Saturday, 29 November 2014

Investing in mutual funds

Mutual funds are "A mutual fund is an investment vehicle that is made up of a pool of funds collected from many investors for the purpose of investing in securities such as stocks, bonds, money market instruments and similar assets.

Mutual funds are operated by money managers, who invest the fund's capital and attempt to produce capital gains and income for the fund's investors. A mutual fund's portfolio is structured and maintained to match the investment objectives stated in its prospectus." (Source: Investopedia)

In 2006, I started to to look through our finances and found that my husband and I had been wasting money on a few unnecessary expenses:

1. Cable TV that we didn't really have time for
2. Subscriptions for magazines that are now piled up to more than 2 feet high.

Besides that, I also found that we'd been working and working but we had not been INVESTING our savings, which were stagnant in the banks where our monthly salaries were deposited.

That's when I started reading up about investment portfolios, short-medium-long term investments, diversifying our investments and etc.

As both of us had little to no experience in investments, we discussed it with the old folks who recommended:

1. Buying a house (real estate)
2. Mutual funds
3. Blue chip shares

Unfortunately, I found that we were about 10 years too late because the mutual funds that had high returns on investment now had low prices. Thus, our relatively high purchase price meant that our returns would just be slightly higher than that of a savings account.

Besides that, the quarterly or annual statements they sent made me nervous especially when I noticed a "-ve" in front of the "+/-" column. I also found out that the agents and the banks who sold me such funds earned a commission and a sales charge for helping me with each transaction e.g. buying the fund, switching funds.

First lesson in buying these funds is: you'll need to keep the funds until you reach the break even point i.e. recovered the costs of the agent's commission and the bank's sales charge.

During the period of 2008-2010, I earned a tidy sum from buying mutual funds that invested in the booming Asian markets e.g. China and Indonesia.

I think I held on to these mutual funds for a period of 3 years and since I don't really fancy tracking the unit prices of each mutual fund, I have stopped investing in them.

Update: Read this article on Prof. Teresa Ghilarducci on "How to Retire with Enough Money". She brings up a lot of related problems but the two take-away messages I got were:

1) Stay in your house until you've paid up the mortgage.

2) Stay beneath your means.

What next?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

"Frozen" Birthday Party

If you know me, you'll know that I hate the TV, especially Disney.

Thus, I can't recall how or why I bought the "Frozen" DVD for the kids because now, my daughter is hooked on it!

Yup... i) she sings "Let It Go" again and again and again and again and again
ii) she drapes a blanket or a pink towel around her shoulders and uses a clothes peg to secure it - she even insists on wearing it outdoors but I firmly said NO.
iii)she loves it when I call her "Queen Elsa" LOL
iv) she wants anything and everything related to Frozen.

We were invited to a Frozen birthday party a while back and her brother remarked, "I think she will be VERY EXCITED!"

Here's what the little girl's mother had at that birthday:

1. A Frozen birthday cake - Interestingly, the cake toppers are ALWAYS out of stock! That made me quite anxious as my little girl's birthday is just a couple of months away. Then again, do I want to pay US$25++ for them???

2. Queen Elsa's dressOf course, every little girl around the world who has watched "Frozen" wants to be Queen Elsa. Now, I have learned that Queen Elsa's costume must have white gloves and the oh-so-important cape!

I managed to buy a similar dress online ("Frozen" Queen Elsa's Deluxe Girl's Costume (4-6X)). Phew!

She LOVES it and has been wearing it already and guess what? She still adds a trailing cape although the dress already HAS a cape. Duh. I've yet to find a tiara though.

3. Birthday presentsAt the birthday party we attended, almost everyone bought the little girl a Barbie doll or a Queen Elsa doll, which I thought was so boring and predictable??!!

Since I didn't know the girl well, I let my son choose the birthday present and he bought her a book :) The little girl was quite pleased because it was different. Plus, it turns out that she also likes to read. I think my boy chose a ice/snow-themed book that came with a glittery cover coz the other girls ooh-ed and aah-ed when she unwrapped it LOL

For my daughter, A Tale of Two Sisters (Frozen) (Step into Reading) would be nice since she's learning to read now. She received one of these lovely sticker books for her birthday:
I only buy my children presents during their birthdays and Christmas and even then, the presents tend to be books or something practical. For a change, I may get her this Disney "Frozen" Complete Story Playset because she's always having imaginary conversations with her cars, soft toys and other objects.

She's been coming home bursting with excitement over her friends' birthday goodie bags and insisting that we make her goodie bags just as fun too.

I am glad that she's thinking as much about her classmates as she is of herself on her birthday.

Her current schoolbag is quite ratty (thanks to all her "artwork"! I don't understand how she's such a messy girl - her brother is seriously neater than her) but I'm wondering if I can stand ANOTHER year of Queen Elsa and Princess Anna???


I've got to order some fried vermicelli, make a fruit salad and include a cold dessert!!! Not to forget some Ribena or some other kid-friendly drink...stress, stress.

IN THE END, I was soooooo busy at work that the goodie bag ended up with:
- stationery sets (a mix of Ben 10, Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh)
- raisins (NOT! The kids ate up the stash we had at home)
- chocolate - check - need to order organic lollipops from iHerb (NOT! Mummy was too busy to order from iHerb)
- a handful of balloons - a HUGE hit with the kids who took them out and immediately started to blow them up or ask 'Uncle' to help.

The little one showed off to her friends that HER father can only help her to blow up HER balloon :) - miniature LEGO sets - I scored on this last one because we were literally 45 minutes to PARTY TIME. Hubby was hyperventilating but I rejoiced coz I got a good deal from a wholesaler.

Grabbing the big bag of toys, I set to work stuffing 25 goodie bags (randomly having a mix of boy and girl figures) while Hubby drove to pick up the cold dessert, fried noodles and then quickly took them down to the classrooms before the kindy teachers gave me the evil eye.

We saw a few other moms and dads and their party team hastily carrying in their own food and loot too LOL See how scared we are of the kindy teachers??? I didn't even have time to charge my camera battery - luckily, there were a few bars left for me to capture the important moments of my 5 year old daughter's class party. :)

While the class teacher tackled the kids, the food and the goodie bags, my sweetie pie came to me and said:
"I love you, Mummy...this is the best day ever. I am so happy!!!"
Then she reached up to give me a hug and a kiss. None for the poor father who did all the grunt word, though LOL Chatting with my colleagues about our kids, I realized how much my little girl has grown over the past year.