Looking back at 2016

Ten years ago, I took the decision to quit full-time job. I left Temasek Polytechnic back in 2006. Times fly. I then did a bit of adjunct teaching for the polytechnic for about six years before dropping out of the labour market in 2012. I think I did alright.

Many friends often asked how I spent my time during retirement. For one, I write actively for my blog named Living Investment. I am happy to say that I released my second book on Living Investment this year. This book contains blog entries from 2013 to 2016. Secondly, my wife and I started to volunteer at TOUCH Home Care Meals-on-Wheels programme to help deliver lunch packets to its beneficiaries. We did this once a week since May.

I like to read. It is enriching to read books that are fictions, religious books, financial books, TIME magazine and daily newspapers. The public library is a good source for novels. One needs not buy novels and this saves money.

Investment Climate

I manages my own investments. I hold Singapore equities for their dividends. It is increasingly difficult to invest without losing capital in 2016.

2016 was marked by two significant events. United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union with votes of 51.9% in June. Donald Trump of the Republican Party won the Presidential race against Hillary Clinton in November. Both ended with a completely different outcome as predicted by political observers and news media. These events created uncertainties in the financial markets.

When you thought that 2015 was bad, 2016 was even worse. My Total Shareholder Return (TSR)2 for the years since 2011 are shown in the table.

Year TSR
2011 -3.93%
2012 1.70%
2013 1.03%
2014 3.01%
2015 -0.84%
2016 -3.51%

This confirms that 2016 was a bad year for my investments. TSR for 2016 was negative 3.51%. (2015: -0.84%)
My Singapore equities were down 23.7% on cost (2015: down 18.9%).
Total investment portfolio was down 4.7% on cost (2015: down 4.4%).
Income1 from investments was only 1.19% (2015: 3.65%).
During the year, I took some losses on investments amounting to 0.6% on total portfolio. (2015: Gain of 1.9%)

Travel

My wife and I made four trips overseas during the year.

  1. Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam January 2016
  2. Hua Lien County, 花蓮縣, Taiwan April 2016
  3. Taiwan Trip, October 2016 covering:
  4. Taichung 台中
  5. Tainan 台南
  6. Fenqihu 奋起湖
  7. Taipei 台北
  8. Hangzhou 杭州市, Wuzhen 乌镇, Shaoxing 绍兴市in China November 2016

We were more adventurous this time round, going to Vietnam and China. Both were new destinations for us. When we went to China in November, we faced with very cold weather. Temperature ranged 3-6 degrees Celsius on average. Major cities in China have become modern and tourist-friendly. The last time when I was in China, it was some 30 years ago. In three decades, China has rivaled other major cities of the world to pull in tourists.

Overseas Retreats

My wife and I went on 2 overseas retreats this year. One in April in Taiwan and another in November in China. These retreats allowed me to get cut-off from news and Internet access. It was a silent retreat on mindfulness.

Reflections on 2016

In March, my siblings and I had to look after our elderly mother full-time. Her maid took urgent leave to go back to her hometown (after many years away). We never appreciated what the maid did to look after my mother, who have difficulty walking and doing things herself. We quickly realised that looking after an elderly person requires a lot more patience, tolerance and acceptance.

The things that hoard the news headlines were global and Singapore economies. The gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate for Singapore is forecast to be lower than 2015. The Ministry forecast 1.0 – 1.5% growth rate. Throughout the year, we kept hearing bad news that hurt the financial markets. It was hard not to get affected by declining value of investments. It was a roller-coaster ride from one event to another.

2016 was an eventful year, full of surprises. The world has an uncertain political climate with a new administration in the United States of America taking office in 2017. Remember to breathe and stay calm. May we see harmony in relationships among people and among countries. Happy New Year!

Notes:
1 Income from investments comes from dividend/interest and gains/loss on sale of investments.
2 Total Shareholder Return (TSR) in S$ term comprises dividend return (actual income received) and price return (resulting from changes in valuations of investments as at year end).

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