Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Do You Know How Much You Need To Retire?

According to BlackRock's latest 'Investor Pulse' survey that was conducted with over 17,000 investors across 12 different countries, there are increasing concerns from many respondents that they do not have enough to retire comfortably. In fact, the survey revealed a significant mismatch* between the amount of retirement funds survey respondents targeted to achieve and their retirement income needs, which suggests that not many investors have actually given a serious thought as to how much they need for retirement, much less how they can go about achieving these goals. In this week's "Idea of the Week" segment, we provide several suggestions to ensure that you have enough when planning for your retirement.
*As an example, Hong Kong-based respondents in the survey thought a HKD3.7 million “retirement pot” would be sufficient to provide for their golden years, although they also suggested that an annual retirement household income of HKD747,000 would be required – their retirement fund would last just under 5 years!

Determine the Amount You Need

According to a 2013 report from HSBC, over half of the Singaporean respondents felt that their financial preparations for a comfortable retirement were inadequate: 44% felt their preparations were not enough, whilst 12% were not preparing at all. And yet, most Singaporeans understand the importance of planning and preparing for their retirement early on in life.
Estimating the amount that you need for your retirement is thus a crucial step in determining and controlling your financial future. To do this, first take a look at your current monthly expenses. Some bills will no longer be in effect upon retirement (monthly mortgage payments, selected insurance premiums etc.) while others will still be in force (utilities, phone bills, groceries etc.). To these ongoing costs, add a reasonable amount for retirement hobbies (travel plans perhaps?). This simple exercise would provide you with a reasonable estimate of expenses in your golden years. Assuming that you will require annual spending of $50,000 in your retirement years, this translates to a $1 million retirement fund target, assuming a full drawdown over 20 years.

Don't Forget to Consider Inflation!

Our example of a $1 million retirement fund is missing one critical point - this estimate has not yet considered the effects of inflation, which can be fairly substantial over the long term (see Idea Of The Week: Defend Your Savings From An "Invisible" Enemy [26 April 2013]). To add on to our example, assume that you have 30 years more to retirement and that inflation averages 2.5% over the next 30 years. In this case you should actually be targeting a retirement fund size of $2.1 million**, rather than $1 million! While this appears like a daunting task, investing your savings wisely by having a long-term saving and investment plan can certainly help.
**Calculation as follows: $1 million * (1 + 2.5%)^(30) = $2.1 million

Have A Disciplined Saving and Investing Plan

A proper balance needs to be established between spending on short-term needs and saving for longer-term goals such as retirement. Most Singaporeans and indeed, most people around the world understand the need to save a portion of their incomes and set aside monies for their retirement. However, what many fail to realise is that saving regularly only is only half the step required! The other important action to undertake is to deploy some of those savings and to grow them over a long term horizon – this means you need to have a disciplined saving and investing plan.
The BlackRock survey revealed that many Americans are still allocating their savings to cash, with many unsure and fearful to invest in other asset classes. Like in the US, deposit rates are next to nothing in Singapore, and while many of us think of savings as keeping money in the bank, we should ideally invest these monies to generate better returns to compound and grow our savings. Having a regular savings plan (RSP) for example, helps to automate this process, as well as to foster a disciplined and regular investing habit. At Fundsupermart, investors can opt for a Regular Savings Plans (RSP) that is available for many funds that are available on the platform. There are even some funds that you can start an RSP with for as low as $100 per month! (see RSP Special List). Our RSP calculatortells you how much you will need to invest per month in order to meet your financial goals.

Start Investing Today!

The HSBC report revealed that people who have a proper financial plan (which includes a disciplined saving and investing plan) on average have more money stashed away for retirement than those who don't have a plan. While this appears to be an obvious conclusion by virtue that those who have a financial plan probably started saving up for retirement earlier, it also masks the extra compounding effect that you can benefit from by starting early. After all, as what famous investor Warren Buffett said: "Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." If you desire to have enough to sufficiently retire or much less to retire comfortably, you have to start planting your trees today!

Investing is Important Even When Retirement Comes

When that eventual day of retirement finally comes, you want to ensure that the retirement monies and capital that you have and will be living on will not just be able to survive the drawdown of your various expenses, but also to carry on with the good fight against inflation. Converting all your retirement monies into cash may thus not be the wisest thing to do, especially when people are living longer which heightens the risk of outliving your retirement savings. By keeping a reasonable portion of your retirement fund in lower risk funds like short duration bond funds (like the Nikko AM Shenton ShortTerm Bond(S$)), your monies will have a chance to generate sufficient returns to at least keep pace with inflation and preserve the real value of your hard-earned and accumulated wealth.
It is not surprising that famous investors like John Templeton and Jim Rogers still actively manage and invest their capital and monies even when they are retired – for they understand this situation very well!

Monday, January 20, 2014

8 SUREFIRE WAYS TO DEMOTIVATE YOUR EMPLOYEES

Ever notice how a new employee’s enthusiasm eventually wears off? In 85% of companies, employees’ morale significantly drops off after their first six months on the job, according to a survey from Harvard Management Update.
For the most part, enthusiasm is determined by work environment, and it can be fostered or hindered by you—the boss. Employee motivation experts say the best way to keep employee enthusiasm moving forward is to “first, do no harm.” At a minimum, don’t do anything that demotivates your workers.

Check out eight demotivators below.

1. Public criticism.

Pointing out a worker’s mistake in front of others rarely yields a good response. Though some managers think public reproach keeps everyone else from making the same mistake—it usually just makes everyone feel bad. (Click here to tweet this sentence)

2. Failing to provide praise.

If employees feel like their hard work goes unnoticed, they’ll start to wonder why they’re working so hard in the first place. Be sure to offer praise, both privately and publicly. Even small things, like a thank-you card or a “good job” email work.  (See also: How to Thank Employees When You Can’t Afford a Bonus.)

3. Not following up.

Have you ever solicited ideas, asked what employees think about a policy, or asked your team to draft a proposal? If so, be sure to relay the results, even if the ideas or proposals don’t go anywhere. Asking employees for input without acknowledging it shows a lack of respect. 

4. Give unachievable goals or deadlines.

Once employees realize they won’t be able to get something done, they’ll think, “What’s the point? I’m going to fail.” Provide goals and deadlines that are challenging, but not impossible. 

5. Not explaining your actions or sharing company data.

Just because you hold the cards doesn’t mean you should hide them. Explaining the big management decisions will help employees understand your perspective—and they’ll respect you for it. Likewise, sharing key company data such as revenue and profits validates staff contributions.

6. Implied threats.

If an employee is producing sub-par work, it’s OK to let them know your expectations. But it’s not OK to threaten their job—especially if you’re threatening the entire team in a public setting. A “do this or else” attitude often has the opposite effect when it comes to motivation.

7. Not honoring creative thinking and problem solving.

When employees take initiative to improve something—a company process or an individual task, for instance—don’t blow it off. Instead, take a good, hard look at their suggestion. Don’t ignore it, or you risk losing that employee’s creativity in the future.

8. Micromanagement

Perhaps the worst demotivator is micromanaging. Employees need to feel trusted and valued to succeed—and micromanaging communicates the opposite.

6 Life Habits That Programming Could Teach You Today

Everything important that you need to know about living a successful life, you can get from a computer program. Don’t believe me? Read on.
When I first started programming as a young kid, it only amounted to copying foreign-looking words and symbols out of a computer magazine so that my brother and I could get our old Franklin 64 with a dual floppy drive to play a cute little digital tune at us. Back then, there weren’t many life lessons to discern out of that cryptic text.
A number of years later, in high school Pascal class, things started to look different. Learning about IF statements and FOR loops started to spark philosophical synapse connections the likes of which Walt Whitman and Robert Frost would have been proud of. Okay, I exaggerate a bit, but still the insights were pretty cool.
Yes, I know, it’s quite a nerdy thing to say — but the truth is that there’s a lot of wisdom in code….in while statements, arrays, methods, objects and all that. In fact, a whole lot that I learned about managing life in general came directly from my study of various programming languages.

Flow Charts Simplify Everything

Many programmers start out using flow charts long before they ever start writing a single line of code. The reason for this is, trying to write an entire program all at once can feel really overwhelming at times, especially when the program is going to accomplish some pretty complex tasks.
Programmers will take that big, giant software project, and then break them down into smaller components that can be better managed — sort of like building a car by building each required component first, before assembling them all together.  Each component is a block (or several blocks) of code that take in specific sets of input values or actions, and then accomplish some output task. Within that component, a programmer will trace out the logic from input to output using flow charts.
flowchart   6 Life Habits That Programming Could Teach You Today
Flow charts help you follow the logic in a visual format that is far easier to understand than if you try to write it out in text, or just try to blow right through writing code and figuring it out as you go. The reason programmers don’t figure out the logic “on the fly” like this is because the logic that comes later often depends a great deal on the decisions you make about how to handle the earlier logic in the program. Decide wrong early, and you could program yourself into a dead-end.
The same is true in life. When you’re making a decision about how to go aboutpaying off debtbuying a house, or how to handle any other complex life situation or even how to manage a project at work. All of those seemingly insurmountable tasks can be better managed when you first sit down, put pen to paper, and draw out a creative flow chart of every step in the process or decision. This will help you decide on all possible choices or predict all possibilities at each stage, and then trace through the various scenarios. Just like with programming, understanding how early choices could affect the outcomes later on will help you make much better-educated decisions early on.

Everything Has Its Place

Whenever you launch into writing a script or a program, the first step is to always create your variables. In programming, there are variables of different types. You’ve got strings to hold text, integers to hold non-decimal numbers, double or variants to handle bigger numbers, and then you’ve got arrays, structures and more. The idea is to define a variable that’s suitable for the task at hand. For example, if the output of a function is the name of a person, then a string variable is what you want.
variables1   6 Life Habits That Programming Could Teach You Today
The same is true when you’re organizing your life, whether it’s your house or your office. You choose the size of containers for things based on how much of it you need to store. A small, clear plastic bin for dry goods or a rack of like well-labeled containers for spices to conserve space. At the office, you want to store daily work documents in a drawer in your desk, but you store sensitive, business documents in a locked cabinet. The right container for everything, and everything has it’s right place – it’s the motto for a well organized life.

Re-Use Program Modules to Save Time

Any good programmer eventually learns that certain blocks of code, otherwise known as “functions” can be reused in multiple programs. For example, one function to convert from Fahrenheit to Celsius can be used in any program you’re creating that needs that kind of task completed. The function is simply a module that takes the temperature in Fahrenheit and gives it back to you in Celsius. The function may include a certain number of lines of code, but why would you re-create those lines of code for every program you write, when you can just save them once as a program “module”, and then insert that module into any future programs that need it?
assembly line   6 Life Habits That Programming Could Teach You Today
Henry Ford once said about his famous Model T, “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants, so long as it is black.”
The reason for this is that Ford had figured out how to assemble cars and get them out the door faster if he could reuse the same equipment (and the same color paint) without having to recreate the process every time a new car was made. This gave birth to the assembly-line, and it revolutionized the auto industry. In the same way, you can use this principle in every area of your life where you do the same task over and over. Automation is the key to success, so if you can find ways to automate tasks in your job that you do repeatedly — you can make your day much more efficient and save time.
As a start, go through our Automation Guide for The Web.

Document Everything

Sometimes, it can be pretty tempting for a programmer to just fly through writing code without documenting a single thing. It’s tempting because, any moment you know exactly what you want the program to do and how you want to do it. Documenting a program takes time. You have to describe how and why you’re doing each step. It seems pointless at the time, but months later when you decide to reuse that code or modify it for another purpose, it can mean the difference between struggling through trying to remember what the heck you were doing with each line of code, or quickly getting back up to speed with the whole intent behind your logic.

documenting code   6 Life Habits That Programming Could Teach You Today
This meticulous documentation can help in every area of life, from keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries, to keeping a log of daily business transactions and why you made them. Daily life can turn into a blur of days passing by, with decisions coming and going like leaves blowing by in the wind. It’s naive and inefficient to trust only your memory to remember why you attended certain meetings or why you made certain purchases. A daily journal or log can go a long way to freeing up your mind for more important things.

Always Leave Yourself an Escape Route

One of the most common mistakes of an amateur programmer is the infinite loop. That’s a situation where the condition required to break out of the loop never actually takes place, so the program stays in that loop and never ends — this consumes 100% of the PC CPU and pretty much locks up the computer for good until you kill the process.
The lesson that amateur programmer needs to learn is that whenever you create a loop to perform some kind of task that chews up a lot of CPU power, it’s important to introduce a release valve of sorts. In other words, instead of basing a While loop on whether or not your calculation exceeds a certain value (which it might never reach in some cases), it’s a good idea to introduce a very basic loop count and then add a secondary condition where the loop must end if it exceeds a certain ridiculous number of loops it should never really reach if everything is working okay.
breakout   6 Life Habits That Programming Could Teach You Today
How might this apply to real life? It goes to show that even when you think you have everything planned perfectly, things can go wrong. One example might be planning a week-long family vacation in the most beautiful, relaxing tropical paradise, only to have it end up raining the entire week. The idea of an “escape route” in life is to think of the “worst case” scenario, and then figure out how you’re going to either avoid that situation or make the best of it, if it comes true.
Life isn’t always predictable, and some of the best-laid plans can easily unravel, even when you think nothing at all can go wrong. Planning for the worst contingency will make sure that you don’t end up dead-in-the-water when that event that you never expected to happen actually comes true.

Free Up Memory When You’re Done

The final life lesson that comes out of programming is cleaning up after yourself. In a program, you will need to open up a stream to an output file, create a large array filled with data points, and other things that consume computer memory and resources. A clean program is one that closes those output streams or empties those arrays once the program is done with them. The idea here is to avoid a common problem with poorly written applications known as a memory leak.
For example, in a simple VB app, you would clear an array like this:
Erase ArrayDin
Or close out a file stream like this:
FileClose(1)
It sounds like something you’ve probably heard your mother say when you were younger, right? Clean your room. Put your clothes away. Do your dishes. However, taken a step further, putting away the tools that you’re currently using for the task at hand not only keeps your home and your workspace tidy, it also leaves you with plenty of space to accomplish your next project more quickly. Leaving things hanging around just wastes space and wastes your time when you can’t find what you need later on.

Bottom Line

The truth is, there aren’t just six life lessons that you can learn from the art of programming — there are many more. When it comes to organization, planning, plotting out strategies, and conserving resources, computer programmers have got it figured out. There’s a lot to be learned from taking the time to learn a programming language, beyond just programming itself. In fact, this is why every child should learn at least one programming language in school — because once you’ve caught on to the tricks of the trade, it becomes apparent pretty fast that you can use those same tricks throughout many other parts of your life.
What are some of the other life lessons you found a parallel for in the world of programming?


Image Credits: Flow Chart Diagram at Shutterstock, Javascript Code at Shutterstock, Programming HTML code at Shutterstock, program code on monitor via Shutterstock, Pavel L Photo and Video /Shutterstock.com

Thursday, January 9, 2014

10 Habits of Happy Couples

What does it take to be happy in a relationship? If you’re working to improve your  marriage, here are the 10 habits of happy couples.
1. Go to bed at the same time
Remember the beginning of your relationship, when you couldn’t wait to go to bed with each other to make love? Happy couples resist the temptation to go to bed at different times. They go to bed at the same time, even if one partner wakes up later to do things while their partner sleeps. And when their skins touch it still causes each of them to tingle unless one or both are too completely exhausted to feel sexually excited.
2. Cultivate common interests
After the passion settles down, it’s common to realize that you have few interests in common. But don’t minimize the importance of activities you can do together that you both enjoy. If common interests are not present, happy couples develop them. At the same time, be sure to cultivate interests of your own; this will make you more interesting to your mate and prevent you from appearing too dependent.
3. Walk hand in hand or side by side
Rather than one partner lagging or dragging behind the other, happy couples walk comfortably hand in hand or side by side. They know it’s more important to be with their partner than to see the sights along the way.
4. Make trust and  forgiveness your default mode
If and when they have a disagreement or argument, and if they can’t resolve it, happy couples default to trusting and forgiving rather than distrusting and begrudging.
5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong
If you look for things your partner does wrong, you can always find something. If you look for what he or she does right, you can always find something, too. It all depends on what you want to look for. Happy couples accentuate the positive.
6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work
Our skin has a  memory of “good touch” (loved), “bad touch” (abused) and “no touch” (neglected). Couples who say hello with a hug keep their skin bathed in the “good touch,” which can inoculate your spirit against anonymity in the world.
7. Say “I love you” and “Have a good day” every morning
This is a great way to buy some patience and tolerance as each partner sets out each day to battle traffic jams, long lines and other annoyances.
8. Say “Good night” every night, regardless of how you feel
This tells your partner that, regardless of how upset you are with him or her, you still want to be in the relationship. It says that what you and your partner have is bigger than any single upsetting incident.
9. Do a “weather” check during the day
Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you.
10. Be proud to be seen with your partner
Happy couples are pleased to be seen together and are often in some kind of affectionate contact — hand on hand or hand on shoulder or knee or back of neck. They are not showing off but rather just saying that they belong with each other.


http://www.alternet.org/sex-amp-relationships/10-habits-happy-couples

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

27 Unspoken Suit Rules Every Man Should Know

You can’t expect to look all dapper and gentlemanly without knowing Suiting 101.


1. The width of the tie should match the width of the lapel.
The width of the tie should match the width of the lapel.
It’s all about BALANCE.

2. In general, thin lapels are more modern. Wide lapels are more old school, Mad Men-style.

AMC
 
So choose your look accordingly.

3. Pocket squares add an extra level of polish, but make sure it doesn’t match your tie in either pattern or fabric choice.

Pocket squares add an extra level of polish, but make sure it doesn't match your tie in either pattern or fabric choice.
Before you go totally conservative, remember that the pocket square is where you get the most freedom and the one place you get to add a little pizzazz to your suit.

4. When buying an off-the-rack suit, the number one thing to check is how the shoulders fit.

When buying an off-the-rack suit, the number one thing to check is how the shoulders fit.
Tsk, tsk, John McCain. Shoulder pads should end at the shoulders. The shoulders are the hardest to tailor, so make sure they don’t stick out or stick up.

5. A collar gap between your jacket’s lapels and your shirt’s collar can signify an ill-fitting jacket.

 
It’s complicated. Read more about it here.

6. Opt for a charcoal or gray suit over black, unless you’re attending a funeral.

Opt for a charcoal or gray suit over black, unless you're attending a funeral.
Dark gray is more versatile and goes with more colors.

7. Your belt should be fairly thin and the same color as your shoes.

Your belt should be fairly thin and the same color as your shoes.
Union Made makes really great belts in a variety of leather and metal finishes.

8. You should match your shoes to the color of your suit using this guide:

You should match your shoes to the color of your suit using this guide:

9. Double vents in the back are more modern and fashionable.

 
This look is also more flattering for larger figures, and it gives you enough room to do that effortlessly casual “hand in pocket” thing.

10. For a more casual, trendy look, opt for a single-button peak-lapel jacket.

For a more casual, trendy look, opt for a single-button peak-lapel jacket.

11. If you’re going for more formal business attire, opt for a double-button, notched lapel jacket.

If you're going for more formal business attire, opt for a double-button, notched lapel jacket.
White Collar / USA

12. The Savile Row Fold keeps your dress pants from falling off the hanger.

The Savile Row Fold keeps your dress pants from falling off the hanger.
Watch the instructional video here.

13. You should be able to slip your hand between your chest and your buttoned jacket such that it feels snug, but with room to move.

You should be able to slip your hand between your chest and your buttoned jacket such that it feels snug, but with room to move.
David Agbodji for Barneys

14. Always unbutton your suit before sitting down, or you risk ruining it.

Always unbutton your suit before sitting down, or you risk ruining it.
Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for Victoria’s Secret

15. The top button of a two-button (or the middle button of a three-button) should fall at or above the navel.

The top button of a two-button (or the middle button of a three-button) should fall at or above the navel.

16. Always go with the classic windsor knot for your tie, but use the size of your head to determine whether you should go half or full windsor.

Always go with the classic windsor knot for your tie, but use the size of your head to determine whether you should go half or full windsor.
BIG HEAD = FULL KNOT. SMALL HEAD = HALF KNOT. If you’re not sure how your head size compares, ask one of your male friends. They should be able to give you an objective opinion.

17. If you’re wearing a vest, always keep the bottom button unbuttoned.

If you're wearing a vest, always keep the bottom button unbuttoned.
But plenty of men break this rule and are still able to pull off the 3-piece beautifully.

18. There are practical reasons for vests beyond just how they look.

There are practical reasons for vests beyond just how they look.
Vests are best worn with single-breasted suits (so it’s actually visible). if you’re going to be wearing your suit in a cold climate, a vest can add a lot of warmth. It also adds a formal touch to your suit.

19. Sleeve cuffs should be exposed about 1/2 an inch.

Sleeve cuffs should be exposed about 1/2 an inch.
For a harmonious look, try to match the visible cuff length to the amount of collar that is visible at the back of the neck.

20. When you get your suit home, you’ll need a seam ripper or a small, sharp pair of scissors.

When you get your suit home, you'll need a seam ripper or a small, sharp pair of scissors.
Unstitch the jacket’s pockets, remove the tack stitches from the jacket’s vents, and remove the little embroidered label from the jacket’s left sleeve. Do this very carefully to ensure you don’t actually rip the fabric or neighboring threads.

21. Make sure that your socks are long enough that there’s no exposed leg when sitting down.

Make sure that your socks are long enough that there's no exposed leg when sitting down.
No one needs to see your hairy gams.

22. Your tie should always be darker than your dress shirt.

Your tie should always be darker than your dress shirt.

23. The suit jacket should be just long enough to cover your pants zipper and butt.

The suit jacket should be just long enough to cover your pants zipper and butt.

24. Your tie should JUST reach the waistband of your trousers, or be slightly shorter.

Your tie should JUST reach the waistband of your trousers, or be slightly shorter.

25. For a more fashion forward look, the pant hem should hit right at the top of your shoe.

For a more fashion forward look, the pant hem should hit right at the top of your shoe.
For a more conservative look, the pants should cover the top of the shoe and parts of the laces.

26. If you sweat a lot, wear an undershirt.

If you sweat a lot, wear an undershirt.
Shutterstock
Preferably one with a deep neck so it doesn’t peek through. Nothing will cheapen the appearance of a suit more than a glimpse of undershirt.

27. Finally, go for the dimple.

Finally, go for the dimple.
The dimple is the little hollow beneath the knot of your tie, and it gives a slightly disheveled yet polished appearance to your finished look. Check out this handy guide on nailing the tie dimple.