Category Archives: Money

六月我因日本朋友來而請假, 陪他們在迪化街散步. 路過在執行藝術展的一棟樓. 走入看到有兩個學生坐在一間茶屋裏在飲茶. 她們看到我就出來解釋作品.

作品名叫「圄」. 圄字意「吾於框中」. 感到压迫時, 常因自己作了個圍牆而把自己置於內. 命品為「圄」是希望碰到該樣心況時能借此茶屋學個不同的看法. 是把自己置於不同的框子而找所処難況的出口.

作品制造者是銘傳學建築部的四名女子大生. 她們為了作茶屋和倒茶的研究, 去了農場, 由摘葉至烘焙學了制茶的流程. 又學了茶屋建築的歷史同應用. 甚至門框的高低. 日本的茶屋門框矮, 以使人低頭入屋. 銘傳大學生的茶屋亦該樣.

我及四個日本朋友, 加銘大的學生, 坐入茶屋, 賞飲茶. 話提講到茶, 天氣, 來自的地方, 要去的地方,  有時不談而賞微風股, 讓我覺得我回到人類的基本. 沙漠裏遊牧民在遠行中入當地包裏亦會聊般的. 學生招待我們飲茶, 我們共同取靜, 除之外暫無地位, 對屋主的儘力招待感謝.

四泡茶, 約二十分鐘後, 我和我的日本朋友出去, 継續逛街. 後來逛到無時間食午餐. 朋友說還好有幾會於茶屋取靜, 否則最後感情會漂浮.

送好朋友上車去機場後, 我回到藝術展再和學生欱茶. 那時, 有一位中年女氏也一起欱. 她一直不停地講哪裡買了房屋, 哪裡旅遊過, 親戚在國外的那裡住, 房子有幾坪. 她很好意地想要分享她的経驗, 但是我覺得還是大學生人格較大, 不必借財物地位講話. 不只是那樣, 自己周圍置的財物及地位會擋住她是視野, 阻止她和其他人溝通. 今世的社會勸我們更專業化, 鋪設條漂亮的路而寫履歷書, 賺更多錢. 但我常覺得那樣不過是給自己做個圍牆, 把自己放在裏面.

大學生的熱心的招待不是為著爭地位或爭錢, 而純是為著要斟一杯好茶. 那樣全面地研究, 純心地執行,讓我感動. 但願那些大學生可以継續那樣純真的.

Cash Flow

Last year, I spent three days working on a Cantonese Dictionary for the Kindle. Not only is it helping me to learn Cantonese as I read Chinese texts, it also earns me about USD 1.50 in commissions each month, or $18 a year, which doesn’t seem like much. Then I got to thinking – how much money would I have to invest at a 3% rate of return each year in order to get this amount of cash flow? Divide $18 by 3% and the answer is $600. Since I spent three days working on it, speaking in terms of the power to generate cash-flow, for each day I worked, I created the equivalent of $200 of cash-generating capital.

So, just assume that this is repeatable. I don’t know whether this is a good assumption, because in the worst case I will either run out of ebook ideas or in the best case I will get far better at generating them. I am generating $6 a year in cash flow per day worked. Suppose I work a normal work year of 250 days. That is $1500 a year that I can generate. At the end of 15 years, one could retire on a pension of $22500 a year. What’s more, this would be safe from inflation, since one could just raise prices to keep pace. To generate this cash flow, one would have to have $750,000 of capital earning 3%.

With these numbers, independent work writing ebooks is comparable to salaried work.

40% of my life savings

The most I ever paid for a piece of electronics was 40% of my life savings.

Because I was being cheap.

I invest in index funds, and keep track of how they’re moving by reading The Economist. It’s a once a week newspaper. I don’t check the prices online unless I’m ready to buy or sell. I don’t watch the evening news, nor read any other newspapers, nor do I talk much about the news with people, so without this weekly digest, I am practically in an information vacuum.

If I had been reading the news each week in October of 2008, as I usually do, I would have been able to see the burst of the Irish property bubble. Since I was invested in an Irish industrials fund, the news would have stood out.

Unfortunately, I had let my subscription to The Economist lapse because they were giving USB keys to new subscribers, and I wanted one. There was a four-week period when I didn’t read the news, and the next time my news magazine came, the bursting of the Irish property bubble was already history, and the flight of capital from Ireland and other markets I was well underway. I lost about 40% of my life savings, more if you count losses on what I didn’t sell.

A few days later the USB key came, but before I could get around to using it, DropBox was available, and I had no need for USB keys anymore.

Happy ending: I’ve since continued to invest, and earned my losses back and more.

Lessons learned:

I now have my subscription to The Economist on auto-renew. It costs ¥41 400 (over $400 USD). They have occasional 30% discount specials for new subscribers that I miss out on, but I don’t fret about it.

Another thing is that I’m not much swayed by “special deals” anymore. I used to look at prices of items in a restaurant and weigh them in my order. For example, if if cost extra to get soup with the lunch special, I wouldn’t order soup. But losing and earning 40% of my life savings shifts the decimal point over when making such valuations. The cost of the soup doesn’t make much of a difference in my finances. But this is true regardless of whether one is investing in general! Sometimes people try to get a “good deal,” to take advantage of “special offers,” spending energy well above and beyond the money that they are supposedly saving. Some people see money as their limited resource, but it’s not – time is. Forget about it. Spend a little more, worry a little less. Win some, lose some.