Friends often asked how I spent my time since I had retired two years back. They were just curious. I belong to the 30 percent of that age group (aged 55 to 64) who choose not to participate in the labour force. What memories have I got in 2014 on how I spent my time?
Waking up at 5 am everyday of the year
My wife and I started a routine to wake up at 5 am everyday since the start of the year. We kept to it even on days when we were tired and waking on time was difficult. We then sat quietly and practised full awareness of body and mind for one hour in the early morning (aka sitting meditation). This was then followed by Taiji on most mornings (when weather and schedules permit).
We went for two meditation retreats this year. One was in Taiwan and the other was in Pengerang, Johor. The first retreat was in April and the second was in September. These retreats lasted 7 to 9 days.
Remembering Brownie, our rabbit
It was on 1 February that Brownie moved on. In the 7+ years with her, Brownie was a constant companion. She gave us joy and taught us how to love and care for a living being. I have fond memories of her, remembering Brownie and at the same time rejoicing that she can move on after a year of suffering.
Volunteering at Bright Vision Hospital
My wife and I started going to BVH on Friday mornings to assist the therapists with conducting morning exercises for the patients. This is a new activity for us for this year and we found these simple exercises and games for wheelchair-bound patients beneficial for them. These patients get to move out from their wards for fresh air and we get to do something meaningful for them.
Orchard Road Christmas Lights for BVH patients
Volunteers, therapists and nurses brought patients out of their wards to see the Christmas lights at Orchard Road. We helped to wheel the patients. The walk started from Tanglin Mall with end point at Shaw House. The night started out fine but the rain came while we were into the walk. We had to wait out the rain in shopping centres. We managed to reach Shaw House OK. This was an outing with a difference, Christmas lights with the December rain!
We went on three overseas trips this year – Bali, Taiwan and Myanmar.
We spent 5 days in Ubud, Bali from 24 to 28 February 2014. The trip was decided on a spur of the moment when a window of opportunity opened up for three of us in the family to travel together. We took Tigerair Mandala on a budget with accommodation at about S$50 per room-night for three persons. We stayed at Puri Bayu Guesthouse and had the whole guesthouse to ourselves as this period was low season for tourist arrival.
At $290 per person, three of us flew to Taiwan on TigerAir. With accommodation at $110 per night, we spent our time in Taipei and Taichung from 7 to 14 October 2014. Travel was limited to Taiwan Rail, Metro, local buses and coaches to and from airport. Our meals were mainly local fare, i.e. eat like the Taiwanese people. We had a budget stay in Taiwan. This trip was mainly to appreciate their cultural heritage, Taiwanese art & craft scenes.
A week later, my wife and I flew to Myanmar and spent 8 days from 23 to 30 October 2014. We packed in tour of four cities to visit pagodas and sights of these places.
- Yangon is famous for its Shwedagon Pagoda and Bogyoke Aung San Market.
- Mandalay is rich in history with cultural and artistic heritage. It is home to Kuthodaw Pagoda that housed 729 white stupas. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Sagaing is the place where we distributed stationery to students of schools and orphanages. A sum of $10,000 was raised for this purpose to buy exercise books, pens and pencils for some 2,600 students.
- Bagan has the most number of pagodas and temples (about 2,500) in the whole of Myanmar.
Momshoo is a business start-up set up by my daughter and my wife. They are a craft duo team who creates whimsical items that are individually hand-stitched and hand-knitted.
Yarn bombing The Substation was a project to celebrate 24th Anniversary of the Substation during SeptFest 2014. “In the Pipeline” as the project was called, came out of the blue to Momshoo at the start of this year. The result was that 2 huge pillars of the building, the main doors to the entrance and many pipe exhibits were covered with knitted yarn pieces. It was a huge undertaking for Momshoo and we involved the community to help knit these yarn pieces. I learned to knit in the process and helped out in the project.
Investment climate of 2014
It was another challenging year for investments. The least expected was when oil prices plunged about 40% since its peak in mid-June. Singapore economy is forecast to grow at around 3.0% this year. (Source: MTI, 25 November 2014) This is going to be lower than 3.9% growth seen in 2013. Singapore equity was volatile over the year.
Performance of investments as at 24 December 2014
My family investment portfolio was 1.17% below cost. Investment cash return was 3.8% p.a. This return was conservative and decent. During the year, I liquidated some investments and made gains that were 25% of total investment return. On paper, our Singapore equity lost 3%. The worst investment was Australian time deposit. This was 13.6% down.
Managing personal expenses
I terminated memberships of Singapore Computer Society (SCS) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA UK) to reduce expenses. I am already a retired member of both Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ICSA) and CPA Australia. The membership fees are at reduced rates.
Living Investments – Personal Blog
I continue to write in my personal blog throughout the year. I have become selective in what I am writing. The average number of readers per day was 167. (For 2013, it was 145.)
To write about something with ease requires inspiration. Picking a topic to write on has been a challenge. It is now eight years since I started this blog and therefore many items were written before. The choice of interesting things narrows.
I read 19 books for the year and wrote reviews for these books in Goodreads website. In all, I covered 6,314 pages. These statistics were better than 2013 (15 books and 3,879 pages). The books are mainly fictions/novels. To be able to read is an enriching experience and it helps in my writing. Reading and writing has been a preoccupation and I am fortunate to able to do so. Besides reading novels, I read several religious books also.
Accounting & Finance 20th Anniversary Celebration
The Diploma in Accounting & Finance of Temasek Polytechnic celebrated 20th year this December. The Diploma started in 1994 and I was already in Temasek Business School since 1992. I was in the thick of action having developed 3 new modules for the course over the years. This anniversary celebration saw 5 Course Managers being recognised for their efforts in managing the course. I was the Course Manager from 1999 to 2001 and was happy to be part of its 20-year history.
Reflection of the year
2014 was a busy year. My family was quite involved with Momshoo business started up by my daughter. I continue to provide accounting service for the registered business. The family was close as a result of Momshoo. My wife, daughter and I worked as a close-knitted team and I treasure the bonding as a result. The business may not make us a lot of money, but the freedom and joy were worth much more.