The conservative investor’s resource guide: Investment portfolio and a breakdown of Singapore’s personal finance digital media ecosystem

Photo credit: SGX

This article was updated with new information on 11 October 2020

Since young, I’ve been regaled by well-meaning boomer relatives who have sworn off the stock market and warned me about the pitfalls of trading stocks. Many cited stories of people they knew long ago, who’d lost their entire life savings. Such stories are good tales of caution. But, here’s the thing: Back in the 80s and 90s, information on investing best practices weren’t as widely available; retail investors probably took the word of a remisier, who may not have their best interest. Today, though, information on the stock market is more widely available than ever before.

While there are plenty of investors who still make mistakes now because they, perhaps, treated the stock market a bit like a casino and a get-rich-quick method, there are many others who are looking to grow their wealth patiently. If you’ve already explored investment options such as bonds and endowment plans, then looking into the stock market next is a viable option and the key to navigating financial markets is really to read widely, and take calculated risks.

The conservative investor’s guide to the Singapore retail finance digital media landscape

For investors looking into the Singapore stock market, there are a multitude of educational tools and resources out there. Besides Singapore Exchange (SGX) website itself, Singaporean retail investing influencers (YouTubers, bloggers) and niche digital media outlets have made available a ton of super helpful tips to help new investors get started and seek out stocks. Here are some recommended websites:

Digital media outlets

According to the SGX Orb Awards, the best financial education website this year (2020) is The Fifth Person. The Fifth Person is known for their articles on key takeaways from attending Annual General Meetings of top Singapore companies. They also regularly post videos on their recommended stocks and ABCs on investing.

Other great resources are:

Other noteworthy websites are Singsaver and Gobear, but their content is more like advertorials. In general, the articles and videos produced by these digital media players are in some ways a content marketing strategy to get retail investors to sign up for their investing workshops and programmes, especially the latter few companies.

Dr Wealth is one of them. It’s a personal finance media business and an engine to promote his company’s education arm. That’s how they draw an income. This Dr Wealth webinar video is a good starter in learning about ETFs. Cut to mid-way to avoid the whole tired spiel about financial planners trying to sell you unit trust funds (Financial planners need to make a living too!) Per the investing legend, Warren Buffett’s advice, ETFs are the way to go for the average investor because most won’t have the time and capacity to monitor individual company and their stock performance:

The digital media outlets mentioned above all reach out to followers on Facebook and YouTube, too. Many have been leveraging ‘live’ functions to gain new followers. For more detailed information about digital media outlets, DollarsAndSense has this comprehensive listing:

Personal finance blogs

Besides the major digital information outlets, you can also refer this detailed list of personal finance blogs and web sources. Some blogs are just mere random musings. Hence, to save your time from trawling through list, here are my personal favourites because of their quality content:

Personal finance YouTubers

YouTube channel ‘Kelvin Learns Investing’ (above) is the best channel for beginners. Kelvin’s humour makes the content light-hearted and entertaining too, and he doesn’t complicate things with jargon. I hope his channel’s popularity skyrockets. Other YouTube channels that are consistently putting out great information are:

Note: Read more on “For your infotainment: 7 Singapore personal finance vloggers who are rocking it on YouTube”

I like video format the best because I learn better from visual presentations. Also, videos are harder to produce, so it makes sense to use gather more research to produce a good video. For blog posts, I see many bloggers who just put up random musings.

Speaking of social media, Financial Horse’s FB group is a very good resources for people seeking timely updates and community support. There are many other FB groups to join on this subject matter. Of course, at the end of the day, I would love to plug our local mainstream media outlet, The Straits Times. The Sunday Times’ Invest section has been my years-long companions on this topic.

In reviewing stock technical data, some good web resources are as follows (not necessarily SG):

My investment portfolio [NOTE: My portfolio has since been updated]

As disastrous as the Covid-19 pandemic has been on the economy and people’s livelihoods, one outcome is that it has steered many new and conservative investors to the stock market because of all the bargains. Take myself, for example: for years, I’ve monitored some of my favourite companies – OCBC, CapitaMall Trust, and the FAANG stocks: Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – but never dared to buy the counters because I found them expensive [Update: I bought a small position on OCBC stock during local bank stock slide over the central bank’s dividend cap announcement]. In early April, I was shooketh when I saw the prices on these stocks had gone way below my target entry price. This was the first time since 2012 that the prices were so low.

As a risk-averse investor, I rarely delve seriously into equities because of the risks. I mean a blue-chip company can ‘fold’ i.e. Hyflux, SingPost, and Nokia. Hence, my portfolio is made up of relatively safe products:

  • Govt bonds. The first two tranches of Singapore Saving Bonds in Oct and Nov 2015, paying me 2.63% and 2.72% p.a. respectively (the best SSB rates)
  • Corporate bonds. The Temasek T2027 bond that gives me 2.7% p.a
  • Insurance endowments and investment-linked plans for my retirement
  • STI Nikko Am ETF. This is purchased through DBS’s Invest Saver regular savings plan. Generally, the Singapore stock market has not performed well in the past decade, but there is a dividend of around 4% p.a.
  • Roboinvesting platforms: StashAway and digiPortfolio – both have yielded around 6% to 7% returns so far [Read: StashAway versus digiPortfolio: A review and breakdown]
  • Maybank Fixed Deposit set at 2.22% p.a. on a 12-month tenure
  • Singlife, an insurance/savings account that pays up to 2.5% p.a. on interest
  • A small position on OCBC stock

With the pandemic fire sale, I decided that I had to buy equities once and for all, but it was a painfully slow process. Firstly, I wasn’t sure if the stock market would continue its slide. MoneySmart puts it best in explaining how some amateur investors felt during the crash:

For newbie investors who are thinking of getting their feet wet right now, the temptation to dive in and pick up discounted stocks is counterbalanced by a fear that the market will sink lower, or never rebound.

Next, my brokerage accounts had for some reason needed to be re-linked to my CDP account again. In 2017, I opened two brokerage accounts with OCBC and DBS, but had not used it since. I also took quite a bit of time to study the cheapest options to purchase stocks, as well as what pandemic-resilient, dividend stocks I could buy.

Eventually, I settled on using Vicker’s cash upfront to buy local stocks. My plan is to buy and hold, and eventually sell using Fundsupermart. This combination is widely cited as the most cost-efficient. And the stock that eventually caught my eye is Netlink NBN Trust. After much careful consideration, I felt this stock was the ONE SGX stock that could weather the Covid crisis effectively. Foremost reason is that it is a monopoly. And, with Covid-19, the pickup rate of digital and data usage will likely grow.

Other stocks I considered were Singapore bank stocks (OCBC, DBS and UOB), Singtel, and the local bourse SGX:

  • Bank stocks are relatively cheap still, but they are likely to face sustained issues in their business operations because of Covid. A shareholder will need to stomach the uncertainty and potentially low dividends for at least half a year or so.
  • As for Singtel, there is some optimism about the upcoming digital bank license, but the telco is generally struggling
  • I considered SGX’s S68 because it is also a monopoly. With the recent May crash following the end of the MSCI license, it looked like the stock could be at fair value, but the dividends are a bit low.

I’m an amateur investor, so my preference is to start on the SGX. And I really want to get my feet wet with a defensive, dividend stock. Thus, Netlink. But I opened a Saxo account recently, too, so that I could buy into any US and China stocks, if I see a good entry point. For US stocks, I’m considering a S&P500 ETF and/or US tech ETF SXLK, while for China, I’m watching China Tech ETF: KWEB. With the Covid resurgence in the US, there could be a chance that US stocks could see a decline. So there could be a window of opportunity to buy into a position.

Over the past week, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time monitoring the price movement of Netlink Trust. The stock made a V-shaped recovery following the sell-off. With Singapore entering a technical recession, I’ve been anticipating a decline in price and placed a limit order at a price I’m comfortable via DBS Vicker’s cash upfront. But no luck since.

If I do not meet my short-term goal of investing $8K into the stock market by early August, my ‘plan B’ is to open up another Robo – a Syfe account to get a position on local REITs. Industrial REITs are red-hot during Covid, but retail and commercial REITs are struggling. I could start small with a general basket of these REITS through Syfe’s iEdge S-REIT Leaders index.

Investing is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for many, especially me. I invest because, as a freelancer/ grad student, it is crucial I do so. I do not have a consistent income and need to find a way to make my money work for me. At the very least, I need to beat inflation.

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