Investing In Shares For Absolute Beginners

I learned a few important things at a seminar conducted by the SGX Academy last month.

One: The person I referred to in my previous blog post about investing in shares is not a broker. He is a remisier. The term “broker” refers to the company he works for/under.

Two: There is a difference between an investor and a trader. The course I attended, Basics of Investing, teaches people, well, the basics of investing. Trading is the act of buying and selling shares, and for some people, the use of the stock market as a speculative venue based in part on chance and in part on knowledge.

Investing in stock market products, on the other hand, is the process of growing one’s assets through educated and informed purchases.

If you’re a super gorblok like me, you’d have benefited from this Dummies Guide type of course I went to on a Saturday morning at the SGX Centre. They even teach you the very basics – things you were afraid to ask, in case you were branded a super gorblok.

Opening a CDP account, appointing a broker and a remisier, opening an online trading account and investing in various instruments like bonds, shares and exchange traded funds – were all taught concisely throughout the 3 hour session.

Armed with this knowledge, attendees can graduate from the super gorblok class to further sessions either privately (groups can be arranged with the speakers) or at the SGX for more specialised fields of investment, such as, say, iron ore futures or structured warrants.

More importantly, attendees will become better able to invest their assets in shares – another interesting snippet here: stock values have increased at a higher rate than real property – and at the very least, learned about another avenue of diversifying their investments.

There were words of caution for people who attended thinking they’d learn inside tips on how to get rich quick on the stock markets: Trading in stocks is a zero sum game. Only  a small percentage of traders win consistently, and if you want to trade as opposed to invest, then you need to possess the necessary knowledge and deploy effective trading techniques.

Without proper knowledge many end up not adhering to conventional mantras like “buy low sell high”. Instead, they will “sell because many people say they are selling” or “buy because many people say must buy”.

But if you were to dip your feet in the stock market with the objective of growing your investment, you’d be looking at, for example, buying shares based on knowledge like “ok, there’s going to be high demand for agricultural products that this company is looking to sell”, and you’ll buy, and keep those shares while they grow with you.

I’ve gotten a lot more interested in looking at what else the SGX Academy has to offer – there’s already a whole slew of information available that I now can make some sense of. And if someone were to ask me, in the local vernacular – “eh, bro, you got play shares or not”? I want to be able to tell them, “No, bro. I don’t play shares. I invest in them”.

I strongly encourage anyone who’s interested in share investing but don’t know enough, to attend a talk conducted by the SGX (beginners’ ones like Basics of Investing are free of charge) and come away armed and ready to potentially outpace inflation.

No, Seriously, I Want To Learn How To Invest In Shares

Before I got married, I never thought of concepts like “saving for a rainy day”, “investing in the future” or the biologically appealing “growing a nest egg”.

I had always been living day to day without much care. A lot had to do with my being in a rather comfortable environment, with relatively well to do parents and living in a landed house.

“Aiyah, no need to worry about the future one lah, that fler”, was one of the comments I overheard from my schoolmates, which I later found was describing my circumstances.

Everything was under control, and under the control of my parents – to the point where I neglected to think of any future-proofing whatsoever.

Things change, and they can change quickly. I’m married and have a kid, and I now realise I am so lucky to have not just two jobs, but that they’re what I enjoy doing, and that both can feed myself and my family comfortably.

When my mother passed away and my father became incapacitated, I was finally aware of how much I hadn’t done, and how our financial situation wasn’t as rosy as we always thought – our ignorance partly due to my parents always wanting to shield my siblings and I from any sort of perceived hardship.

You know how it is that financial advisors and insurance salesmen can hear you mutter “oh crap I have to do something about my life savings” from like two km away? I bought a slew of products, and my knowledge of financial investment is still hovering around zero.

I’m averse to trading in shares not only because of my rather sparse knowledge (I only know you should buy low sell high, but I don’t know when or why things are low or high), but also from my sole experience with a stock broker my late mother was a client of.

This particular gentleman is as Old Skool as a broker would be able to get. He still speaks as though this electronic scripless share trading (which Singapore adopted in 1987) only happened yesterday, and that it isn’t necessarily a good thing.

First up, he wouldn’t respond to my emails when I tried contacting him as an administrator of my late mother’s estate. And then when I phoned him to instruct him to sell the shares, he gave me a long lecture in Cantonese about it not being the right time to sell because the market was down.

We had nearly 30 different shares in the estate account, and he rattled through each one over the phone, expecting me to remember every counter, every price and every proposed selling price and quantity, while I listened on my hands-free speaker while I drove.

I said ok to everything he proposed – and he asked me to fax a confirmed instruction to sell, and sounded horrified that a modern young man like me didn’t have a fax machine at home. He said something that sounded like: “Har? Yao mou gao chor ah? Deem gai lei mou fess mishin gare?”

He executed my eventual instructions, and I never had to deal with him again. I know not every broker is like that, I just happened to hit the jackpot.

But as we know, having a savings plan isn’t going to cut it, and I’ve been revisiting investment options lately.

The bottom line is, I need to find my bottom line (because kids’ school and holidays not cheap you know?) – and while there are several options available, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) has this thing called the SGX Academy, and I’m gonna try to start educating myself – and see how long it takes before my eyes glaze over.

The Academy offers courses for people interested in learning about investing in shares – with levels of difficulty tacked next to the descriptions so you don’t go and sign up for a Warren Buffet Level Of Difficulty course.

I’m tempted to get my feet wet again in the stock market too. Apparently it’s not as difficult as it seems, and fess mishins are not compulsory either.

I think if I signed up for a Beginner’s Level investment course, they might have to create a new level called “Dumb As A Miyagi (For People Who Are Damn Jia Lat).”

We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.