Money: How much is enough?

I was once asked the above question by a friend who served National Service with me. He was referring to my post on investment.

Allow me to respond that it is never enough. But what we do need is probably 6 months of our disposable income in cash (if I am not mistaken this is in line with industry opinion). That is to help tide us through a sudden retrenchment. We would need some early stage illness/ illness (hospitalisation and longer term) and possibly income replacement insurance. These may change though with the revamp of the national insurance system (in Singapore).

Maybe I have quoted this before, a friend’s grandfather suffered from cancer. His battle lasted 6 years and amounted to $300,000. On average, this is $50k per annum.

What is enough? That which can give you some sense of security over the short term say 3-5 years. In the meantime, we need to manage our liabilities. Do we truly need that big a house/flat? Is the car that important? What is important? And we can work on from there.

Revised – 3 May 2015



Yes, we have reached the stage of a fiat money regime, one where the monetary medium is made of intrinsically worthless tokens of paper or some other inexpensive material.

Speech by Peter Praet, Member of the Executive Board of the ECB,
at the Bargeldsymposium organised by the Deutsche Bundesbank,
Frankfurt am Main, 10 October 2012

Yes, money basically is

– a medium of payment/exchange
– store of value
– unit of account

But since the 20th century, probably more so after 1971, it has become a commodity in itself. Things have become all so complicated. It is especially so, according to The Ecology of Money (Richard Douthwaite, 1999) when the different uses of money conflict against each other. For example, we may want a stable store of value for our monetary assets. But a strong and stable currency may reduce the exports of local goods overseas. The reduced revenue is a dear price for export focused economies.

Eventually, he advocates instituting up to five different types of currencies within a single state. Some side effects (or as economists call them externalities) would be a greener and more stable economy. The concept is new to me and, unfortunately, I am unable to digest it well. Perhaps, you could give it a try. There is a revised 2006 version.


There was once an American history professor who I studied under. He served in the Vietnam War. Arguably, this was the ugliest war in the 20th century. (But what do I know?)

Based on recollection and interpretation, he stated that the US should not have gone in or should not have stayed. That conflict lasted around 20 years until 1975. It was simply an unwinnable war. And the military did not or could not say ‘No’.

Fast forward to this year. An expatriate I spoke to told me (in effect) that Singaporeans did not know when to quit.

Harvey Pekar, the deceased but celebrated American comic writer, created the book entitled The Quitter. Reflecting, he stated that staying in the civil service to do mere filing was eventually the right thing for him. He stayed in the role until he retired.

May we all know when to take up tasks that fit our ability. If it is beyond our immediate capacities and we have to take it up, at least we hope to go in with eyes open and seek aid/support from the outset.


History – Why bother?

History was the theme for the comprehension passages in the 2008 Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Level Examinations (Singapore).

It was more than a little disheartening to observe the arguments of Lee Min Yen (Passage 2). I once argued that World War Two was not my fight. The Japan that once invaded Singapore and much of Southeast Asia is not the Japan I know today (nor for that matter what most of my peers know). In that respect I agree with Lee and how we frequent Japan as a favoured tourist destination. This speaks volumes. Japan’s influence in post 1965 Singapore extends much more than mere tourism though. Yet in itself, Lee self-contradicts. Since it is ‘dangerous’ when ‘distorted and partial history’ is used to flame ‘nationalist or religious hatreds’, is not history relevant?

Therein lies the crux. One needs to ‘know’ history to discern the facts, and the stories.

And that (human) history keeps repeating itself is revealing. The greed; the malice; the extremism; and perhaps even apathy; and dare I say goodness… These attest to the features of mankind. Correspondingly, democratic structures should become the mainstay of human society. Why? Human nature is immensely corruptible. As it is said ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Democratic structures offer the ‘checks and balances’, institutionally, to prevent the rot.

And there too comes forth another maxim. If you invest in the stock market, expect ups (sky heights too) and also deep (deeeeep) downs. For it is a crucible of greed and emotional volatility. All directions toward human rationality are greatly suspect. From the audiobook entitled ‘Win Your Case: How to Present, Persuade, and Prevail-Every Place, Every Time’ (2006); Gerry Spence, a lawyer who had not lost a case since 1969 argued that emotion was the driver of so called logical decisions. He is hardly the only one of this opinion. I have made the point before – flip open the news today and check out how many crimes of passions took place over the past week.

To end though, I wonder whether history should be valorised. As you saw in my first post, it was mere curiosity that sparked my relationship with history (no, I no longer call it love). Now I just want to read some history because I want to…