A Thought on Work-Life Balance

Liew Mun Leong

To me, work life balance is not easy. Since it is not a zero-sum game (quoting ex-CapitaLand CEO), then naturally it won’t be balance, ain’t so?

He is a believer of principled pragmatism where it defines ” is being practical yet not sacrificing your core values.” Our founding father used the same approach in making unpopular but appropriate decisions that has largely account for the success of what Singapore is having now.

So to keep it short, I would say, you have to hold equal values for both your job and the various perspective “life” that you have, be it personal, family or friends. It must make so much sense to you that it is almost practical to do so. This drives down to meaning and purpose of work – do you get to see them?

What’s on an employer mind is that perhaps as workers we demand work life balance, but perhaps what most worker yearn for is just a fruitful and equally challenged work, exactly how we fought to lead a meaningful personal life. Both aspect to be equally gleaming having achievements that we can be proud of.

I don’t know if you encounter this word before, instead of calling the desired state of work-life balance (where it doesn’t really exist in a capitalism society), we should have it named “Work-Life Harmony”.

The important notion that I trying to bring across is that to strike a harmony where neither one of them will disturb the status of the other. There will be time where work needs you more, vice-versa there will be time where your family/personal needs you more.

How to Build a Personal Branding?

Just like how successful companies spent enormous amount of effort and budget on marketing to build up their brand image and presence, on a personal level, it is likewise imperative for us  to create a brand on our own in order to be ‘marketable’.

Living in this highly competitive world, a strong personal branding allow you to stand out from the crowd during times like on an interview or in a networking session. Having a good branding will actually influence how the world regard you. It will act to your advantage as your good branding will create a lasting impression in the eyes of others.  Hence, your message that you send out to the world must be clear and positive to the recipient.

With the growing influence of internet and social media, it becomes more important on how we portray ourselves on this powerful platform, that’s to say if you use it wisely. So you may ask, how do we build a good personal branding?

1. Look Within Yourself

First of all, you will need to know who you are. The principle of selling your personal brand is to be authentic. You will not able to sell something if you are not convinced yourself. Being pretending to be somebody else will drain your energy and is not sustainable in the long run. Worst still, it could possibly backfired and hurt your reputation if exposed. To know your true self, you could start by identifying the following traits:

  • Values
  • Strengths
  • Personality
  • Interests
  • Life goals and objectives

Past experiences and testimonials (both personal and professional) might provide good evidence on who you really are. Try to recall them and soon you will know more about yourself and how others perceive you to be.

2. Create a Well Defined Message

After knowing who you are, the next step is to create this clear message. This message is created by your daily behaviour and conversation with others. Try to identify your audience and determine the best method to deliver your message. Just like how businesses identify their targeted market, you should know to whom your message will be best sell to. If you want me to term it, then I would say the first step is about knowing yourself, then this second step will be about knowing others.

3. Make Good Use of Social Platform

Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging are excellent platforms for you to promote your personal branding. Just by posting about your daily activities and thoughts on Facebook tell your recipient a lot of information about yourself. Blogging is also a great way to share your perspective on current affairs and events. However a word of caution, social media is like a dual-edge sword, use it wisely it will be your friend, if you mis-used it, it will then become your enemy and impede your success greatly.

4. Be Consistent

Last but not least, is to stay consistent. Do not let your recipient get confused over your ever-changing message and eventually they will just give up in getting to understand you. Every aspect of you should display the same message you are sending and not otherwise. Saying so, this will mean your appearance, words and actions must coherent to each other.


So go ahead to create a good branding for yourself. This will aid you in giving other clear impression on who you are and what you can offer. But do remember to be yourself, look within you to seek for the person you want to be and send that message out.


5 Skills Sets In Winning With People

Ever wonder how come someone else can connect so well with others but not you? This seemed to give them an unfair advantage when comes to things like appraisal or having a preferential treatment. This is because we as human tend to like people who like us. We tend to favour these people whom we can connect with.

We must understand that humans are irrational – we make decision based on our emotions instead on facts most of the time. Usually we fall in love with something first (emotions) then we will churn out plenty of reasons to justify it (facts).

So do you want to be a better people magnets? Let’s start!

1. The Ability to Connect

You will need to be open for communication, learn the important networking/people skills in order to kick-start any connection between you and others. The ability to connect allows you to build understanding, trust and relationship. Essential elements such as smile, eye contact and firm handshake to create a lasting impression are not to be missed. So remember, the next time when you are in a networking session, take these tools with you and use it wisely!

2. You Will Need Energy

Some people are just born to be a social butterfly that they seemed to be having an infinite amount of energy when it comes to meeting people and striking a conversation. As for introverts, things are tougher, you will first need energy to overcome your fear, thoughts, emotion what so ever before you can make the step to approach a person.

That being said, both extroverts and introverts still need energy to do research. You see, we are not born to know every single thing on earth. In order to strike a lasting and meaningful relationship with somebody, we will need to research on the person. What are their interest? If you know is golf, how much do you know about this sport? Go learn more about it so that you are able to strike a chord with him/her in the next conversation. This require effort and energy.

3. You Need to Show That You Care

People are not concern about how you feel, instead they need to know if you care about them, are you interested in them. You need to show to the people you want to connect that you genuinely care for them in our daily interaction with them. They could be having a hard time fighting their own battle in life, so be nice to them and they will reciprocate back to you.

4. Listen and Let Them do the Talking

Have you encountered a situation before when someone told you “Hey thanks man, we just had a great conversation, thanks for your advice and I feel much better now! ” and it get  you wondering what did you actually advised him/her when what you did is just keeping quiet all the way and allow him/her to do most of the talking!

Is kind of funny to learn that in order to have a great conversation and connection with someone, is to allow the person to do most of the talking instead of yourself. In order words, be a great listening ear to the person you wanted to connect with. Just by listening, you are already on your way to become a great conversationalist. However do remember to provide constant feedback to the person talking to you.

5. Value Add to Their Life

If you want to connect to that someone, make it an effort that you are going to value add in his/her life. It doesn’t have to be  something great, it could be just a word of affirmation (a supporter), a wisdom (a mentor) or your time (companion). I feel that the secret in lasting relationship is to create value for each other so that we can spur each other on for improvement and greater achievement.


Bear in mind the 5 skills sets mentioned and practise them, and you will see some improvements in the relationship you are having. People will slowly be drawn to you and your social circle will be expanded.

Simply put, make the people around you to enjoy every moments they spend with you. 🙂

A Poor Man Asked the Buddha

15 celebration days of Chinese New Year 2014 marked its end yesterday on 14 Feb 2014 which coincides with Valentine’s day. Throughout the 15 days, we have been greeting people with wishes such as having good health, wealth and youth in this year of horse. Among all these wishes that I received,  I was particularly impressed by one wish that I was greeted by one speaker in a seminar. He wished us in the coming year to enjoy a year of abundance.

You might think hey what’s so special about having abundance? Isn’t it related to wealth again? But think again. Do we always need to associate  abundance with only wealth? What resonated with me is the reason when the speaker further explained himself that he always love to wish people having abundance because it does not solely refer to attaining wealth, but also having wisdom and happiness. This is so much so important that this seminar happens to be an investment seminar. It just questioned our fundamental reason for investing again, what is our investment goal? Not everyone aim to become a multi-millionaire like Warren Buffet. The reason you invest could perhaps you invest for the fun, or you enjoy acquiring new knowledge and investing is one of the important lesson that everyone should learn. Most people perhaps invest so as to achieve financial freedom hence to have more freedom making choices in life such as an early retirement to have more time for the things/people you value the most.

No matter what your reason, I do not think we should always centred to wealth. Look broader and perhaps we will understand life better. To end off this post, I would like to share with you an interesting reading I came across a few days ago.


Source: The ManKind Project http://www.mankindproject.org

Source: The ManKind Project http://www.mankindproject.org

 A poor man asked the Buddha, “Why am I so poor?”

The Buddha said, “you do not learn to give.”

So the poor man said, “If I’m not having anything?”

Buddha said: “You have a few things,

The Face: which can give a smile;

Mouth: you can praise or comfort others;

The Heart: it can open up to others;

Eyes: who can look the other with the eyes of goodness;

Body: which can be used to help others.”

So, actually we are not poor at all, poverty of spirit is the real poverty.

ps: you can read about what I feel to be a sequel to this post here.

Cheers~ 🙂

How to hit a million dollar in 10-30 years?

The Business Times’s Young Investors’ forum recently published that a Singapore household earning $10,000 monthly could accumulate $1 million in 10-30 years.  I find this article quite encouraging and thus, decided to share with you readers.

The basis for the calculation is that the household consist of two working individuals earning $10,000 a month (includes CPF contribution) or $4,300 monthly each (without employer CPF). This salary according to the writer is arguably achievable by many university-educated professionals in their early 30s, assuming a starting salary of $3000 (the medium wage excluding bonuses earned by fresh graduates in 2012) and increments of $200-$300 a year. The couple is also assumed to be remain healthy and able to work and not hit by major catastrophes. So without further a do, let’s look at the calculations:


Source: The Business Times, 3 Feb 2014

As you can see there are 3 different ways of achieving a million dollars with the starting amount and the different sum of money you put in per month. The writer wants the reader to understand that these 3 ways are based on how well you manage your spending as a result different amount of saving you left to allocate into investment fund. He classified them under 3 different modes which are easy, normal and hardcore modes (sounds like gaming).

1. Easy Mode

In Easy Mode, the writer assumes little changes have to be made to their current comfortably above-average level of spending. The couple is therefore assumed to own a car, eating out at restaurants, going on holiday trips and having a maid. The expenditure is estimated to be $5800 per month which placed them in the top 20% of average household expenditure by income in 2007/2008. This would left them with a saving of about $1,000 per month for investing. Taking that after working for 5-10 years, they would have $20,000 of cash in bank to start investing with.

Therefore, with reference to the first part of the illustration above, the couple will require 33 years from the day they start investing to break the million dollar mark.  The calculation is based on a rate of return of 5% annually with returns reinvested.

2. Normal Mode

In normal mode, the couple is assumed to spend like median household, an amount that will sap away their income by $4,600. This will leave them with about $2,000 for investing which is a third of their take-home pay. As the couple in normal mode are assumed to be more thrifty than the couple in easy mode, they are assumed to have saved $50,000 in their bank to kickstart their investment journey.

Once again, using the illustration above, the couple is expected to reach a million dollar at the 20th year from the day they start investing.  This actually will save the couple 13 years of time and the timing should be well before retirement and their kids are entering into higher education.

3. Hardcore Mode

In hardcore mode, the couple is determined to reduce their spending to just the necessity so as to reach the million dollar mark as soon as possible. Their monthly expenditure is to be about $1,800 to $2,000 per month, leaving them more than $5,000 per month which is  a whopping sum of money for investing.

To digress a bit, the monthly $2,000 expenditure can be breakdown as follows:

1. Transport – $150 per pax

2. Food – $250 per pax

3. Child education (PAP Kindergarden) – $100 per child (say 2 kids)

4. Utilities, Internet/Cellphone bills – $500

5. Miscellaneous – $500 (Insurance, medical checkup etc)

Assuming the couple has saved over $100,000 in the bank to kickstart their investment and a monthly sum of $5,000 put into growing their portfolio, they will hit a million dollar in just 11 years! 


To conclude, the writer illustrated that all three groups of couple could possibly achieve a million dollar of saving for their retirement if they would to diligently manage their finances and expenditure well. It is just a matter of how soon you will achieve the target  – 30, 20 or 10 years.

In my opinion, no doubt the writer has put in the many ideal assumptions in his calculations in which these 3 groups of couples are blessed with lots of luck in order to be having such a smooth sailing life (with no surprises and catastrophes), we can still take it positively and work toward this goal. Yes, the road to financial abundance could be tough but hey, at least there is a possibility. If in the end, we could not reach the goal, but at least we should be near there, just like the old saying to always aim for the moon and land among the stars.

Last but not least, always remember that the process is just as important as the outcome. Along the way, do enjoy the process of doing personal budgeting and no matter the end result, the fruit will be tasting just as sweet! 🙂

A peek at CapitaLand

Ever since last June when Singapore government implemented a framework known as total debt servicing ratio (TDSR), which it capped an individual’s debt-to-income ratio at 60%, the real estate market in Singapore has begun to feel a crunch. It was reported by The Straits Times on Saturday 8 Feb 2014 that there are fewer home launches in the suburbs region. It was also reported that sales has plunged to their lowest levels since the depths of the financial crisis back in year 2008.

Inevitably investors will have to take prudence when putting their hard-earned money into real estate be it a physical house or in real estate related stocks. In my opinion, Singapore real estate market will have limited growth for this year unless there is a tweak in the cooling measures. To achieve strong growth, a real estate company will have to venture out of Singapore to seek opportunities overseas. CapitaLand is such a company.

CapitaLand’s foray into China began way back in 1994 and ever since it has entrenched itself to be a leading developer in China. Its competitors are domestic players such as Vanke and Evergrande. As of September 2013, China accounted for 39% ($14.2 b) of the group total assets. For example, the group’s unit CapitaMalls Asia has more than 60 shopping malls in China and it is expected to grow double-digit in their net property income year on year with the raising middle-income group driving consumption demand.

This year marks CapitaLand’s 20th year in China and announced that they are going to deepen their presence in five city-clusters spanning across the country namely:

1. North – Beijing and Tianjin

2. East – Ningbo, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai

3. West – Chengdu and Chongqing

3. South – Guangzhou and Shenzhen

5. Central –  Wuhan

source: The Business Times 8 Feb 2014

I am glad to know that The Ascott Limited, CapitaLand’s wholly owned serviced residence unit, is looking to achieve its target of 12,000 apartment units in China by year 2015, deepening its presence in first-tier and high-growth cities. This is because Ascott REIT will stand to benefit from this growth, which is why I am still quite bullish about this REIT.

Last but not least, as the adage says “Do not put all your eggs in one basket”, CapitaLand besides focusing on their core business in China and Singapore, they will be nurturing and develop their business in other geographies such as Australia and Vietnam, which could potentially be a catalyst for future growth.

To conclude, in my opinion,  I am bullish on CapitaLand future growth in the long-term. Although in Singapore they are expected to experience limited growth, a plethora of opportunities are present in their overseas portfolio. Having said that, you have to do your own research and form your own opinion before investing.

Have Fun~ 🙂