Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Managing personal finances

DECLARATION AND DISCLAIMER: The following are my personal opinion. I am not a financial analyst or in any way qualified to give financial advice and thus any content from me shall be construed as a sharing of personal opinion, not financial advice. I do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information provided by me. Under no circumstances will I or anyone related to this content be responsible for any loss or damage resulting from any reliance on the information or other content posted or linked by me.

Recently, a friend who originated from China asked me how to learn about investment and personal financial management. Just 2 days ago, I chat with my landlady, who also originated from China, and she asked the same question.

This entry has 2 main sections delimited by long dash-lines. Feel free to skip the stuff that doesn't interest you.
(A) My financial training journey
(B) Online resources



I didn't think much about my early days of learning about financial management until at a discussion at the [free Canadian federal-sponsored] Financial Literacy Program for new migrants. The lecturer asked, "When was the first time you were taught about money?" As it turns out, I had an early exposure to money. I was collecting small payments, returning the change, and counting the daily revenue at my grandfather's shop even as a kindergarten kid.

In my teens and tweens, I eagerly read articles on personal financial management and stock market analysis. It is understandable, given that my parents often quarreled over money.
[Aside: I had thought then that if the money problems get fixed, the other problems will fall into place too. What I did not understand back then, though, was that the money quarrels were just a proxy to bigger problems in their marriage. But that's another story.]
As luck would have it, my previous career landed me into projects which taught me about diverse aspects of the financial market. My first job after graduation was with a company that sells financial news. My first project was to automate the faxing of Bunker reports to clients (i.e. a commodity trading information system) -- my preceptor gave me my first lessons on commodity trading. Thereafter, I handled projects on stock information systems -- colleagues taught me about the stock market. At a subsequent job, I was supporting forex traders -- and thus I learn about forex trading (i.e. currency trading), settlements and risk management. At another job, I created an information system for private bankers -- and my clients taught me about private banking, stock/equity and related derivatives, bonds/fixed-income trading, and portfolio management. At yet another job, I handled credit rating and other derivative information systems -- and ... (you get the drift). I am incredibly lucky to get a free education on financial markets along with my previous career.

Other teachers include my insurance agents -- about insurance rules-of-thumb -- and my lawyer and IRAS [Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore] -- about wills and Singapore estate duty. In the early-2000's, I attended a seminar from the Stock Exchange of Singapore about analyzing and investing in stocks and its derivatives. It was a rewarding experience, in more ways than one. Once again, I am incredibly lucky to meet people willing to share their expertise.

Nowadays, there are lots of online resources on investing and personal financial management. IMHO, one can get a solid education online with some effort.



Here are some of the online resources that I currently refer to. In addition I also read some blogs (e.g. Lucky Singaporean) that comment on such matters.

Category I - Canada specific resources

Canada Revenue Agency - Information about government taxes and financial related policies affecting individuals in Canada.

Financial Consumer Agency of Canada - Information on managing personal finances in Canada. Tools and advice to guide you from choosing bank accounts, mortgages to analyzing one's budget.

Category II - Financial terminology and learning about investing

Berkshire Hathaway - Glimpse into the mind of one of the world's best investor - Warren Buffet

Canadian Couch Potato - The Canadian lazy investors' guide

Canadian Money Forum - Read about how other Canadians manage their finances

Investopia - Very good dictionary for financial terminology with links to related terms.

Money Sense (from Canadian Business) - General investment advice

Money Ville (from Canadian - Another general investment website newly launched in 2010 Personal Finance - Read about how other North Americans manages their finances

Wall Street Journal Online - Personal finance articles
[Added on 4th March 2011 at 05:15am Singapore time. Sorry, missed out this earlier.]

Category III - Learning about the market trends

[Addendum: 27-March-2011. How could I have missed out The Economist!?!]
The Economist - Covers "world news, politics, economics, business & finance"

Questrade - Market data from the online trading platform

Reuters - Business and Financial News

The New York Times Business Day - Read about business trends worldwide from New York's perspective - Currency exchange

Yahoo Finance - Catch the financial trends in North America


Although I read the above online resources every now-and-then, I am inclined to agree with the following Chinese proverb when it comes to factors affecting personal wealth.
First fate, second luck, third Feng Shui (i.e. harmony with environment), fourth doing good deeds, fifth studies (or hard-work)

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