates in Singapore to know what is happening.

Such the mentality of different individuals. No one thinks the same. There are certainly people who LOVEeees working and gets HIGH the higher they climb up the career/status ladder. Well, this just does not excite me. I am the kind of worker who likes to go home on the dot (god, where to find such a job that does not scrutinize this?) if I am done with the work for the day. I make sure I am efficient and effective during office hours. I would rather go to office early than return home late. I am not really ambitious in my career (so I don't talk about how much value I can add to the organization etc), as long as I am able to do something I enjoy, learn what I want to learn, and finally reality bestowed...bring back some bacon bits.

In most corporations I have worked before - it seems that "coming in late" and "going back late" is the much preferred practice. Why ? Because when you go back late, your boss sees that. And when you come in early, your boss does not see that (in fact, nobody sees that). Yes, that is the difference. Unless, you are lucky enough to have a boss who chooses to come in early, and leaves promptly as you. Then, he/she will perceive you as a good worker/employee? Nah, I don't go to such extent of making other people happy and making myself unhappy. I stressed - I sought after QUALITY time at the work place and not QUANTITY. Bosses, if you see your workers staying late everyday, it may be because they are inefficient and ineffective...not because they are enjoying their work, and being diligent, okay? Bosses are smart, right? HA!

I digress too much.

The subject title was to talk about employment, in general. And this was what I heard and gathered from my peers in different instances. Their comments and thoughts -

" Singapore, being unemployed is a crime..." :O OMG!

"....I need $2mil cash to retire NOW..." meanwhile, this friend earns a reasonable (to me) basic and told me 10k (this is already heaven to me!) would be nice. OMG! But I see that he has more "free" time than others. At least, he goes for his Jap lessons during weekends and dive/windsurf quite regularly. I asked "is $Xk too low?" . I told him he has what other people found more difficult to achieve, that is, work-life balance.

C: Any lobang ? Are you working or Tai Tai?
Me: what tai tai? was nvr one. :P SGP, even more difficult to be one.
C: Anyway what are u up to nowadays? to me not working is Tai Tai loh
Me: wonder I need to look for job lah! If not, will be "branded" such term by pple like you leh! Told u many times already, Tai Tai in SG = not working yet living the high luxurious life leh!

Question: Give specific and detailed accounts where you have exhibited integrity.................and courage at work and also in your personal life.
Answer (it happened to be me): The most "courageous" decision I have made in my personal life that relates to work as well, was when I decided to resign from my job back in 2006, and follow my spouse to USA due to his work relocation. For me, it was a chance to adjust and adapt; to learn and appreciate other cultures and environment. I call it life experience and not work experience. Life experience in turn enhances work experiences in the future.

So it is true. If someone ever asked me for my opinion about going out of Singapore and to somewhere more conducive, I would say "Go". And I would not perceive unemployment as something bad. Hey, can't we be doing other constructive things even if we are not working ? During my "unemployment" times, I don't just sleep, eat, then eat, sleep okay? In fact, I was able to do MORE things that overall enriched myself. I definitely find it more satisfying and happier. Life was much better then.