Jim Rogers gave a talk recently, right here in Singapore, about the current global financial situation. The event had a huge turnout, with many people from the banking sector all eager to pick Jim Rogers’ brain and score some investment and career tips. Some people actually flew in from their home countries just to hear what Jim had to say!
His talk was part of the ‘Industry Guru Series’ by the People’s Association. This particular session featured Jim Rogers and Minister Chan Chun Sing, and cost each participant just S$10 (inclusive of dinner and an autographed copy of Jim Roger’s book ‘Street Smarts’)!
[ Pictures from Minister Chan Chun Sing’s Facebook Page ]
Before he began his presentation proper, Jim brought his daughters, Happy and Bee, up on stage to educate / entertain / impress the audience with their admirable command of Mandarin. Elder daughter Happy recited the poem 靜夜思 by Tang dynasty poet 李白 while the little one performed a tongue twister (绕口令) in Mandarin. The duo, aged 12 and 8 respectively, blew us away with their crisp Mandarin and stage presence. Yes, I adore the two kiddos, and Jim, BUT Jim is NOT impressed by Singaporeans’ command of English / Mandarin AT ALL. *hint hint*
Here are 8 money-making ideas from Jim Rogers:
- Own real assets: gold, silver, agricultural products.
- Be contrarian. If everybody is thinking the same way, then somebody is not thinking. Be very curious about the world. Think independently. Don’t follow the crowd.
- Career: Work for an Asian bank instead of US one.
- Learn about selling short. If a disaster comes and you sell short, you might make a lot of money. Gain knowledge first.
- Buy a Reverse ETF.
- Chinese tourism is going to explode for years to come.
- Is the Malaysian ringgit going up or down? Jim: “Tell me when he’s gonna leave. Tell me the week before and we’ll buy lots of ringgit. Disaster always leads to opportunity.”
- Everything in agriculture has a great future. Buy futures, fertilizer or tractor companies, buy a farm. If all else fails, be a farmer.
After hearing from Jim, I was eager to find out what the Minister had to say. And he did not disappoint. I suspect he has hired a speaking coach. (Aside: Did you hear his speech at the Bukit Batok rally on 5 May?!)
Here are some highlights of what Minister Chan Chun Sing shared with us that evening:
- Look outward: Our fate is determined by forces beyond our shores.
- Every generation must earn its keep, do not leave a burden of debt for the next generation.
- While our total fertility rate is at 1.9 (close to 2), one-third of our people are not getting married.
- Productivity has to increase.
- We have to stay together in spite of race or religion, in good or bad times.
At hearing from Jim and Minister Chan, two things were apparent:
- Competition is now stiffer. And complacency will kill jobs and companies.
- The only way to improve ‘job security’ is to up your productivity.
I walked away from that session with no doubts in my mind that Jim Rogers’ kids will beat most of ours within the local education system. Yup, his daughters study in local schools, not the international ones! Besides the sheer economic advantage they have, thanks to their father’s astounding wealth, the children have direction. They are not learning Mandarin (and clearly excelling it in) so as to pass exams in the government schools here. They are doing this with the aim of heading for one of Beijing’s best universities in future. Also, their formidable command of Mandarin will stand them in good stead after they graduate, thanks to the governesses and teachers their parents have hired to communicate to them (only) in perfect Mandarin. Many parents in Singapore think that Mandarin is not that important, since most of the subjects taught in school use English as the language of instruction. How short-sighted we are.
How To Keep Your Job In An Economic Downturn
The government and Labour Movement keep stressing on productivity and how we should upgrade our skills (double skill, triple skill, upskill, reskill, secondskill). But what I find lacking in the workforce is that sense of urgency, and readiness to gear up for the turbulent times ahead. Just as in an aircraft, we watch the in-flight safety demonstration, hear the instructions of what to do in an emergency, and buckle our seat belts before anything untoward happens, not during an emergency, and certainly not after.
Point is: What are you willing to do in order to keep your job / income, before plans to fire you have already been made?
Consider the factors that are beyond your control, and those that (fortunately) you have some control over.
Firstly, those factors you have no control over would be decisions your employer makes, such as who to fire first. Usually, the more senior, expensive, and “redundant” workers get the axe first. Hopefully, employers and government will feel pressure from NTUC and the unions to retrench Singaporeans last, and give foreigners ‘priority’ when it comes to getting that golden handshake.
Also, if the company decides to drastically downsize or shift its operations elsewhere, and you are unable to follow, then it’s time to get a new job, or start that business you’ve always been dreaming about?
But keep your hopes up! There are factors which are WITHIN your control, and which can help you safeguard your ricebowl, especially if you are the sole breadwinner for your family!
I’d say it’s almost human / natural to become comfortable (or complacent) where we are. If you’re a civil servant and you think you’ll never be retrenched, yes, I’m referring to you too! If you’re not a civil servant, but you’re thinking like one, then you’d need to wake up your idea fast! You have to learn to get uncomfortable whenever you start feeling too comfortable. If you don’t feel the need to constantly learn, unlearn and relearn, then one day, you might find the rug pulled out from under you and you’re sitting with your bum on the floor wondering what just happened. Truth is: There are no iron ricebowls anymore.
One thing I learnt from reading a book about Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, founder of Tesla (electric car company), and the guy who wants to help us ‘colonize’ Mars, is that employees have to step up whenever the company is facing troubled times. When Tesla was going through a rough patch, and orders were dropping (due also in part to the economic climate), it was an all-hands-on-deck situation as technicians, engineers and other support staff all picked up the phones and started reaching out to consumers, selling cars, and filling out orders. They KNEW that if they didn’t do it, the production line would stop moving, and they’d be out of jobs. Whether you THINK you are a salesperson or not, congratulations, you’re now one! Until the orders have all come in!
If you want to show your employer that you are invested in the future of the company, believe in its mission and direction, then you might even want to offer to do what some of Elon Musk’s employees did: They converted their salaries into stock options instead (they were betting on the company’s future), some took out money from their own pocket to become investors in the company, and others put in extra hours at work just to ensure the company gets back on track. When they help the company succeed, they are actually also helping to keep their ricebowls intact. On top of that, they have shown to their boss that they love the company enough to want to be shareholders. And you certainly do not want to fire your shareholders, right?😉
If you’re thinking “No, I can’t possibly do sales calls. I’m terrible at cold-calling!” then how about washing the toilets and taking over the job of the janitor? If the latter’s less appealing, then how about learning how to sell over the phone? You can pick up any skill you want, what with the range of courses available, and the support from the Government, the Labour Movement, and your own employers. Are you willing to change your mindset, and upgrade your skillset?
I read with interest the recent news article about Mediacorp actress, Julie Tan, taking a 6-month break from acting to pursue an acting course at the New York Film Academy. This comes right after she won three trophies at the recent Star Awards: the Rocket Award, Top 10 Most Popular Female Artiste Award, and Best Supporting Actress Award.
Many artistes in her situation would probably give themselves self-congratulatory pats on the back and rest on their laurels. But she’s off to New York to hone her acting skills. Perhaps, she’ll win the Best Actress Award in future?
What about you? What are the skills you currently possess? Which ones need an ‘upgrade’ now? What new skills would you require in order to help your company become the best and the most innovative in its industry?
#3: JET SET
By ‘jet set’ I mean that you are ready and willing to travel for work purposes. Elon Musk’s SpaceX engineers flew wherever they had to be for the rockets to be launched. In a biography of his, I read that engineers sometimes flew in Musk’s private jet and one person usually had to sit in the toilet for the takeoff and landing, because there weren’t enough seats for all of them. But it made more sense (and ‘cents’) for the staff to fly to where the rocket would be assembled and launched, rather than for Elon to recruit and train new staff in that area.
A friend of mine has recently moved over to Singapore with her husband. His employer had shut down the factory in Malaysia and moved operations over to Singapore. If he was reluctant to come over to Singapore, or if she had not been supportive of the move, then he would have found himself out of a job. He’d have become a retrenched PMET in Malaysia, just like many of his ex-colleagues.
It was arguably not too difficult a move as Malaysia is located so close to Singapore. And they can return home to visit their families pretty often. However, there are always some sacrifices to be made. For one, my friend had to quit her job in order to move to Singapore with her husband. Her income has definitely taken a hit.
Will you be willing to travel for work, if it means you get to keep your job, and maybe even achieve greater success in your career? Would you be happy to take a Business Mandarin course in order to aid your business negotiations in China, for instance?
Jim Rogers painted a pretty grim picture for us that evening. He’s not positive about the global economic situation, but he’s confident in our government (that’s why he moved his entire family here, and that says a lot). But a rich man like him would be able to ride the waves of a financial crisis. In fact, from short-selling, he might get even richer (imagine that!). What about the rest of us?
Do you have the right mindset, the relevant skillset and the readiness to jet set, even before the first financial tsunami hits our shores? We’ve probably already experienced the first few hard-hitting waves already, with many PMEs already out of work. Will you buckle up and ready yourself for a rough ride, or will you pretend that being in a plane is as safe as sitting in your sofa at home? In-flight safety announcements and calls to up productivity are oft-repeated to the point of being annoying, but they are there for a reason. And that reason will be made known to us very soon indeed.