This is What I’d Do if I Had to Start My Investing Journey All Over Again

I started to expose myself to the world of investing as a university student 5 to 6 years ago.

Well, my ultimate masterplan back then was to crush the market like peanuts and make hell lot of money with it.

(p.s. Obviously, that intention did not end up well for me.)

It took me a long, long time before I eventually discover my sweet spot and investing style (more on this in future articles).

Looking back, I always wonder if I could have been much better with investing (and with money) if I were to put every piece of the puzzle in the right place – one by one, step by step.

Depending on how you look at it, this article can be more like hindsight, or more of a reflection.

But my goal for this article is simple:

If you are totally new and are thinking about getting started, I hope this post will be of great guidance & insight for you.

With that, this is what I would do if I were to start over my investing journey from zero:


Step 1: First, I'd learn about personal finance & build a strong habit around money

New investors be like:

Harr… but I just want to find the best stocks to buy wor…

Yes, boring, I know.

But this is exactly what I would do FIRST if I were to start over my journey, because honestly:

Who cares if you can spot the best stocks to invest in when you have no savings to invest?

Who cares if you have attended the best investing course when you still struggle to pay off your credit card debt every month?

Looking back, instead of splurging on food & entertainment in university, I would start tracking my finances and have a more consistent savings habit (regardless of how little it could be).

I’d also build a stronger foundation & understanding around money (ie. Financial independence, compounding effect, asset & liability) by reading more personal finance (not purely investing) related books.

With all these financial knowledge and habits in place, I am sure that I’d be in a better position to start learning how to invest at the age 21 years old.

Strong financial habits are CRUCIAL to sustainable investing.

Step 2: Instead of asking “What Stocks to Buy?”, ask “What Skills Do I Need?”

“Which company should I invest during this crisis ah?”

“Is now the right time to buy into the shares of XXX yaa?”

These are without a doubt the most asked questions by investors on investing forums, telegram chat & FB groups.

Looking back, I wasted my fair share of time indulging in discussions like these.

If I were to start again, I’d definitely spend NONE of my time consuming any content like this.

Instead, after building a sound financial habit, the next thing I’d do is to learn the skills needed for me to build a solid foundation in investing – be it from books or a mentor/coach.

Some crucial fundamental skills include, but not limited to:

  • How to extract important data and information from a financial report?
  • How to develop a set of investment rules on when to buy & sell?
  • How to construct a decision-making framework & thought process?
  • How to make independent investment decisions without succumbing to headlines and unnecessary news & content?

Can you see how these skills above, once mastered, will be able to answer your ‘What stocks to buy’ question?

Nowadays, most new investors yearn for shortcuts and/or the easy way to make money from the ‘exciting’ stock market – all without considering putting effort into building their foundational skills.

But hey, I get it. That was me once upon a time too.

Just telling you that, if you are new, you might really wanna consider building a solid foundation first before risking your hard-earned money.

The only short cut in sustainable and successful investing is effort and hardwork.

Focus on the skills that you need before even thinking about the returns - read books, get a mentor and get hands on.

Step 3: Setting my initial vision with investing

If I were to start my journey from zero again, I’d want to spend some time constructing a vision for my investing journey: a sort of picture-like vision of the outcome of investing in my life.

This is the stage where I would learn more about different financial stages in life (eg. financial independence, abundance) and set a vision to motivate me to keep honing my skills.

Now, you may disagree with me, but I would not set a fixed goal at this stage (eg. Financial independence by 30 years old).

Reason being, as a university student, there is simply no way for me to know what kind of circumstances I would be upon graduation. Hence, any form of fixed estimation is really inaccurate at best.

That said, as a start, having a conceptual understanding of what’s possible (eg. vision towards financial independence) is important and should not be overlooked.

However, it should also be noted that our lives will change as we move on to different stages in life – hence it is essential to be flexible with the vision and ultimately discovering our goal along the way.

Setting an initial vision of what's possible with investing is crucial in our investing journey.

Step 4: Hone my skills in a simulated environment

Learning the fundamental investment skills & knowledge is a thing, but it doesn’t mean that it is the end of the journey.

In fact, it is only the beginning of the journey.

So, what I would do is I will set up a simulated investing account via platforms like Bursa Marketplace so I can test what I’ve learned in a risk-free environment.

Now, this could be a very boring stage for many. I used to do it (and gave up) too back then as there is no fun at all buying stocks in a simulated environment.

But if I were to start again, I would spend at least 6 months to a year in a simulated environment so I am sure that I can follow my entry and exit rules consistently whenever needed.

No fun, I know. But I’d cut short a lot of my learning curve if I persisted with the practice 5 years ago.

Grow and practice in a simulated environment before using your hard-earned savings & money.

Step 5: Opening a Live Account (Finally!)

Now’s the time to finally worry about which brokerage account to open!

Or better, time to make some big money! *wink* *wink*

But is it so?

In the hindsight, what I would do as a beginner (regardless of my initial capital) is to set my intention right when opening a live account.

Instead of treating my initial few hundred bucks account as my immediate runway to become a millionaire, I would work on my ability to execute my plan/rules consistently without worrying about the returns as much.

By doing so in a small live account, it would build a very solid psychology foundation for me to handle my live account as it grows in the future.

Simply put, I would take my initial years of live investing journey to make mistakes and gain experience – not so much on making huge gains.

Honestly, what brokerage account to open is your least concerning issue when you first started.

Step 6: Continuous Reflection & Self-Discovery + Receive feedback

Remember that I talked about setting an initial vision in Step 3?

Now, with more experience in the market (and assuming I already graduated and started my career), I’d start to find a more solid goal and focus in investing.

This is because, by this stage, I would be more familiar with my financial commitment. Hence, it is easier to calculate and come out with a proper financial goal and action plan.

It is also time for me to start reflecting and discovering my own investing style to accommodate my other commitments in life.

At this stage, joining a community of like-minded investors (not a general Facebook/Telegram group) is hugely beneficial. It serves as a great & efficient way to leverage on great investors' insights and receive feedback to accelerate learning.

At the start, focus on the process of learning, not the outcome.

No Money Lah’s Verdict

As I write this article, I am fully aware of my own investing style – income investing (article coming soon).

That said, I honestly think that if I were to follow the above steps diligently when I first started investing, I’d be discovering my preferred style much sooner.

But the journey of investing doesn’t end at Step 6.

As both life and market are dynamic, it is a must for me to keep refining my skills and goals as I continue in my investing journey.

Anyone that says that they’ve known and learned everything is just another egomaniac with little time left in the market.

Ultimately, while I may not be able to time-travel to change my journey, there is one thing that I can do:

Focus on the right mindset, strive to keep improving, and most importantly, stay humble.


Use These 3 Simple Hacks to Identify the Most Suitable PRS Fund for Yourself. (Yes, there is more than one!)

Private Retirement Scheme (PRS) is introduced as an additional retirement investment scheme (aside from EPF) to better prep Malaysians for retirement.

On top of that, the government has introduced the PRS Youth Incentive, a one-off RM1000 top-up for young adults between age 20 - 30 if he or she invests a minimum of RM1,000 into a PRS account.

In simple terms, you would have made of 100% return out of your initial investment with this incentive. With that in mind, the period of the incentive will be ending by 31st December 2018. Hence, it is the last window of opportunity for us to enjoy the incentive.

Note: This week, instead of my writing, I would like to pass the stage to my buddy, Varian Soong. He is currently a Credit Analyst in MCIS Insurance and he'll share 3 simple hacks that you can use to identify the fund that suits you the best!  The floor is yours, Varian!

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Hi fellow readers of No Money Lah! Here are 3 simple (and important hacks) that you can use to identify the most suitable PRS fund for yourself!

To start, PRS is somewhat a combination of EPF and unit trust.

Just like any investment, PRS does not guarantee return on your principal. This simply means that your final withdrawal amount will base purely on the fund’s performance. Hence, it is crucial for you to choose the fund that suits your age, lifestyle and risk appetite.

Another thing to note is you can only do a full withdrawal once you reach the age of 55 (or pre-withdrawal with a fee).

In the present, there are 8 PRS Providers in Malaysia, each with its own unique style of fund:

  1. Affin Hwang Asset Management
  2. AIA
  3. AmInvest
  4. CIMB-Principal
  5. Kenanga Investors
  6. Manulife Asset Management
  7. Public Mutual
  8. RHB Asset Management

In general, each provider offers three general categories of fund, which are conservative (mostly fixed-income assets like bonds and deposits), balanced (balanced proportion of fixed Income assets and equity) and aggressive (high proportion of equity).

Depending on your risk appetite and your target return, you can choose the fund that suits you the most. Some funds even invest overseas if you are looking into that.

List of PRS Funds in Malaysia

Below is a list of PRS funds that you can choose to invest in when you open a PRS account, along with some useful benchmarks to guide you in your decision-making process:

Source: Morningstar (*FX Risk – Risk of funds towards forex fluctuation, Y - Yes, N - No)

(1) Average Annual Return*

The Average in the table refers to the average annual return you would get in a year.

Similar to any form of investments, PRS funds’ performance fluctuates with time. At times, it may go above the average return and below it or even negative occasionally. That said, if you hold it long enough, say until 55 years old, your average return should reflect the number.

Let’s say you opt for the fund with highest average return (CIMB-Principal PRS Plus Asia Pacific Ex Japan Equity - Class A). At 10.7% (and at age 24), your RM2,000 initial investment could be compounded to RM46,810 when you are 55! That is enough to buy yourself a new Myvi with CASH!

*Refers to the geometric means of annualized return which has incorporated compounding effect in it. I used 'average' for layman description.

(2) Standard Deviation

Next, the Standard Deviation reflects how risky the fund of your choice is.

Take the earlier example, the fund has a standard deviation of 15.3%. This means that your yearly return can sometimes fluctuate to up to 26% or down to a loss of -4.6%. Like the saying goes, high risk high return.

(3) Sharpe Ratio

Finally, let’s look into the last and most important benchmark, the Sharpe Ratio. The Sharpe Ratio is one of the most widely used benchmark to evaluate a fund’s performance.

In general, a positive number shows that capability of the fund to generate money for you. A negative number shows the fund took too much risk than the return could justify. This means that the higher the magnitude, the more reliable the ratio is.

Referring to the example, the fund is shown to have a Sharpe Ratio of 0.44. In other words, the fund is generating a solid return and not simply gambling our money away.

Conclusion

Not to mislead you, the example given is merely for convenience sake. Ultimately, you have the say on which fund that would suit your risk appetite.

For example, the AmPRS - Dynamic Sukuk - Class D is a safer investment as it offers an average return of 4.6%, which is more than the return from fixed deposit (FD).

An important note that the data used are from the period of 2013-2018 (annualized) and some are lesser than that. It means that the calculation would have some error as more data is needed to have a reliable measurement (minimum of 30 years). Therefore, take the number as a general guide and not an absolute deciding factor for your investment.

Back to you, Yi Xuan!

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No Money Lah's Verdict

To be frank, I've never looked into PRS in detail and I was shocked when I realized that there are so many funds available for us to invest in!

For a young fresh graduate, if I were to invest in a PRS fund, I would opt for AmPRS - Asia Pacific REITs - Class D given its decent Sharpe Ratio and average return, plus a Standard Deviation that is still rather low compared to other performing funds.

Now that you have a clear idea on how to find your choice of PRS fund, which fund would you choose to invest in? Let me know in the comment section below! (remember to open a PRS account by end of this year to enjoy the youth incentive!)

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About the contributor:

Varian Soong is an Economics graduate from University of Malaya. Being one of the brightest of his batch, he came in as the 1st runner-up in 2017 CFA Institute Research Challenge. Also, he has completed CFA Level 1 professional paper prior to his graduation. He is now pursuing his professional career as a Credit Analyst in MCIS Insurance. 

Connect with him on LinkedIn here.


PTPTN: Is Settling PTPTN for 20% Off By 2018 a Good Idea? (It is more interesting than you think)

In this article, I will explain whether it’s a good idea (or not) to settle your PTPTN loan for 20% off by the end of 2018.

The short answer is: yes, and well, no. Depending on your perspective towards money, one’s answer may differ from one to another.

It is pretty simple, and let me explain why:

(1) The Savers Mindset

Let’s say I owe PTPTN a total of RM30,000, payable at a period of 15 years (180 months) at a fixed interest rate of 1%.

Compared to servicing my loan in the given period, if I were to settle the loan one-off by 2018, I would get a nice savings of RM10,500, or 30.43% lesser. Refer to the table below for more information:

Enjoy 20% off if you settle your loan by 2018. Get your PTPTN loan calculated here!

Hence, with such a big difference in the amount paid, paying off my PTPTN fully before the end of 2018 is actually a pretty good idea.

But what if I tell you that there is an even better alternative? You will resonate well with this alternative if you have the…

(2) The Investor Mindset

Let’s say I have RM30,000 and I am considering to pay-off my PTPTN loan or to invest the RM30,000 to earn a better return.

This time, I’ve chosen to service my loan through salary deduction as proposed under Budget 2019 and instead, invest the RM30,000 into the stock market, particularly REIT (due to its price stability), with a relatively stable interest return (dividend) of 6.5% annually.

By reinvesting all my interest returns, I would have a projected gain of more than 140% on my initial capital by the end of the 15th year (yes, even after factoring in the total payment for my PTPTN loan)! More details in the table below:

In simple terms, this means that by investing my initial RM30,000 into REITs, I would have paid off my PTPTN loan (RM34,500), and still have an additional RM42,655.23 by the end of the 15th year!

Below is a table of comparison between both scenarios:

Comparison of outcome between 2 methods of payment

No Money Lah’s Verdict

While there is no one right way to pay-off our PTPTN loan, I believe that there is definitely a better way to service the loan. I believe that this article has explained clearly the difference of outcome between one with a Saver’s Mindset or one with an Investor’s Mindset.

With this, I hope this article will help clear off the questions that you have in your mind, and I hope you can share this article with the friend that could benefit from it!

Do you have any personal experiences or tips on PTPTN that you would like to share? Let me know by leaving a comment at the very end of this article!

I cannot wait to hear from you!

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PTPTN: Take Advantage of these 5 Ways to Pay Off Your Student Loan!

PTPTN student loan: No more full-scholarship conversion for first class degree holders. Automatic loan deduction between 2% to 15% for fresh-graduates earning RM1000 and above.

These are the two of the most important highlights of PTPTN during the presentation of Budget 2019.

Well, it seems like there is no running away from it anymore, eh? No matter the outcome, the new government has enforced a way to ensure Malaysian students pay back their PTPTN loans.

The thing is, while we can definitely spend our time on social media to play the blame game, we might as well put our mind together to figure out a solution for those who are impacted by this, yes?

So here it is! Here are some ways that you can (or still can) repay your PTPTN loan faster and more effectively under the new changes in Budget 2019:

Now You Can...

(1) Get Your Employer to Repay the PTPTN Loan on Your Behalf

With the newly announced Budget, any company that settles their employees’ PTPTN loan will be offered a tax break.

That said, this tax break will only apply to loans that are settled by the end of 2019.

Hence, if you are working and there is still a loan balance, or if you are graduating before the end of 2019, it is best that you take advantage of the tax break window.

Take the initiative to negotiate or look for a company that would help pay off your PTPTN loan. The best bet for this strategy to succeed is none other than to offer value to the company where you are working or applying to.

(2) Get First Class and Qualify for PTPTN Loan Rebate

For students under the B40 background, you are still qualified for a loan rebate if you graduate with First Class.

While this differs significantly from a full-scholarship conversion, it is still a legit way to reduce your burden in repaying the loan once you started working:

[A RM30,000 PTPTN loan payable in 15 years at 1% fixed interest would cost you RM191.67/month. Meanwhile, a 30% discount means your total loan would be RM21,000 and it would cost significantly lesser at RM134.17/month!]

And need I not tell you that your total interest paid by the end of payment period would be RM3150 compared to RM4500?

You Still Can...

(3) Enjoy Up to 20% Discount on Loan Settlement

While there will be no more discount on loan settlement starting 2019, those who are still currently owing their PTPTN loan should repay the balance before the end of 2018 to enjoy up to 20% off the balance. (Source: The Star)

You Should...

(4) Apply for Your University’s Tuition Fees Discount/Waiver* & Start Investing! (*Source: Lite)

An extra financial support during your university times will always come handy. This means that you can now save up more (not spend more) and invest the money!

My suggestion in terms of the priority of where to invest your savings are as follow:

  • Financial education – If you have extra savings, it is always best to start investing in your financial education as the top priority. Learn how to invest before you graduate!

The knowledge of compounding return will always triumph any kind of short-term Fixed Deposit gains in the long run.

  • Invest in the Stock Market – Once you have gained the knowledge on investing, apply it and invest it in the financial market such as stocks!

Invest in a fundamentally sound company at the right timing will allow you to earn a decent return via capital appreciation and dividend income. As a start, I would recommend investing in less volatile stocks such as Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) that pays a decent dividend between 6% to 8% annually.

6% to 8% dividend annually. You do realize that the interest rate for PTPTN loan is fixed at just 1% annually, right?

  • Fixed Deposit (FD) – My least favorite way to grow savings. But still, at an average return of 3% annually, it is better than putting your savings in any standard savings account.

(5) Develop Side Hustle(s) While You are still Studying

Another solid way to ease your burden in paying off your PTPTN loan is to develop one or multiple side hustles while you are still studying.

Start a business. Offer to teach people what you know. Monetize on your passion.

Who knows? By the end of your university life, you might already have all the fund needed to clear your PTPTN loan!

No Money Lah Verdict

Depending on your status (graduate or current student), there will be a solution that suits your situation in this article. My wish is that we stop finger-pointing. Instead, we should start to think of ways to support each other in the matter of PTPTN loan.

Do you have any personal experiences or tips on PTPTN that you would like to share? Let me know by leaving a comment at the very end of this article!

I cannot wait to hear from you!

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Why is it So Important to Talk About Adulthood Issues? (and Why So Few Talk About Them)

It's funny how I am graduating from university in a month time, yet I am of mixed feelings about graduating.

Seriously, what did we learn in school?

We spent near to 20 years in schools, yet these education institutions have failed to educate us how to manage adulthood issues - How do I manage stress (properly)? How do I manage my monthly income? How can I structure my spending and investments to manage my student loans and afford a house by my 30s?

Keep diving into this and we will come to realize that we have learned close to minimal life skills in the lecture hall. Due to the lack of formal discussion on adulthood challenges, we tend to dismiss (proper) conversations about them in our life.

As an example, it is so hard for people to acknowledge that they are having issues (stress/depression, money, relationship etc), and it is even harder for them to seek help and guidance - because the society, in general, does not embrace these conversations openly.

The purpose of No Money Lah

That's why it is so important to write and talk openly about adulthood issues, or rather the journey of having these challenges and facing them one at a time.

No Money Lah is about my journey in this new chapter of life - but it is more than that.

No Money Lah is where I share my new findings in life. No Money Lah is where I share my greatest life challenges. No Money Lah is where I share my deepest failures.

The most important of all, No Money Lah is where you know you are not alone in this adulthood journey.

I am graduating in a month time. I am fearful of the uncertainties, yet I am excited for what's to come.

Till the next article!