Featured post

Do these 5 Things for a Healthier Diet!

It is a new year and like many of us you are probably resetting your goal and repeat the same resolution from last year – lose weight. The pandemic has such a profound impact on everyone’s life that following a strict diet is almost close to impossible. All of us are constantly worry about getting the virus or what to cook for the next meal.

If you are like most Americans who are trying to lose weight but just could not get on the right track, well let just say you are not alone. Before the pandemic there are a lot of temptations that seem to get the better of us. Knee deep in the pandemic, all we worry about is what not getting infected whenever we go out food shopping.

Here I highlight several things you can change right away without breaking the bank. If you do them correctly, you are one step closer to reaching your goal. These 5 things that you should do right away are not revolutionary; you are likely heard of them but just didn’t think they matter.

Remove all Sugary Drink

Yes, you read and heard of this multiple times. Sugar is an evil invention that has caused all kinds of chronic disease in the country. It is perhaps the number one killer in America. The most obvious disease is diabetes, which ultimately lead to obesity and heart disease. Some of the drinks include soda, iced tea, drinks in a cans and even the Starbuck’s Frappucino should be avoided at all cost. A can of 12 oz coke has 39 gram of sugar, which is the recommended daily sugar intake for an adult male.

Instead of drinking a can of coke or a iced tea, go for hot tea (without sweatener). Nowadays there are all kinds of tea that will fit all kinds of taste. If you are not into the traditional tea, then try out fruit tea. Tea is know to have antioxidant that may boost our immune system and even ward off cancer and heart disease.

Pick any tea as long as it is tea

Don’t Use Sweeteners! Use Honey Instead

On the same subject of sugar, if you are counting calories there are 16 of them in 1 teaspoon of sugar. Depends on individuals, we burn up to 2,000 calories in a day naturally. So a few teaspoons of sugar can be burned by end of day. However, sugar creates a problem for those who have are not able to metabolize glucose correctly. Many food companies cashed in on the diet craze and start to offer sweeteners such as saccharin, aspartame and sucralose. Instead of using processed sugar cane, these food additives became a direct replacement for those who are calorie conscious. While there are no real studies to corelate sweeteners with risk on our health, you should avoid it at all cost. Instead of using artificial sweeteners use honey instead.

Reduce Red Meat, Eat Fish Instead

There are studies shown that meat is carcinogen, particularly those that are processed. Eating small portion occasionally should not have detrimental effect on our health. To meet your new year goal I suggest that you reducing red meat in your diet and eat more fish. Certain fish (particularly Mackerel) prevents heart disease and may lower diabetes. Salmon is known to contain good fat and tuna improves our immune system and encourage weight loss. If you are not into fishes, they replace red meat with white meat such as chicken.

Eat Colorful Vegetables

Eating just green leafy vegetable gets really boring quickly. By just limiting to greens, you are also limiting to certain vitamin. One option is to have a variety of different colorful vegetables such as carrots or sweet peppers. Colorful vegetables actually contains a lot of vitamin C and helps promote our immune system and also encourage weight loss. However, be mindful how you eat your vegetables. Eating salad is considered eating vegetables, but adding “heavy” dressing such as ceasar or thousand island defeat the purpose of keeping a healthy diet. Always select dressings that does not have cream, cheese or sugar. Consider dressings that are sour such as balsamic vinaigrette.

Skip the Desserts

I was born and raised in Asia. Eating sweets or desserts after meal was not common and my wife and I continue this way once we have our family. If you travel to South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand or even Japan you hardly see overweight people. After meal most Asians would just drink tea or anything warm. They do not eat cakes or desserts that are usually contains a lot of sugar. Most Americans tend to eat desserts after meal. After a fulfilling meal, eating cake or pies just add more calories that require our bodies to metabolize. To burn off the extra calories will require additional 2 hours of exercise. However, we usually opt to just sit on the sofa and watch TV for the next 2 hours.

Dieting is difficult but with some determination (and exercise) getting rid some of the weight should not be difficult. So start small by taking these 5 steps now.

Featured post

Getting Funds for Investment (part 3)

It’s great that our financial market system is set-up to allow everyone the opportunity to build wealth. All the investment vehicles were tried and tested; some were more successful while some failed. We all know the financial market, particularly the stock market is made for the wealthy so getting the funds to invest is not a problem. But what about the 99% of us?

No More Coffee
No More Coffee!

We all received all kinds of advise on what to do with our money. Buy a house, invest in stocks, or maybe even invest in baseball cards. All of these require the funds (or disposable income) in order for them to become reality. Disposable income is defined as income remaining after deduction of taxes and other mandatory charges, available to be spent or saved as one wishes.

The question is how does anyone come up with the extra money when there are multitude of expense items that require our attention. I have the same challenges every month for the last 20 years. On top of the mortgage payment, there are utilities bills, groceries expenses and unexpected expenses. Over the years I learned of a few tricks that have helped me to come up with enough liquid asset that allow me to put some of them in investments. I hope this blog will help anyone who just started to earn wages to think about their future and how to come up with enough liquid asset to invest.

There are myriad of articles already exist out there showing strategies how to save money. I may repeat some of them here but mostly I will focus on how to prioritize the savings so much so that you don’t even know you are saving money. There will be some efforts and sacrifices made but they are for the benefits of your future. Thus, I would highly recommend that would consider some of methods in this blog.

Automatic Investment in 401k Retirement Fund

Most medium size and large companies offer 401k to their retirements. Some would offer the plan while others would match your contribution. If your companies offer matching contribution, you will want to max out the contribution and get the “free” money. The money you save in the retirement plan will continue to grow as long as the market continues to grow. The money you save in the plan will never go into deficit if you plan to withdraw it when you retire.

What happens if you have emergency need of cash? You can borrow against the retirement plan and repay it within certain period. If you fail to pay back the loan, you will need to pay a penalty and a hefty tax bill. Hence, any money you save in the retirement plan is considered “untouchable”. The good news is it will continue to grow and you never have to worry about it.

Annual Bonus and Tax Refund

At the end of every calendar year most companies will award bonus to their employees. Certain companies such as investment banks could award bonuses in the hundreds of thousands while some small companies would only give a few hundred dollars. While these are free monies, they are never actually “free” because they are usually taxed at a higher bracket.

Americans who start to earn wages are required by law to pay income tax to the federal and state governments. If you plan your tax correctly and input W4 appropriately, you should be able to get tax refund. Most Americans think the tax refund is a big payout and it is free. Instead of saving the refund, they will go on a spending spree. Tax that is being refunded to you is not free but your very own money. It is merely an over payment of taxes the previous year and the governments are just paying you back.

Instead of spending the bonus or tax refund, put them in a high-yield savings account, save them in emergency fund or invest them in either Roth IRA or traditional IRA. Better yet, if you have extra liquid assets available buy reputable equity stocks that pay dividends. These stocks will continue to generate passive income.

Automatic Deposit

Once you started working, most companies would encourage their employees to set-up a bank account because the wages would be automatically direct deposit to the bank. There are hardly any companies would pay wages in cash to cut administrative cost. Banks today are quite sophisticated in helping customers managing their money. On top of deposits, withdrawals and paying bills, most banks has a feature called “automatic transfer”. Everyone should use this feature to set up a periodic automatic transfer the wages you earn to a separate account. For example, after budgeting all my expenses, I was able to transfer $150 every pay period from my checking to my money market account. Instead of performing this task manually, I set up an automatic task that will transfer the funds twice a month. This method becomes so ingrained in my monthly budget that I hardly see the money but I know it is there should I ever need it.

A Penny Save is a Penny Earned

This is an old saying that is still true today. However, for this example, I’m not referring to saving your hard earned money in a savings account, which hardly pays any interest. I am referring to the actual pennies and changes you receive after a purchase. When we go our purchase anything with cash, it is extremely likely we will have changes in many denominations. And I can assure you that these coins will never be used again because they are real inconvenience and heavy to carry around. Save these coins in a container at home. Believe it or not in no time the coins will add up. Before the pandemic hit, my coins could easily amount to over $100 in 3 months. Once a year bring the coins to the bank and transfer it to an investment account.

Shop Smartly

Ever wonder why the brick and mortar stores are closing as fast as dead flies? Because more and more people are now shopping online. The benefit of purchasing online is it allows us as consumers to shop smartly. Apps today, such as Amazon or the Honey, enable us to look for deals before making any purchase. In turn, they allow us to save.

My family makes a lot of purchases online. If we find something that we like in the stores, we usually do not purchase the items right away. We would search Amazon to look for ratings and the price. The ratings will let us know if the items are reliable or if the price is right. This method allows us to cut our spending drastically. Another benefit is by not buying the item immediately allows to reconsider if the item is needed. It makes us question the need and want of the item thus further saving more money.

Eating Out

Eating out is one of the biggest expenses of any household. We are paying a price for the convenience of not cooking. My family used to eat out at least 4 nights a week. We gradually reduce it to 2 nights a week. The Coronavirus pandemic totally eliminate any chances of us eating out and I see our monthly expenses reduced by a third. Because of this I’ve been able to move the money that we did not use to the stocks.

I am going to use eating at a sushi restaurant as an example of price comparison. A roll of California roll at a restaurant costs between $5 to $8. On a sushi night, I would spend less than $15 in ingredients and make about 20 rolls of sushi. If I buy 20 rolls of sushi at a restaurant will probably cost me about $150 (taxes and tips included). That’s a $135 in savings!

No Gourmet Coffee

Prior to the pandemic hit I would see literally 20 to 30 people waiting for their coffee at Starbucks coffee. The prices for a beverage range from $3 to $8. There is a perception that Starbucks coffee are better then regular coffee and people are willing to pay premium for a cup of coffee. However, what people don’t realize that the coffee that they are getting is a big chunk of their monthly expenses. For example, using an average of $4 a cup of coffee you will have to pay about $120 a month to satisfy your cravings. Starbucks now offer k-cup coffee that you can make at home and they usually cost less than $1. That’s a $90 a month in saving that you can use to invest in.

I could go on forever to find funds to invest. At the end it is up to each one of us to take the initiatives to start saving and less spending. I am interested to hear from you of any other tips that work for you and help savings for the future.

Writing Effective Resume for College Grads

I have been in management position for over 10 years now and during my tenure I have hired a number of people for entry level positions. I’ve seen my fair share of resumes and I can tell you that some resumes work better than other.

Resumes are as important as the national ID itself. They help identify who you are and get you in the door of hiring companies. Needless to say getting the right resumes can spell success or disaster.

There are thousands of books covering this subject. Besides books there are also myriad of experts touch on this subject. I’m not going to regurgitate what is important to put in a resume and what is trivial. Here I’m going to list what you should do and avoid on a resume. If you are recent college graduates, hope this will give you some pointers how to land your first in person interview.

Aces (What you should do!)

Resume Refresh – Nowadays getting connected in a new world has become the norm. However, for some reason resumes remain stuck in the past. Of all the resumes I’ve seen most of them continue to stuck to the same formatting, with the exception of one. The resume that I was referring to was redesigned like a webpage; it helps the reader to focus on important things with highlights and pop up areas. The resume caught my eye and I was excited to learn more about the person. Unfortunately, the candidate did not make the cut because she did not have the experience I was looking for. The point is it is highly recommend that you revamp your resume and stay away from the old traditional format.

Highlight Success – It is not enough just to list your job experience. To catch the eye of recruiters list all your successes during your years of experience. Don’t list what you have done but showed what you achieved. If you have certain achievements that helped a company, list it on the top. As an example, instead of saying you build an Excel template for the team to input inventory try to point out the time saved for the team because your Excel template enable a more effective way of categorizing inventory.

Check Formatting and Spelling – A resume that has tons of errors and spelling will automatically put your resume in the trash. This is perhaps one of the most critical things on a resume that a lot of candidates overlook but that can be easily fixed. If you send out an error full resume to a recruiter that signifies that you are careless and do not prioritize your work. These 2 traits are very important to any employer.

Summarize Your Experience – Most recruiters do not have the time to read every resume from top to bottom. What you need is summarize your experience or what you can do for the company. Personally, I’m interested in reading high level summary of the person on the top of the resume. In a business environment, this is call an Executive Summary. Instead of diving deep into the content of a report most executives will read of the summary if there is anything interesting or require their attention. This is very similar to a resume – present who you are in a way that the recruiter or hiring manager wants to know you.

Hide Trivial Matters – Similar to the point on summarizing your experience don’t overburden the reader. Don’t list any things or experience that do not add any value to your resume. You were placed second in the 2005 school marathon? Great! But leave it out. You worked as a cashier in a supermarket and trained a high school student how to use the cash machine? This is considered trivial and would not score you any points. Most recruiters want to see ground shaking experience and that you are an “A” type employee.

Avoid at All Cost

No Sports – It is really funny how Americans place emphasis on sports at school and colleges. Getting into soccer is like a rite of passage for kindergartners. My kids high school care more about football and soccer games that getting the grades. I have worked professionally for over 25 years and I can tell you that the subject of hiring someone who was good at sport never appear once. I understand that some may put sports on their resume because it is a team sport, but in most jobs this is a non-issue. What recruiters care about if you are capable to follow instructions and get things done.

No “Can Do” Personality – Do not categorize yourself as a “Can Do” person. Employers care about someone who takes initiatives and get things done with minimal supervision. Try to portray yourself as someone who takes up a challenge and innovative at the same time.

Don’t Lie – This is quite simple and yet a lot of candidates like to lie on their resumes. For a seasoned recruiter they can easily spot a fib by just do a quick glance. In other words don’t say you are an expert on everything. Instead, try to portray yourself who is excited to learn new things. Imagine that you were able to secure an interview but not able to respond to a question asked by the interviewer.

Don’t Overdo – Some resumes may require technical language. But for the most part resumes should kept simple and readable by a 4th grader. Dressing your resume with all “flowers” or technical jargon is a disservice to yourself. I have been writing management report for Board of Directors for over 7 years now and I can tell you that the chairperson prefer something that can be easily understood. Any abbreviations we use on our reports must be spelled out to avoid any confusion.

These are some of the pointers that I believe are important. Writing good resumes require a lot of work and what I have here may not cover everything. If you consider my points above I believe you will be one step closer to get your foot in the door.

The Problems with Hospitals and the US Medical System

I am drafting this blog while in a hospital feeling frustrated and angry. I am attending to my mom who needs a back surgery. And as part of the condition she needs to do pre-testing admission. While I understand the precautions that needs to be taken but the test and procedures that my mom has to go through are not necessary.

Before I deep dive into the test she has to go through, I want to point out that hospital is a terrible place to be in. Not because it houses sick people but the amount of time wasted in a hospital is unnecessary. This visit alone took us over 2 hours to complete. I remember I brought my son to the emergency room at a pediatrician hospital for food poisoning. A simple visit took us over 6 hours. I recall seeing a boy entering the emergency room before us due to injury sustain playing sport. 6 hours later, the boy was still on a stretcher in the hallway of the emergency room.

Fast forwarding to this visit with my mom. We were brought in a waiting room with just 3 patients. We have to wait for an hour before we were even brought in to get the test done, and it was also due to my mom complained to one of the nurses.

Once we brought in to one of the test room, we were asked a lot of questions of her visit. Everything is recorded in the computer. My mom’s condition and diagnosis are clearly written on the computer and they were recent too. She was admitted to the hospital last year and had every test done. She went to the hospital and saw two specialists and had several tests done, including multiple blood tests. For this visit, she had to do another blood work and EKG tests.

The most ridiculous part of the entire visit was we need to go through everything again with the resident nurse. Not only she was useless, she asked us the same questions again and again when everything is clearly written in my mom’s medical record. To make herself useful, the nurse recorded her notes on the computer for no apparent reason. This meeting alone wasted us half an hour with no benefits.

Hospital is abusing the medical system by having patients going through unnecessarily tests and charge all these costs to the insurance companies. For example, when my mom was hospitalized last year the bill came up to 70 thousand dollars charged to medicare. She was also hospitalized once about 10 years ago because she passed out unexpectedly. The hospital bill came out to almost 100 thousand dollars paid by Uncle Sam. When my eldest son was born 20 years ago, we received a bill for 12 thousand dollars paid by my company’s health insurance. The bill was 16 thousand dollars when my second son was born. The final bill of 26 thousand dollars when my daughter was born 14 years ago.

A lot of hospitals today are for profit and are owned by large corporations. It is well known that US medical system is perhaps the worst in the world because it is being abused by these corporations. At the end we consumers have to foot the bill. There are discussions for years to reign in these medical costs but as far as I know nothing has been done.

This is my of venting my anger. I believe most of us have to deal with hospitals one way or another and I’m sure some of us have trouble with hospital billing. Feel free to vent your anger if you believe my points above are accurate.

Why I think High School in my town is ill-prepared

Two of my kids are now in high school. My son is a senior and my youngest daughter is an entering freshman. They are attending my local town high school, which unfortunately is one of the lowest ranking school in the nation.

I attended the orientation with my daughter and the principal kept touting how great the school is, while neglecting to inform the parents how terrible it is in terms of academic. Yes, the principal wanted to toot his own horn but it is a disservice to the concerned parents who are sending their children to the school.

One of things that I disagree with the principal is how he often place varsity sports as priorities over everything else. If you look at his tweets, they are all about football, soccer and other sports. What he doesn’t realize is that sports have no place in the working world. When these young adults enter the workforce, no employers care if the potential employees play football or soccer, not they care if these employees are team player in the sports team. Every employer who is hiring is only interested in one thing – is the employee capable to complete the work.

Unfortunately, the high school (not named) is not doing well in this regard. Not only the principal is bad, the teachers are not the greatest either. This goes back to the education system in the US. There is a lack of understanding of what is more important and continue to play extra emphasis on varsity.

When I attended high school in Malaysia, my days are packed with classes and homework. Yes, the constant cramming of classes are not healthy but the education system of my town took to the extreme. Nowadays instead of teaching the high schoolers the essentials, it is following the same curriculum as in higher education (colleges and universities). The academic year is broken down in 4 semesters and the first two semesters only focus on 4 classes. The last two semesters will focus on the next 4 classes.

Once the students finished the first two semesters, they will no longer need to relearn the classes ever again. If there is no repetition, there is no way the students can retain anything at all. When it comes to studying SAT for college entrance exam, they would not be able to get the scores they need to get into good colleges. Maybe that’s why the high school ranks so low nationwide.

Another big fail of the high school in my town is lack of “new blood”. The principal of the high school was born and bred in my town. Majority of the teachers are also born and bred too. They lack outside views to provide new perspective to the students. Their teaching is stale and lack substance. The world outside has progressed so far but my town education system seems stuck in the 80’s.

And finally, the school board and the principals seem care about status then the well-being of the student. From the superintendent to the principals of every schools like to call themselves doctors. They have a doctorate in education does not mean they qualify to be doctors. They are philosophical doctor not medical doctor. What that tells me is they prefer the superficial title rather than finding solution for the students.

How is it in your area or town education system?

Side-Hustle De-bunked!

Over the past few years I have been trying to get a side-hustle to supplement my income. Not that I need it but I find that a second stream of income appealing and after reading so many great “success” stories I say to myself “why not?”

If you are reading this you are probably questioning the success rate of a side-hustle or you are interested in jumping on the bandwagon. Who is not interested in earning extra cash beside their full-time jobs? Well, today I’m going to tell you that not all side-hustle are successful. Some people were able to make a good amount of money from side-hustles and I do not question the validity of these claims.

A few months ago I read this article that claims some side gigs can make you richer than a full-time job. I immediately click on the link and start reading every words. As I was reading the first job it listed, I started to question if the writer who wrote this was insane.

I work professionally in a bank and I can tell you that the article would not apply to me because no matter which side-hustle that I want to do would not make me richer than my current full-time job. Let’s de-bunk some of the claims.

Time Commitment

The definition of a side-hustle refers to a job that you take on on the side. Usually it is for full-timers already have a job and is interested in doing extra work to earn extra income. Unfortunately there are only so many hours in a day and usually the work hours are in the day. So for full-timers like me in order to have a side gig I have to commit to a second job after 5 PM. That is not going to happen because by the end of the day after by banking job I get too tired to do anything else. As a husband and a father, I would rather use the free time to connect with my family than strangers.

Building Clientele

Understandably that people may have been more successful than others when it comes to second gig. However, in order to be successful you need to have enough clients to make the extra income. Let use online tutor as an example, you will need to have enough students to attend your class in order for you to be successful. That is easier to say than to actually make it happen. If you are thinking about that job, there are already hundreds of people in front of you already doing the same thing.

Subject Matter Expertise (SME)

If you read the article that I refer to some of the jobs require certain expertise in order to earn that rate. Let’s take one of the jobs listed as an example, a bookkeeper or an online instructor, how many of us can claim that we are a bookkeeper or great online instructor? We can fake it but sooner or later we would get caught and lose the credibility. I am quite handy when it comes to fixing certain things around my house; however, I will never be able to claim that I am a certified plumber or electrician.

Who wouldn’t want to be rich one day. Unfortunately, all the side-hustles that the internet is listing may never lead to immediate wealth. We need to take all these advise as a grain of salt because while some jobs may help some gain some extra income but I can tell you that for the majority of us they are just wishful thinking.

Should I Resign and Look for Greener Pasteur

If you have read recent news how many companies that have started to open up after last year’s lock down are having challenges in finding employees. This is particular true for those in the retail and restaurant businesses.

This phenomenon appears to hit many other industry as well. The reasons for not able to find people to fill the openings are myriad. But if you parse through these reasons most if not all fall into two categories: 1) self-satisfaction or self-worth and 2) higher salaries.

I am no different as I ponder the same question. I have worked professionally in several multi-national companies and I always struggled with the question, should I start venturing out and look for better opportunites? Believe it or not, this question is not easy to answer as there are many factors to consider and there are also a lot of dependencies.

I still remember vividly when I was called in the office of one of the new directors who was brought in to take over the reporting function of Citigroup Internal Audit. She told me straight in the face that I need to start looking for a new job if I stayed in the same position for 3 years. That awakening moment really made me think. That director totally disregard all the work I put in and essentially kicked me out of the door. There is good coming out of the whole event as I was able to move on and found better position outside of Citigroup.

So the question remains, should we resign and look for better opportunities after 3 years? I’ve been in my current role for 7 years now and I can tell you that I have never been unhappy nor over stressed. I believe that I am contributing positively to the company and I am valued by my peers. But the nagging question remains.

Earlier in the year I decided to reach out to my previous managers and colleagues from Andersen and Citigroup to get their opinions. And the answers I receive may surprise you.

I asked all of them the same question and all of them told me that if I’m happy with where I am there is no reason to look outside unless the aim is to obtain a higher paid position. I realized that if I get a higher paid job does not really translate to a higher satisfaction job. I knew a few people who found a better paying jobs but they feel more miserable.

My current employee, HSBC, is a great company to work for if I have to compare to my previous employers. While the bank continues to face multiple headwinds due to the economic and regulatory environments, I can honestly say that it does care for the well-being of the employees. More importantly I feel valued by my colleagues and my peers. Also the company invests heavily in providing all types of training and offer outside skills to every employees. So there is a tremendous opportunity to learn new things outside of current role.

With that being said, have you ponder the same question whether you want to look for new opportunities? The answer is if you are happy where you are, there is no reason to.

Stressed? Here are 5 ways to De-Stress…

My masterpiece – a scale model for stress relief

When my second son was born, both my wife and I had difficult time taking care of him. Although he wasn’t colicky but he was definitely gave us a hard time particularly during feeding. At some point I questioned why did we put ourselves through it. But being parents it was something that we both have to learn how to be patient. I can tell you that I was so stressed that I felt hopeless and angry most of the time.

My son just turned 17th and he just passed his driving test. Looking back while he was growing up I can tell you he is a joy in our family because he is always happy and has tons of “fun” energy. He is a blessing to us and I wouldn’t change a thing if I can turn go back in time.

Now you may asked how I was able to go through such hardship (if you want to call parenting hard) and come out victorious. I think it has to do with how I see myself and how I deal with the stress. Some stress is healthy but if you are burdened with stress then it could become suicidal.

Today I’m going to list 5 ways to deal with stress that I find useful. There are other ways as well but I’m not going to list everyone of them as it may take more than one post.

Enjoy Something that Takes Time to Complete

Invest time in doing something you really enjoy. I’m not talking about something that can be completed in an hour. I’m referring to a project that can take hours or days to complete, and it has to be something that you enjoy. For example, you can try putting a 1,000 pieces of jigsaw or maybe try building the dog house. For me, it is spending hours building the perfect scale model. As my kids are all grown up I have been spending more and more time in this hobby. It takes a lot of patience and at times frustrating if I don’t get certain parts correct. However, I can tell you that it is the best way for me to de-stress.

Start a Work-out Regime

This is an easy thing to start and complete. However, it requires commitment. If you set a SMART goal, getting into the groove can help de-stress. Imagine have a workout regime with the goal to run 5 miles within a month time. Having a goal not only helps you focus, but it also helps you de-stress. It would be even better if you can join a group of friends with the same goal in mind. This will put you in the competitive mode and further help in keeping the stress level down.

Reading a Book, Listen to Music or Write a Blog

Before I started working on my hobby, I would go to the local library and borrow the new books which only have 2 weeks lending period. It helps me de-stress as I had a separate deadline to complete. I find that if I enjoy the book time flies and I would not even notice the 2 weeks deadline. Nowadays I would have a music playing while I’m working. It helps me focus more and reduce the stress with the multitude deadlines that I have. At the end of the day (like right now) or end of the week writing a blog also helps refocus my thoughts.

Take a Walk

I still remember vividly when I started working for HSBC. The deadlines and the workload was unbearable that I always went home angry after work. It was definitely not healthy to my family and myself. One day during work I decided to drop everything and step away from my desk. I took a two hours walk around my office coming refreshed. Since then I learned to remove myself from my laptop when I feel stressed.

Spending Time with Family

If you read my earlier post, my daughter is having difficulty with her anxiety. I have begun to spend more time with her and talk to her more often. I find that not only it helps me understand my daughter more I also felt more relaxed. Having someone to talk to is important, especially with someone you care. If you feel overwhelmed do not feel bad or ashamed that you need to talk.

Do not less stress get the better of you. Some stress is healthy but if it becomes overwhelming, it can cause more than just losing sleep. It is extremely important that you take care of yourself by knowing yourself. Learning to de-stress is different for everyone. You need to search within yourself to see what works for you. As long as you can do something you enjoy, you are one step closer from being burnt out.

Investing – To Hold or Follow the Crowd?

The last few months had been a huge roller coaster ride when it comes to investing in stock markets. The increase in Covid-19 infection rate together with the economic conditions have such profound effect on the stock market that making a profit is a hit or miss.

Investing in stock market has its own inherent risk. One one hand you can earn some great money if you made the right choice. On another hand you can easily lose everything if you made the wrong choice.

If you follow my earlier posts, my investment strategy is a mix. I have a diversified portfolio to reduce the risk of losing all my investment. Besides investing in well known stable companies, I also invest in bonds and stocks. I only invest less than 30% of my assets in volatile stocks.

Here is what I noticed on my portfolio for the last 2 months. The stable companies such as Microsoft or Apple continue to do well. Stocks that pay dividends are also stable and had very little volatility. In fact I did not lose any values on these stocks, bonds and ETFs.

On the other hand, the stocks that go up and down the most are those that do not fall into any of the categories I noted above. Stocks such as meme stocks or those that do not pay dividends. Some of the stocks that I own are Pinterests, Snapchat and pharmaceutical companies. These stocks continue to lose value as more investors continue to buy and sell at higher volume. In total, my portfolio for this portion of the stocks did not do as well as I hope.

Luckily I diversified my portfolio that the risk for it to lose is minimal. In fact, I learned that by holding onto the stable stocks, I continue to make capital gain on them. Unfortunately, some of the value was negated by the volatile stocks.

Here is what I learned since I started investing actively. Sometimes it is safer and more profitable if you just invest in stable stocks and hold them forever. The value of these stocks continue to increase while stocks that are being bought and sold tend to lose value at a higher rate.

If you are interested in investing stock market, I highly recommend that you do some research on the stock market and the companies that you plan to invest in. Do diversify your portfolio to minimize the risks and finally if you want to “follow the crowd” do put only a small percentage of your portfolio on risky stocks.

Simple 10 Minutes Lunch

One of the biggest challenges working remotely is to make lunch everyday for the family. There comes a time when I just run out of idea.

Here is an idea if you run out of options. Simple, inexpensive and just take 10 minutes. Baked ham and tater tots, a mini croissant, sweet corn with light butter, an over easy egg and home grown fresh cucumber. And finally a cup of Earl Grey tea. Believe it or not, this is quite fulfilling and not heavy.

Why We Decided to Own a Dog

Today’s post is a little different from my normal subject. However, it does relate to mental health indirectly. This post is about a new member in our family, Tofu, a small Havanese puppy.

When I was growing up in Malaysia, it was quite common for every family to have a dog or two. All of the dogs were either stray or mixed. My family owned several dogs of which some were docile and some were difficult. So I had my fair share of dogs.

After moving to the US my family had no urge to own any dogs because we were having difficulty adjusting to the life in the US. Plus, dog’s life in the US is very different from those in Asia. Dog’s life in the US is like heaven because they are pet and pampered, and not to mention very expensive. On the other hand, dogs in Asia serve a purpose. They are used to guard the properties. None of the dogs that my family had were pampered nor treated like pets; they were used as tools.

The past week was perhaps history in the making because we decided to purchase a dog for ourselves. Now that my children are all grown up, I feel that it is the perfect time to add this new family member. I understand that taking care of puppy is a lot of work but the family is ready to put their efforts to make this a successful journey.

The question is why would we own a dog?

Quite simply the reason we are getting the dog is to help my daughter getting over her anxiety attack. After speaking with her and understand her feelings a few weeks ago, I felt that there could be more things I could do to help her to overcome her trouble. One of method is to encourage her to love someone or something and share her feelings. A puppy could be the best remedy because a dog will love you back unconditionally if you treat it well.

So what has changed in the past few days after we brought the puppy home? My daughter is now spending more of her time outsider her bedroom. She also has become more jubilant as well. I also observe a markedly improvement how she carries herself.

Tofu is considered a toy dog, but she has her own adorable behavior as well. There are goods and there are a few bad with the tiny puppy. One of the things that we are learning is how to teach her to behave. Unfortunately, dogs are animal and they do not understand human language. With practice and some positive reinforcement I believe we can teach Tofu to behave. Only time will tell. Just like life – there are ups and downs; with enough practice and patience we shall overcome the difficulties in life.

I told myself years ago that I will never own a dog because I have no need for it. Now I need it to help my daughter. Will spending that kind of money to own a pure breed toy dog be worthwhile? We shall see.

Mental Health Issues Today

I have the privilege of working for a one of the major corporations in the world who cares of mental health, particularly the well-being of its employees. HSBC, is a global bank located in the UK and Asia, tackles this public issue head on.

For the past several years there is an increase concern as mental health is taking the forefront of public health issues. The pandemic accelerates this concern as majority of the world went into lock down. As of today, the pandemic continues to impact a large portion of the world. Most people will not be handle the isolation well and the pandemic causes tremendous damage to the mental health. If you do a news search today there are multiple instances where some decided to take their own life rather than be a hermit.

Most companies consider human capital as an important asset for them. HSBC is not any different. For the last several years the company pivot towards ensuring the employees’ well-being. There were a lot of internal communication on the issue and what the company is doing. Some of the things that the company offers include workshop, trainings and outside programs to assist the employees. I recently joined a program called Headspace, offered by HSBC. I haven’t had the chance to use it yet but I do appreciate what the company is doing.

Unfortunately, mental health cannot be solved if the victims do not acknowledge that the issue exists. Regardless what the company does, if the victims are not taking advantage of the options available, the problem will only get worsen. There are may symptoms of mental health. However, I’m not licensed to identify any of them but I can only provide my observations and how I personally address the issue.

Mental health issue really hits home when I had a chance to talk to my daughter recently. She has always been doing well at school. The pandemic forced the school to use remote learning. On top of some of the issue she had with a friend, she hit a wall last year. I knew she was at risk but I never knew how serious it was until I had a lengthy heart to heart talk with her. I felt I failed my job as a parent for not identifying her issues sooner. With that being said, I am spending more time with her now to ensure she feels she is being supported. It has been a week now and she is feeling a lot better. If you are interested in how I helped her in the addressing her issues, do follow my blog. I plan to share them with you.

In the meantime, take care of yourself and do seek help if you feel helpless. No one will think you are weak; admitting that you have a problem actually makes you stronger.