Father Sez

From and to parents - parental advice to our children on personal financial management and life.
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Archive for January, 2009

Do you think I like to do this?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

This is a statement that I have lately found myself repeating often to my younger children.

Children are quite forthright when it comes to listing their likes and dislikes. And the problem is that quite a number of good things are usually in their list of dislikes. 

Take for example, washing their shoes. They wear white washable canvas shoes to school. And by the time the school week is over, the shoes look as if they have been in a concrete mixer. Getting them to wash their shoes is a hassle. All they have to do is to soak the shoes in soap water on Friday night, clean the shoes with a brush on Saturday morning and dry them. And on Sunday, apply a coat of shoe whitewash and the shoes are as good as new. Maybe all-in a 20 minutes job spread over 3 instances. 

Yet it is not so easy to get them to do it. Because they don’t like it! 

My younger children are at an age where I feel that I have to reason with them and win them over. (I remember those days when I would be given a nice clip on my ears if my shoes were not as good as new on Monday morning.)  

So now my mantra to them is “Do you think I like to do this?”  

I mention things like : 

-         Driving them to and from school,

-         Taking them to the doctor when they are ill,

-         Buying them stuff they need for school on Monday, that they forget to mention all weekend and remember only on Sunday night, 

as things I do not like to do. I also mention that I would much rather sit at home and watch TV. I tell them that I still do these tasks anyway because I love them and want the best for them.  

I follow up with the statement that some things have to be done even though we do not like to do it.    

This mantra seems to have some effect. Their spirited arguments falter somewhat and they nod in agreement. Whether my mantra would sink into their unconscious minds remain to be seen.  

But for the time being, this is the best retort I have. 

Note:  

Doing things that we don’t like to do (and by logical extension, others most probably don’t like to do) seems to be rewarding for adults too.

Read how: 

- Brooke saves time by taking the earliest appointments possible.

- and in fact this habit is acknowledged as a “common denominator for success”. 

My family’s agricultural bonds – an update

Monday, January 12th, 2009

I have written about my investments in gaharu trees or Aquilaria malaccensis, for the more scientifically inclined. 

The tiny tots that we bought in June 08 had grown a bit by August, so we attempted to transfer the trees to bigger polybags. The plan was to let the trees grow to about 4’ high or so and then transplant them in our rubber smallholding.

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The gaharu tissue cultured seedlings that we bought from FRIM. The picture was taken in June 08. 

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After 2 months in our nursery, before the polybag “transfer exercise”.

Alas, this transfer process was an unmitigated disaster. Out of the 100 tissue cultured tiny tots purchased from FRIM, only about 25 survived our transfer process. Since then I have been told that the polybags that I thought were too small would have handled the trees until they grew to about 2’ or so. Whilst this was a setback, it has not swerved us from continuing our journey into gaharu. 

We have bought another 150 trees, this time about 2 feet in height. These were bought from a private tissue culture farm and cost us about RM 1,000 in total. 24 of these trees will be planted in the rubber smallholding this coming week and we’ll check the survival rate before planting the rest. 

If the survival rate works out for the 150 trees, the next plan is to increase the 150 to 1,500 trees.  The trees do not need much tending to after they have grown for a couple of years. I saw some approximately 5 year old trees in FRIM where some of them were being “innoculated” for the trees to generate the resins. 

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5 year old trees in FRIM

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The trees being “innoculated”. 6 ” deep holes have to be drilled in a spiral round the tree and a type of virus innoculated through the holes. This was gathered from just casual conversation. I still have some time to find out the details. 

My faith that this investment is a lucrative deeply discounted bond still holds. God Willing, in eight - ten years, the Fathersez family will be able to cash in on these bonds and roll in the mullah!!!

Note:

The pictures shown of the “innoculation” and the 5 year old trees were taken by Ms. Naa, a young Ghanaian lady who was on attachment or secondment to FRIM. I was very happy to meet someone from Ghana, the country which holds such good memories for me.

I hope her stay in Malaysia was as enjoyable and pleasant as mine was in Ghana. 

Links – The Everything is Possible Edition

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

In Indonesia, a very common reply if we were to ask a local about something that seems not too easy to get done would be “Bisa diatur”. This translates roughly to “it can be arranged”, or as my friend seems to have translated “Everything is possible”. 

A former colleague who spends a lot of time in Indonesia and West Africa has this blog by the same name. He chronicles the more interesting thing he sees in his travels. He is a great photographer and many of his pictures speak a thousand words. Mamadou is quite a historian and very observant. You can tell from the way he writes, fusing history with pictures in a manner that makes pleasant informative reading.  

Amongst his posts that I found really interesting was this post about a bird building its nest (a series of pictures that I think are worthy of NatGeo) and this write up on his visit to Timbuktu.  

Among the other posts that I read recently, I would suggest that you have a look at the following: 

Frugal Dad announces that he has just reached his first year mark with his blog. And he made mention of something that quite a few of us might find sounding familiar, “being great starters but poor finishers”. Hmmm…..This should be my tag line.  

I am an admirer of FD and wish him all the very best as he continues to educate us. 

And going through the posts Frugal Dad listed as some of his more popular articles for 2008, I found this gem, on teaching an eight year old about compounding interest. (I have already kicked myself for having missed this so very relevant post earlier.)  

Steve has some piercing analysis and sound advice for the rats still in the rat race. Do you like your job but hate your career? Or do you like your career but hate your job? Or do you hate both? I would have benefited from this post a whole lot more if I had read it about 20 years ago.  

Jacquelyn writes about how to encourage children to read. I love books and have a mini library at home. The children don’t seem to have picked up the habit though. TV or the Net wins hands down anytime. I wonder if I can still set this right. 

Apanama, a Malaysian socio political blogger has chosen the Malaysian Turkeys of the Year 2008. I think that this must really have been a very tough race as I can offhand think of about 3 or 4 others (politicians, of course), who would have given the winners a run for their money.   

LOD quotes a grim forecast by a former Russian KGB analyst, Dr. Panarin who predicts that the US would collapse by 2010, a mere year away. None of the commenters seem to agree with Dr. Panarin. Still, it is most interesting that this forecast was made way back in 1997!!! 

Still on predictions. The coming Year of the Ox which as per the Chinese calender comes around every 12 years allegedly does not bode well for Asian stock markets and economies. Perhaps this is because the last 3 Ox years, i.e. 1997, 1985 and 1973 were painful ones. Three out of the thousands of Ox years behind us cannot be used to come to a credible conclusion, can it?

I participated in the Carnival of Financial Goals which was hosted by the founder, Patrick at Cash Money Life. I particularly enjoyed Shaun Connell’s “The pursuit of Financial Happiness”. This Carnival features a lot of stories on goals and related stuff and I have bookmarked the site to go through the articles carefully.

Well, this is it for this week. Let’s all laugh a lot, work hard, play hard and God Willing, 2009 should be a good year.

My goals for 2009

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Many bloggers have already proclaimed their goals for 2009.

I have always admired (or is it wondered) about those of us who are brave enough to list their goals for all to read. This sorts of makes the writer accountable and hence create a strong level of motivation.  

Some come up with a list of things they want to achieve. Others come up with SMART goals. I guess that so long we have something to shoot for, it’s still miles better than aimlessly wandering around for the year. Have a look at some of the goals set.

 - Julie’s 

- The Ladies of Liberty (who focus on the need of deployed female service members)  

- A young 40 something lady artist and educator blogging about her journey to break the family’s “fat curse”   

- Really Ready for Change 

I am a lot more shy. I feel as if I am undressing in public if I were to declare all my goals in detail. (Maybe I am just scared that I’ll miss my goals and be called a bum.) Yet I want the accountability and the motivation. I also want the support of the goal buddies that my readers can be.  I figure that a fair compromise would be for some goals to be kept private and some to be detailed here. 

So here goes: 

Health and general well being 

I want to get up at 5.30 am daily.  

This goal is driven less by productivity concerns, and more about having a morning ritual of exercise. In addition this goal will help me get my spiritual matters in better order. As a Muslim, I have an obligatory prayer that has to be done around 6 am or so. I have been late for this Fajr prayer far too often.  

This morning I read Frugal Dad who is setting a goal to get up at 4.30 am daily. He is planning to make even further improvements in his productivity, fitness and personal well being. 4.30 is a little too early for me.  

I am reading again the post I wrote in November 2007 on how to set up a routine for rising early. The tips I had gathered on how to rise early did work for me. Unfortunately I allowed myself to backslide.   

Signing up for a Qi Qong class and practicing it regularly. 

I have written about the great positive effects of Qi Qong. This goal has just been carried over from 2008 when it was made and left undone.   

Have 6 short nature hikes in 2009 

I loved the hikes we used to do when we were in school. Much later in life and much more unfit, I joined the Malaysian Nature Society and went for a hike they labeled as “a walk in the park.” Boy, it was a real toughie for me. That was the first and last. 

I have read some really interesting material in a website called Nature Escapes. Rick has listed plenty of treks and hikes that can be done in 1 – 4 hours from Kuala Lumpur, which is only a 45 minutes drive from my home. 

Nature Escapes’ treks and routes promise to be a lot less taxing on the bones whilst being no less enjoyable. I shall choose some of Rick’s suggestions and go off on the short treks once in 2 months.  If I can get my children to join me in some of these outings, then this goal would be an outstanding success. 

Family 

To have at least 5 Outings in 2009 – cheap and enjoyable – Ulu Bendul like 

This has been explained in my previous post 

Support my wife and children fully so that they meet their own goals  

I have talked a fair bit about my children’s goals. My wife, one the other hand, wants to keep her goals private. I’ll do all I can to help my family members meet their own individual goals.     

Financial 

I have 4 financial goals for the year 2009. These are goals that my wife is fully aware of, and the children are aware of most of them.

I just want to talk about one of the goals here. My wife and I started a business in late 2008 selling an educational product. I have long been looking for something like this to help me support and monitor my younger children’s studies. And this product has exceeded all my expectations. My wife and I figure that there must be many other parents with the same problem, hence the business.

Our goal in respect of this is to:  

To achieve an income equivalent to my 2008 income, before I “retired”, by the 31 December 2009.        

This is the “stretchest” goal that I have made for the year.        

My Blog     

My 2009 goals for the blog are far less ambitious than last year’s.

 Just to participate in at least one Carnival a week and sensibly comment in as many blogs as I can.  And to set a measurable target, it would be nice to get into Fire Finance’s list of top 100 personal finance blogs.       

I don’t quite understand FF’s requirements that have to be met to be considered, and I have to catch up on this sometime soon. 

I have done my plans towards achieving my goals and will review the plans and my progress weekly. Unlike in 2008, I am sure I have no “wishes” disguised as goals.  I hope this year I meet Mike’s exacting requirements for goals as opposed to wishes.

God Willing, 2009 will be my family’s and my best year ever!!!!             

Continuing a goal set in 2008 – low cost fun filled family picnics

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

I have mentioned that I am a little shy or maybe even embarrassed about publicly displaying some of my goals. One goal that I am not at all shy about is having low cost picnics or outings with my family.

The exact wording I used when I crafted this goal in 2008 was:- 

“To have at least 5 family outings in 2008 – cheap and enjoyable- Ulu Bendul like” 

Hutan Lipur Ulu Bendul is a recreational park about 16 kms from my home. It is a protected forest area and the waters of the stream that winds round the park are cool and refreshing. We visited this park when I was recovering from the bout of malaria contracted during my travels in West Africa in early 2007. 

My wife, the 3 younger children and I went for this picnic. The eldest girl was then still in Wales and Azah was in her University. Since we had chosen a working day (though it was the school holidays), there were no crowds and we had the place almost to ourselves. We enjoyed frolicking in the cool waters (the streams at the foothills are quite shallow and the only swimming is done by some small fishes). It was then that I made a promise to myself that I shall have the goal drawn up. 

Alas, in 2008, this goal was not met. And I listed back this goal for 2009.  

We have plenty of these recreational forest sites all over the country. In Negeri Sembilan alone, where we live, the Forestry Department has listed 12 such sites. (The website is in Bahasa Malaysia.) These places are at most a couple of hours drive from my house. It would be easy to pack some food from the house, mix some drinks and have a frugal fun filled few hours frolicking in the streams and rivers. 

In addition, I had also bookmarked this great website on “Nature Escapes” where Rick has listed lots of quick nature trips that could be made by a family with young children. 

On the 1st January 2009, we took a drive to Hutan Lipur Sungei Gabai, about 35 kms from our home. Our intention was to go for a drive in the countryside and see the waterfalls.  

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The day was cool and the view spectacular for us city folks.      

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We passsed the Semenyih Dam on the way to Sungei Gabai.

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As you can see quite a number of people seem to have had the same idea. After all it was a public holiday.      

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Finally, we arrived and received a warm welcome.    

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The place was too crowded and we could only find a place really downstream. Still the flowing waters were cool and refreshing.              

Though we were not able to get to see the waterfalls (it was far too crowded), I enjoyed myself. In addition the children were also on their best behaviour and there were not too much “lets go home now” mumbles. And as expected the youngest, Ain, had the best time.  

We do not get quite the same feeling when we accomplish a goal like this as compared to, say, meeting a goal of paying off a loan. Meeting this goal is not an end. It is just one step in the long journey of building a stronger bond within my family. Still, I do relish the fact that I have taken that one step.

My children’s goals for 2009

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Last week, I posted about how my children fared for the goals they set in 2008.  

For 2009, all my 5 children have written up their respective goals. The two elder girls have written theirs in their laptops (like I do) whilst the younger children have their own little goal books. 

The elder girls want to keep their goals private. I have been allowed in only on their financial and career goals. I plan to discuss their progress with them periodically as their goal buddy. 

The younger three are also feeling uncomfortable with too much disclosure of their goals on this blog. Our youngest girl, Ain, has given me approval to list some details of her educational and financial goals. 

Ain has drawn up a total of 5 goals. Two for her studies, one for health matters and the last two for finance, the details of some of which are listed here.  For her studies she has to:  

a)  Do her English writing and reading weekly, without fighting with Papa. 

This is a project which we have been doing since 2007 or so. The Malaysian school system is in Bahasa Malaysia and the kids come out of school with very poor English. I think the Government is doing the children a terrible disservice in these global times. I want to do my part in making my children more proficient in English. Weekly writing and reading may not be enough, still it is a world better than what they are getting in school. Maybe next year I might think about other forms of English language classes.  The fighting with Papa has been inserted since, as you may guess, each week there has to be some pushing before this gets done.  

b)  School Grades 

She has taken upon herself a goal of achieving a grade of being in the top 3 in her class, in every test and exam during the 2009 school year. She has also a plan on how to reach this goal.  

For finance, she has to keep very good accounts of her allowance and secondly she has to save at least RM 300 by the 31st of December 2009 

Nana, our 14 year old 4th girl’s goals are a little more elaborate. She has listed a total of 9 goals. One for her education, 2 for her health, 2 for religion, 2 for finance and 2 under her social skills.  

Our only son, Abang, who escaped doing his goals for 2008, has also done his for 2009. Abang has a total of 16 goals for 2009. This may be a little too many, but let’s just see how this goes. He has one goal listed under Community (after all, our family Mission Statement calls for our family to be respectful and respected members of the community we live in.) He also has two goals listed under Family. 

I mentioned last week, that the accounts books of the three younger ones did not balance. The physical cash balances in their piggy banks were quite a bit less than what they should have per their accounts. This was for the 3 of them! 

So this year, I plan to implement some changes. Each time, I give them their allowance, I shall do a cash count together with them, take away their extra cash and give them an IOU. These IOUs would be cashed from me when they bank in their savings twice yearly.

I have to discuss this new system with them when they receive their February allowances.  

Not all the goals set meet all the SMART requirements. Some of the “goals” are more akin to practicing and forming good habits that we want them to cultivate. Like keeping their rooms tip top. Or like washing their school shoes without being told.   

I take the view that the children now have something to aim for and are doing something about reaching the aimed for target. 

This alone is more than good enough for me.        

Links – The “Cycling Tales” Edition

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

A dear friend, now no longer a rat of the rat race and living what I think is quite an exciting and fabulous life, writes a blog called Cycling Tales. He is, as you may guess, an avid cyclist and has written about the many expeditions he has done, either solo or with a bunch of fellow cycling enthusiasts.  

His latest article is about the Railway Station in Tumpat, a small town in Kelantan, Malaysia. This railway station, being in the town where he was born and grew up holds a very special place in his heart. Read and enjoy! And know a little bit about my country. 

Some of the other articles I read and enjoyed are listed below. 

Flexo wrote a post listing his 9 suggestions on identifying and working towards achieving one’s purpose in life. For many of us, pinning down our purpose in life (or our ultimate goals in life) might seem a little hazy. Going through Flexo’s tips would help clarify our thoughts. 

Lazy Man asks a million dollar question. What if history does not repeat itself? What if the stock markets do not bounce back? What if, what if? I think that despite the allegedly historically correct “history repeats itself theory”, we never really know. I share the thoughts of some of the commenters who said that, irrespective of how history plays out,they would be sticking to the time tested methods of earning more than they spend and investing the difference wisely. 

I truly enjoyed this post (and the resulting comments) by Four Pillars about a store that put up a sign proclaiming “Christian Owner”. Assuming the owner’s name is not Christian Owner (as pointed out by Looby), what would you think about patronizing such a store? 

The One Caveman announces the latest addition to his family. The precious Alyssa. The Fathersez family heartily congratulate and welcome Mr. and Mrs. Caveman into the world of unbridled joy as the little child grows up and showers them with her “no strings attached smiles and laughter”. And some sleepless nights!

MMND talks about an interesting study done in the 60’s and followed up 14 years later. She links the results of the study with 5 important observations she makes on money management. A really cool post!

This is it for the dawn of 2009. May this year be better than 2008!

How did I fare in my 2008 goals?

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Though I have written quite a bit about my 2008 goals in this blog, I have not really listed all of them. I suppose like many of us, I am a little shy about revealing all. Anyway, now that 2008 is drawing to a close, it’s time to write about how I fared. 

First, the biggest failure of them all……though maybe all has not been lost 

This refers to my most audacious goal for 2008. It was to bring this blog to a readership level of …mumble, mumble …readers a day.  I have failed and failed spectacularly in this goal. I wonder what I must have been smoking when I wrote this post way back on the 31 December 2007. 

On the other hand, this blog has done wonders in improving my communication with my elder two girls. I write about whatever I want to pass on to my girls and they read it in their own time, when their minds are a lot more receptive. (The younger ones have no interest in the blog unless maybe if the article is something specific about them). 

At least I think I have now found my rhythm for maintaining this blog. The blog’s value in promoting communications with my elder girls makes it something I’ll continue for quite a long while. 

The lesser goals…..

Not too bad, three out of four. I am still not good with Photoshop, though I have played around with the program a couple of times.  

The children’s financial education 

I have also written about educating my children on the two most important pf lessons that I had learnt in my life. One was for my two elder girls to have a peer group with an interest in personal finance. I don’t think I have succeeded in this very much. Though they do read some of the fine pf blogs that I pass on to them, I don’t think the idea has gained the kind of traction I would like yet. 

The second was for them to “pay themselves first”. This is progressing quite well. The elder girls have to save a portion of their income upfront, and the younger ones have to do the same with their allowances. In addition, the younger three have kept their bargain of maintaining an accounting for their expenses.  

Helping my elder children secure jobs they would like I wrote a series of posts on this. I am pleased that this goal was substantially achieved. My eldest girl, however, left the job after a couple of weeks and she is now intending to do her Masters in Psychology. In the meantime she is working as an apprentice with a Counsellor and is also teaching an autistic boy.

Other goals – not specifically declared in this blog   

On health matters, I had privately written down wanting to start a regime of exercising that I should adopt. The results have been very poor. It has been more on/off, on/off.  I had also wanted to learn and practice Chiqong. This has not been done either. 

Financially, we did manage to meet the biggest goal, i.e. to sell our rental house and pay down some of our loans.  The goat farm was launched during the year as planned. I had also wanted to convert the family car to NGV. I did not do so more as a result of procrastination than anything else. Now with the fuel prices down again, it does not look all that attractive a ROI anymore.

Career wise, I had written in my goals list that I would on the 30th of June 08 talk to my boss on flexible hours so that I could spend more time with the family. It did not quite work out that way. I resigned with mutual agreement on the 18 June 08 and now have all the time I need to spend on the family.  

Well, 2008 has not exactly been a roaring success. Still it has been a very significant year in my life to date. My mother passed away during the year. And for the 1st time, I am no longer a rat, running the never ending treadmill we call the rat race. In return I have had quite a number of anxious moments on how I would continue putting food on the table and keeping a roof over our heads.  

I am reviewing (yet again) my thoughts on mind mapping my way to retirement that I wrote about in a 2 parter in May 2008.  For the time being I am following my own advice and God Willing, 2009 should prove better.

I have made my goals for 2009 and will write about some of them soon. 

PS: As I wrote this post my thoughts went back to all the earlier years when I reviewed my enthusiastically made and left unmet goals. I am even more convinced that starting this blog has made a major, major difference in my life, and is helping me in no uncertain way to turbocharge my transformation. I feel a lot more accountable now and God Willing, this will spur me more in 2009.  

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