Invest 1.0: Shares

INVESTING. S-c-a-r-e-d already?? 

Okay, it’s not only about stocks and shares – but in 1950s idyllic Singapore, it was the only thing Dad (and everyone we knew) was doing. Every morning from the time I was 8, I’d sit next to him, with his newspaper spread out on the dining table. He’d read aloud names of his rubber, tin and palm oil shares to me, and would listen to share reports on radio every weeknight. 

He went further – giving reasons why he bought them and why he knew they would go up in the future. “Dad will make lots of money to start his own business and Mum won’t have to go to work!”, he’d say.

At the time, ‘money’ and my mother not having to work held special meaning for me. My parents frequently argued about finances and Mum always looked tired when she got home late from the office. Yes, we had our devoted nanny (Ah Chai) to bathe, clothe and feed us – but I so wanted my mother there too. Dad’s vision appealed to me: I was interested and wanted to know more.  

Enid Blyton and singing in front of the mirror now took second spot after I started reading the financial page in Singapore’s Straits Times (I write ‘page’ because they had only one then), and later the Business Times. I don’t remember Dad reading anything apart from this newspaper and annual company reports. He told me it was important to read them and check on their income, profits and dividends (IPD). Losses are not necessarily bad he said, if the company was growing and expanding – but if income and turnover kept increasing without a profit, “Be careful!”

Closing share prices from Singapore’s Business Times – my daily staple

Our home slowly became what we now call a ‘chat room’ with one exception: food and people were included. Our live-in cook and maids diligently served and cleaned while Dad exchanged share-scrips (or the colonial term ‘chits’) with his clients. Some stayed for a meal, others sat and talked. I listened. I made notes. 

So that’s what I learned early on about the ‘secrets’ of investing. While I believe nothing much has changed, I encourage you to heed my father’s warnings so you’re well prepared. 

Moving forward to the 1980s … my ‘quiet’ years, compared to the bustle-buzz of my Singapore days. Adapting to my new life in Sydney, I had only(!) 3 goals: paying off the mortgage, starting a share portfolio and buying an investment property. Do you notice that all 3 were finance-related? What finance gurus preach now, I did then – no eating out, movies or shopping for things I didn’t need


I already had a few ASX stocks in my portfolio by then, but needed more. I read newspapers but didn’t buy them – mostly because I snatched the loose business sections that people had thrown out in shopping centres!

But I did subscribe to the magazines Money and Share Investor. I now subscribe to The Motley Fool run by Scott Phillips. I also read Marcus Today, partly because I fell in love early on with Marcus Padley who just happened to give the same advice my father did … 

I picked apart the stocks recommended in the magazines and newspapers, highlighted and then wrote down what I liked in my ‘share book’. In 2 years, my savings were growing nicely and I would soon be ready to launch my portfolio. 

I  know that times are tougher now – it’s so much more difficult to buy an investment property than it was 20 years ago, especially here in Sydney, even with low interest rates. But here’s where shares come in: banks will be paying near-zero interest until at least 2024, so it definitely pays to do your research and build your portfolio.  

10 tips to start a share portfolio

  1. Get the necessary information about the companies, including their ‘IPD’: income, profit and dividends. 
  2. Have patience and courage to begin. 
  3. It’s OK to borrow money to buy shares (or a property) – but have enough for you and your family to live on, and don’t borrow so much that you can’t sleep well at night.  
  4. Never spend more than you earn. If you can’t pay off your monthly credit card balance, you’re spending too much. 
  5. Ask advice from those smarter than you, and take them out for lunch!
  6. Save regularly even if it’s a small sum – you’ll be rewarded.
  7. Never believe anyone who boasts of a ‘fortune’ they made on the stockmarket. They’re either exaggerating or lying.
  8. Choose value over cost. Don’t avoid shares simply because their price is too ‘high’. Buying 100 shares at $10 each may give you a better return than buying 1000 shares at $1! 
  9. What can you see that no-one else can?1 Take your eyes off your smartphone and look around you. 
  10. “If you’re good in this game, you’re only going to be right 6 times out of 10. If you buy only 1 stock, you’re essentially tossing a coin and that’s no way to invest!”2

We’re now entering the decade of 5G. Are you aware of how much it will impact our everyday lives? For example in health, agriculture, transport and e-commerce? Quantum computing, smartphones, electric cars – what do they need? Lithium, graphene, copper and nickel. Make a  list and pick 1 … or 2.

Please watch my previous ‘Let’s talk finance‘ snippet if you haven’t already.

Don’t be afraid to start. Focus. Time is your friend, don’t waste it. 

Finally, because I love linking my posts: IF YOU EAT BETTER, YOU’LL THINK BETTER! 

Stay tuned for Invest 2.0 out soon.

 1Padley, M. (November 8, 2017). The Sydney Morning Herald.

 2Phillips, S. (January 6, 2021). The Motley Fool Share Advisor [Scott Phillips quotes Peter Lynch].

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