An open letter to my fellow “80s kids”

To all my Power Ranger/Doraemon(links to the original theme songs!) friends,

It’s not very often I blog about a current affair (LOL it took me a year to post about the SMRT breakdowns), about as often as Arsenal wins a trophy. The reason being that I take numerous pains in my writing; a multitude of sweat, time, quality checks, blood, humour, spelling checks, tags, hairs, tears, expectations and links, all culminating into a single post for your enjoyment. (Speaking of which, please click on all my links, they’re funny/cute).

But, I digress.

Apparently, it was yesterday’s news (pun intended) that the government plans for our population to hit 6.9 million in 2030. This piece of news was unsurprisingly met with complaints about the gahmen, twitter hashtag jokes and tasteless humour from SGAG. (While I find the picture below from SGAG slightly offensive, I have to say some of their jokes really hit the spot). And like adding Rainbow Rice topping on your Häagen-Dazs Cookies & Cream scoop, they had to piss more people off (or piss people off more, depending on how you look at it) by saying citizens will only take up half the population.

Photo Credits: 9GAG Singapore

My personal take, however, echoes most public sentiment: Do we have the infrastructure capable of housing and moving 6.9 million people? Anyway, the gaping void in the workforce left by our “baby boomers” in 2030 needs replacing; and since our total fertility rate (TFR) of 1.2 is way below the replacement rate of 2.1, “foreign talent” would need to be roped in to support our rickety old aging population. (By the way, I don’t love or hate foreigners /endbacksidecoveringdisclaimer).

Hold on a second: I didn’t bring you all the way here to talk about boring political/infrastructure issues (I’ll leave that to bloggers who actually want to go to jail).

Realise that just 10 days ago, our “beloved” government announced the enhanced “Baby Bonus” scheme (which ashamedly kicked my fatherly instincts into life), much to the…. complaints that $6,000 cash is not enough, blah blah complain complain from most of my friends. Sigh, NOTHING pleases you guys right?

But there’s some Inception-esque stuff going on here:

“Hey, you know that if every marry-able Singaporean were to get married and have 3 kids, then we don’t need to get foreigners to come in! Here’s $8,000 for your 3rd and 4th child each, plus HDB priority if you have a child. Read: Go back babies first, leave your money housing issues to us.”

And so, the impetus is on us! I did a simple calculation. Say you were born in 1985, you’d be 28 this year. C’mon, stop being picky. Alternatively, you could get some really solid dating advice. Find a nice partner, have a kid by next year, and he/she will be ready to join the workforce in 2030! Poof! Problem solved. So now ALL of you  stop complaining about the dilution of Singapore citizens and *literally* DO something about it.

So my fellow 80s kids: Go forth and multiply. Stand up for Singapore, do the best you can. Reach out for your fellow man.

Here’s a treat for you local boys to get the hormones raging: Two (hot?) Singaporean girls with the most natural acting ever on YouTube applying things on each other:

Yours truly,

Bryan Xie

P.S. There’s a reason why it’s 6.9 million. 😉

P.P.S. I am aware this post isn’t really in the format of an open letter, but I always thought it was a cool opening. LOL.

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More courtship advice for the boys.

Guys, one piece of advice on courtship: Never, ever brag. Never say how good you are at something. There isn’t a single valid scenario for you to brag. You think it’s charming, making the girl all excited about how much you can bench. (DO YOU EVEN LIFT, BRAH?) No, you just made yourself sound like a jerk/douchebag.

The reason I’m saying this is because I just spoke to one of my female friends about how she went on a date but it felt like a one-way lesson about some guy’s achievements. Have you ever heard any of your female friends tell you: “Hey I’m falling for this guy because he is a DJ/can bench 1.5x his weight/am one of the best drivers I know/could’ve represented my country in *insert douche sport here*.”

Water Polo: Biggest amount of douche in a single sport

Water Polo: Biggest amount of douche in a single sport

There’s a fine line between confidence and bragging. It’s always better for the lady to ask you what you did as a sport during your school days or see how you drive rather than telling her outright, without reasons. Even if you played against Roger Federer in the quarter finals of the Wimbledon, play down your achievements. Correct me if I’m wrong ladies, but women like a humble guy who always aims to improve himself.

Tip: Say: “I’m really passionate about *sport/hobby/activity you’re good at* and play it quite often.” So even if you really suck at it (LOL I love playing soccer and snooker, but I’m so bad at it, I promise), if the lucky lady gets to see you in action, the expectations are already pretty low, hence your performances will certainly impress.

Ultimately, one of the qualities ladies look for in their man is making them feel comfortable, not a man of achievements. It’ll serve you well to remember that piece of advice.

Death and Life.

Are you afraid of death?

I’d say I am afraid of death at this point in my life now. I’m 26, unmarried, just started my own business (with another idea coming up) and only travelled to two continents. There’s so much to life that I have experienced yet.

Death is certain. Regardless of your religious beliefs, you will depart the world of the living in your current state when you die. (The reason why I say “in your current state” is due to my religion. I am a Buddhist, and we believe in reincarnation). So when you die, you will leave everything behind.

When I was a kid, I questioned the meaning of life: Since I was going to die (and all my loved ones), why should I continue to live? Realistically speaking, every thing I do now will be for naught. It didn’t make me suicidal or anything (I’m afraid of knives LOL), but definitely direction-less.

Gamer-Level-Asian

But then I started enjoying certain things, like reading, gaming and looking at beautiful women (which I still do to this day). I started appreciating good food and entertaining sports. I went overseas with my family and discovered cultures and worlds beyond my imagination. And realised there was so much more life had to offer.

Personally, my take is that death is eminent, but you’ve been given a life (regardless of your beliefs), an opportunity to do what you enjoy, why not make the best of it? Pursue your interests, your hobbies and achievements. Leave your mark on the world, get immortalised (e.g. Socrates, Michael Jackson, Thierry Henry, Steve Jobs).

We’ll cross that bridge called Death when it comes.

No One Would Listen

Book Review: No One Would Listen by Harry Markopolos

I recently finished this book by Harry Markopolos, the futile whistleblower to the Madoff Ponzi Scheme which self-imploded in 2008. I admit, I am a tad late to the Ponzi party, but better late than never. As the resident contrarian (much to the ire of my friends), it struck a chord when I chanced upon the title at the Amazon Kindle store. (Another reason was because at the time of purchase, I was still a smexy auditor at KPMG and thought it would add dimensions to my knowledge of audit and finance).

No One Would Listen

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Madoff Ponzi Scheme, it was the biggest investment fraud rocked the financial (and almost every other) world in 2008 when Bernie Madoff admitted to conning US$65 billion off investors. A Ponzi Scheme, named after the infamous Charles Ponzi, is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to its investors from their own money or the money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from profit earned by the individual or organization running the operation (source: Wikipedia).

In layman terms: Persons A, B and C each invests $1,000 in a fund managed by a “portfolio manger” Charles Ponzi.  Ponzi takes $50 from the $3,000 they invested back to them each. Eventually he will need new funds injected to feed the original investors, to the inevitable point where the fund cannot find any more investors, of which it would collapse. The figure reached US$65 billion for Bernie Madoff.

Okay, enough of the technical stuff. Although the book didn’t contain beautiful vocabulary and bespoke literature, I felt that there are many lessons we could take away from the book:

1. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.

2. If it sounds too complicated for you to understand, it has to be good. I recall a quote: “People fear what they don’t understand”.

3. Reputation supersedes business logic. Madoff was the former chairman of NASDAQ.

4. The best lies are conveyed with open arms and in an upright manner. Madoff welcomed personal interviews and questioning in his office instead of trying to avoid contact. I have to say, this was the most surprising discovery and interesting part of the book.

5. Government regulatory bodies (the U.S. SEC in this instance) are timid and afraid of the big boys in the field. Self-regulation theory just doesn’t work; it boils down to market theory and renumeration. Individual employees in SEC (and I daresay audit firms) are just using their current workplace as “stepping stones” to their next, hopefully better paying job in the corporate world (which ironically are the companies you’re checking on). If you had to be a policeman for a month, would you want that period to be full of crime, rioting and paperwork? You just want to sit out your job quietly and without any drama. Bringing us to the next point…

6. Every man for himself. Many fund managers from established banks (Goldman Sachs, Citibank) knew of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme but did nothing about it. Maybe warn a couple of close friends. Realistically, would you go out of your way to stop this fraud? What’s in it for you? Of course you wouldn’t. Which is sad, really.

7. Luckily for us, there is still some good in humans. Markopolos DID went out of his way to uncover the fraud, listed down all the red flags and presented it to the SEC 4 times. He was putting his life and his own family’s life on the line by putting his name on the report because there were organised crime syndicates which were also invested in Madoff. But SEC didn’t listen. Why not, you might ask. Refer to items 5. and 6.

The man himself.

The man himself.

8. If you work in finance, you might think that your job is just investing right? It’s not just your job, it’s people’s livelihood and trust you’re meddling with. Madoff’s bankruptcy completed killed off multiple retirement funds and pensions. These are real people whose hard-earned savings over their lifetime were wiped out. All because they couldn’t afford a financial education like yourself, they are penalised to work in their retirement years to make ends meet. DO YOU HAVE A BLOODY CONSCIENCE? Think, before you invest someone’s money, you banker wankers. Ethics are the only attribute humans have that differentiates themselves from savage animals.

9. Telling a chick on a date that you just finished a book about the biggest financial fraud in history will get you laid.

Above all, this book taught me (or should I say, reinforced) how humans can be so blinded and biased when they are “riding on a winning streak”. Any good-willed criticism to your winning plan/idea/thinking/investment style/hot-and-supposedly-loyal-girlfriend/hot-and-supposedly-loves-you-for-your-personality-not-your-money-girlfriend/soccer team is quickly waved off as petty and sour-graped.

I think every factor in your life and decision making should be re-assessed in the most neutral sense. I’ll end off with one of my favourite sayings from the Chinese (I daresay they are the best, without a doubt, at sayings):

” 旁观者清 , 当局者迷 . ” – If one is personally involved in a matter, it is easy to blind oneself to the truth. However, if one is not involved the matter, it is possible to see things more clearly. (Source: Wiktionary)

Bonus fun fact: Charles Ponzi‘s company was called Securities Exchange Company, or SEC for short. Oooh, the irony!