Financial Instruments in Life

Ways to Money

There are several financial instruments in life to get ahead. Each has its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the materials in this article will help you to do well financially in life.

Career

Being an employee of someone definitely has its advantages. A fixed and sure salary each month, medical and other benefits make a career worth pursuing. Also, a large corporation offers good advancement opportunities and benefits.

To ensure you do well in a career, you must always cultivate good relationships and a strong network and be prepared to keep learning new things. You may need to switch employers (to move from an SME to an MNC, for example) over the years as you develop your career.

Unfortunately, a career is at the mercy of not only the economy, but also your employers. The dangerous time comes normally when you are in middle-management, when your pay is high and yet redundancy most easily resolved with downsizing (when companies merge or the economy is poor). The years when you are in middle-management also tends to be the years when your expenses are high.

Businesses

The risks in doing a business are great. Statistics indicate that 90% of all businesses fail within the first 5 years due to marketing and cashflow problems. In the next 5 years, another 90% of the remaining businesses will also fail because of cashflow and also because the founder has moved his passion to other things in his life.

Moreover, most if not all businesses have business cycles. Business cycles are natural movements of businesses due to supply and demand. A severe recession can put many businesses into cashflow difficulties and force them to close down.

For a business to really move on to big things, contacts and funds are needed. A person generally cannot start up a big company until some of the big boys are helping. These big boys may come in the form of banks, Venture Capitalists (known as VCs) and angel investors (people who give money for personal fulfilment or who doesn’t mind losing the money).

Unlike a salaried employee, a businessman must be prepared to put in long hours and much effort in running the business at the beginning. He also must be prepared to take losses and money out of his own pocket to finance the business while it is still in its infancy. Business turn out a cashflow at about 18 months on the average, so the businessman must have savings or low expenses to tide out that period of time.

However, once a business system has been set in place and employees trained (and moved or hired to management), the businessman generally finds himself with time to start up another business or branch. The business will more or less sustain itself, with minimal supervision, if the management is good.

Most of the rich (and that means really filthy rich) people on this planet became rich through businesses. The rest are rich because they are royalty or heirs – something the average person cannot really do anything about.

Stock Investments

When a company wants to expand, or the founders want to cash in on their company, they normally offer part of the company for sale. Shares of the company stocks are then created. For many companies, these stocks are traded publicly on a stock exchange, where members of the public can easily purchase them.

Some investment houses also create mutual funds where a manager buys shares and manage the investments on behalf of the members of the public who places their money with them. Shares in these mutual funds can also be traded easily.

The major newspapers (or internet) will publish the price of each stock. The price is normally for a single share in the company. A company may have billions of these shares. An investor will normally simply call up the broker and tells him the number of shares he wants to buy. Some brokerage houses may allow up to 3 days before payment of the shares.

There are two types of stocks generally – growth stocks and income stocks. Growth stocks normally do not pay out part of their earnings to their investors. The only way an investor can gain from them is to wait for their stocks to rise in value and then sell off the stock they own. Most stocks dealing with technology (like Microsoft) are growth stocks.

Income stocks, on the other hand, normally pays out part of their earnings to their investors – either quarterly, semi-annually or annually. These pay-outs are called dividends. Most stocks dealing with food or utilities (like Coca-Cola or SingTel) are income stocks.

The price of a stock is determined by supply and demand. Unfortunately, supply and demand is determined by the human emotions of greed and fear, and can be very unstable, fluctuating from day to day. Good management and business leadership in the company normally makes these fluctuations small and manageable. Occasionally, however, this instability really tips the scale, causing widespread panic or mania. This creates bubbles and crashes that affect the entire stock market.

Real Estate Investments

Everybody needs a place to live or do business in. Some will buy it outright, but there will always be those who does not want to buy. They may be constantly on the move, or may not have the downpayment. The banks may not want to give them a mortgage due to a poor credit history. Or, especially for new business, the long-term stay in the premise may not be certain.

In such cases, there is a market for rental properties. Residential properties are meant for families to live in, while Commercial properties are meant for the conduct of business. Certain areas of the country are preferred (Prime areas) while certain are not so desired (Poor areas). The prices and rentals of the properties reflect that.

Real Estate, however, is considered a heavy investment. The downpayment typically count in the thousands, and a bank normally has to come in to give a loan (called a mortgage) to cover up to 90% of the property price. In addition, the investor has to pay the lawyer’s fees, the broker’s fees (if any), maintenance fees and also property taxes. Maintenance fees and taxes are also collected regularly, as long as the investor owns the property. Also, normally furniture has to be provided for the tenants.

The key to earning a living from real estate investments is to make sure that the rentals can cover the mortgage payments, taxes and maintenance costs. That creates the cashflow for the investment. In addition, over time the investment may appreciate (increase in value) as demand for such properties increase. Of course, if demand decreases, there will be a drop in value.

Just like stock investments, the price of real estate is actually determined by supply and demand. A high demand for certain properties will drive up both its price and its rental, while a low demand will depress its price and rental.

Unlike stocks, however, real estate tends to be more stable. This stability, however, means that it may take much longer to buy or sell real estate. Matching buyers and sellers are not as easy, and it takes time for lawyers to process the necessary documents to transfer the property.

Even with that stability, occasionally the market may experience extreme euphoria or depression, creating real estate market bubbles or crashes.

Conclusion

Everyone of us have unique strengths, weaknesses and comfort levels when using any of the financial instruments to get ahead of life. We would need to assess carefully everything, before we commit ourselves.

Financial Education

My passion is Education. I believe it is the key to a fulfilling life. Education gives knowledge that nurtures relationships. Education gives knowledge to help one understand himself and the world around him. Finally, Education allows one to improve his ability to contribute to his life, and to the world about him.

Many of us leave school with the education to get a job and do it well, but not how to create jobs or even support jobs. That is when Financial Education comes in – we need to learn and understand how the world of money works. If we do not seek to understand, then truly a fool and his gold is easily parted.

Buying a Business

Getting Good Deals is the Key!
I’m sure, at some point, some of us have that itching desire to “be your own boss”. We imagine all the wonderful benefits of calling the shots, deciding the direction of the business, and having heaps of money because of successful businesses.

Some of us then decided to take the natural step and “just do it”. We would then proceed to dip into our savings, borrow money from friends and financial institutions, or perhaps sell some equities we are holding on to. And we merrily register a company and start working! The scenario sounds really familiar!

That was me! I sold off my home to raise capital for my ventures into fund management, music production and education. I registered the company and began working to build something I can call my own.

The thought never occurred to me that one can buy a business, instead of starting from the ground up. But coming to think of it, even if the thought did occur to me, my pride (and cash position?) would not allow me to do so. I want something to call my own!

And that is precisely why many of us will never consider buying a business. A matter of pride. Of course, there are other reasons.

  • Staff Problems: We are inheriting staff that has never worked with us, that has been answering to someone else. Of course, those of us who are newly employed by a company or are posted to a new division also have the same problems. And how do we know we won’t get the same problem with staff we newly recruited?
  • Hidden creditors and debts: This one is a potential trap to watch out for. Experienced business buyers know how to get over this one, like getting the seller to make a Statutory Declaration (which means you can be punished by law for declaring falsely), or co-signing or any number of tricks that a good business broker should be able to help you with.
  • Business Ill-will: Again, another problem. What if many suppliers refuse to work with the company, or many customers would never want to even hear of the name of the company again? Or some influential “terrorist” has been starting a hate campaign because of a faux pas in customer service by a staff in the past? But there again, a good business broker should be able to help you with that, to make sure you don’t walk blindly into a deal!

Why then do people buy businesses instead of starting on a fresh slate? For the same reason how real estate investors can find gems where others cannot. Those who buy businesses are into businesses to earn money. Pride, for them, goes into a corner and is beaten into submission. What matters is the ROI (Returns on Investment).

Look at the real estate investor. When he buys a house for investment purposes, he looks at the possible land uses (to see if the lot use can be changed), the amenities, the general rental of the area, the possible tenant mix and so on.

The business buyer looks at the accounts to check cashflow situations. He wants to see if there are inefficiencies that he can work on to increase the value of the business. He looks at the possible staff interactions to see if he can work on this and increase the value of the business. He examines the goodwill and opportunities to see if it’s possible to do IPO or takeovers/mergers in the future.

In other words, the person who buys businesses tends to be a person who looks for good deals. They are not interested in starting a business to “be a boss”. They can be considered a true professional business investor. They may in fact buy a business which has the same 3 problems mentioned above. Only that they have their ways of overcoming these problems. Their highlighting of the problems to the sellers only makes it easy for them to buy the business at bargain prices.

The reason for this article, of course, is not to influence a person to buy a business. I don’t have the expertise and experience to do that. If you are interested to find out more (and you happen to be in Singapore or Malaysia) you might want to contact Freddy Ngiam. He’s a professional – not only in buying businesses for his own “consumption” but in broking for those interested in buying and selling businesses.