This post is about a recap of the first 10 years of my investing journey, the profits I made, the losses I have incurred, and the lessons I have learned during this decade-long journey. I hope that the mistakes that I have made and the lessons that I have learned can help fellow investors, especially those who are new to the market, avoid potential pitfalls and have a smoother ride.
Profits, Capital & Percentage Returns Per Year
The below table is a summary of the profits that I made every year, together with the capital that I have invested and percentage returns, starting from July 2012 all the way to July 2022.
Graphical representation of profits per year and percentage returns per year.
If you are interested to know why Year 10 is such a special year with returns that is double the first 9 years combined, I will explain it later in this article.
The Journey Began in July 2012
I started my investing journey on 16 July 2012, which was 5 years after I started my first job as an IT professional. By then, I had cleared many of life’s milestones and big purchases, such as buying a house, paying for the wedding banquet, and going for a honeymoon.
I had some extra savings coming in from my salary after deducting my monthly expenses and did not want to put my money in the banks for almost zero interest. On the other hand, I did not want to put my money in fixed deposits or insurance saving plans and get them locked up for years.
I decided I was ready to invest and read many books on value investing. I was cautious in buying shares and I wanted to make sure that they were really good companies before I bought the stocks. My mum constantly reminded me of people losing tons of money and life savings in investments and had repeatedly warned me not to invest in the stock market.
With that warning in mind, I stayed away from the US market and instead focused on the Straits Times Index (STI) and bought Singapore stocks instead. After all, many of these big companies were backed by the Singapore Government and would not go bankrupt overnight. In a crisis, the Singapore Government will come in to bail them out, buy their shares and inject more funds to help them stay afloat.
I was intrigued by the idea of dividend investing and followed two famous bloggers, Dividend Warrior (DW) and A Singaporean Stock Investor (ASSI) aka AK47, who picked the stocks that gave good dividend yields. I was particularly inspired by AK47 as he managed to retire before the age of 40 and had more than 10k worth of passive income every month coming through dividends.
I joined forums such as Sharejunction and Hardwarezone to check out what other people are investing in and their stock analysis. I invested in the blue chip companies such as Singtel, Starhub, M1, Keppel Corp, Sembcorp Marine, Sembcorp Industries, SIA Engineering, SPH, and Osim. I also followed AK47 into buying growth companies such as China Minzhong and Marco Polo Marine. In the views of my mentor, these were multi-baggers and waiting to explode.
Nothing seemed to go wrong as we were in a bull market back in 2012. In my first year of investing, I actually made a 10% return, which was great, higher than the average returns of 4 to 5% that the dividend stocks can give and definitely much higher than the 0.05% interest offered by the bank. I also chased high dividend stocks such as Neratel, who was offering up to 8% dividend yield at one stage.
Oil Price Crash in 2014
Things start to get wrong for my investment portfolio when the oil price crashed in 2014 and brought down all the oil counters. The world suddenly had an oversupply of oil and drilling slowed down since there was so much oil in the market. This caused oil and gas companies like Keppel Corp and Sembcorp Marine to run into deep financial issues as offshore oil rig projects were stopped and clients failed to pay up on completed projects.
Other than oil and gas companies taking a hit from the drop in oil prices, the businesses of other companies that I am invested in started to show problems. Singapore Press Holding (SPH), the mighty blue chip company that was growing well and paying good dividends, was also on the decline due to the rise of social media.
The subscriber growth was slowing down significantly, the company was not growing its profits and everything was reflected in the share price.
The popular telecom stocks (Singtel, Starhub, M1) that paid good dividends and had stable share prices started to decline due to rising competition from other telecom operators entering the market to offer cheaper and competitive zero-contract plans to lure customers away.
The share price of other growth stock companies that I owned, such as Neratel and Marco Polo Marine, also went down the path of no return.
I was lucky to get a bailout for China Minzhong but was not so lucky with the remaining stocks that I held as they were all down significantly.
Almost Gave Up On Investing
Between 2013 to 2019, I was so occupied with things that were outside investment that I paid very little attention to my stock portfolio. I rekindled my passion for community service and founded many community projects during that period. At the same time, I was also diagnosed with the early stage of skin cancer and other health issues and had to go through multiple surgeries to treat them.
By the time I had a chance to properly evaluate my portfolio, I was already incurring 6-figure losses. I had no idea and no chance to cut these losses as it would mean losing over a hundred thousand over 8 years of investing, which made me look like a total fool because I had failed completely. This capital would have still been preserved if it was left collecting dust in the bank, never mind the loss of value due to inflation.
The Pandemic Lifeline
Then, the market crashed in 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic came. My portfolio suffered further losses but it somehow magically gave me a lifeline to do something about my portfolio. One of the best investing decisions that I have made in this journey was to buy into the bank stocks when others are fearful and busy dumping them.
This is a portfolio update on 30 June 2020. I just kept buying when I had spare cash and was scoping DBS shares at $13 to $15. The share price has more than doubled in 2022.
Venturing Into US Stock Market
During the pandemic and with plenty of work-from-home opportunities, I was able to watch tons of financial videos on YouTube to learn about investing and making money in the latter months of 2020. I was inspired by Chicken Genius Singapore (Ken Teng) and finally overcome my phobia of investing in the US stock market because I wanted to buy Tesla stock.
It was also Ken who sparked my interest in learning options trading and I spent a couple of hours every day (including the weekend) for two to three months learning the fundamentals of options trading and how to trade using the brokerage’s platform.
It Was A Wonderful 2021
2021 was the best year of my investing journey as I made more than 200k from options trading. I have shared how I got to this amount with a breakdown by months in this post:
1st Year Options Trading Recap: The Journey Towards SGD$217,509 Profits In 2021
With the huge profits that I made, I decided that I wanted to reset my investment portfolio and sold all my SG stocks that were losing a lot of value over the years. Thus, I realised my paper loss of $135k into real losses and I sold them all within 1.5 months in Dec 2021. The details of the losing stocks and the % loss were shared in this post:
I Cut $135,715 Worth Of Losses In The Last 1.5 Months
The purpose of cutting loss is to free up more capital so that I could reinvest them into my options trading portfolio.
The Financial Freedom Dream
When I realised I was making good returns from options trading every month, the dream of being financially free started to grow. I was asking myself how could I eventually reach this dream of generating enough income from options trading to eventually replace my day job. The answer lies in having a bigger capital base so I could use this base to generate a good monthly return that can support my family’s expenses. I decided to take the bold move of selling all my bank stocks (they seemed to have peaked) to generate more capital by redeeming the capital and profits that I have made over the past 2 years.
I Sold All Of My Bank Shares | The Final Step Towards Financial Freedom
635k (Unrealized) Loss
The plan seemed perfect as I bought long-term LEAPS CALL options on the best and most valuable companies in the world, such as Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Tesla, Meta and Nvidia. On one hand, I had fundamentally strong companies with fantastic balance sheets. On the other hand, my options contracts’ duration lasted a year to two years, which gave me ample time to survive a market dip.
However, not everything went to plan as the dip kept getting deeper and the Nasdaq became the first index to fall into a bear market. My portfolio, which was tech and semi-conductor chip companies heavy, took a heavy blow.
At this time of writing, my portfolio was down by 635k.
My 400k+ LEAPS portfolio was trapped in a dark tunnel with no end in sight and if things do not turn for the better in the next year, then they would soon turn into dust. The shares that I owned, which I used for selling covered call, was also down more than 200k in value. All these constituted to the current 635k worth of unrealised loss.
I shared my thoughts on dealing with the huge drop in portfolio value through a couple of articles below:
What Is Worse Than Having A Portfolio With $618,800 (Unrealized) Loss?
If You Are Feeling Depressed From Losing Lots Of Money In The Stock Market, Here’s An Article For You
In my 10 years of investing, I made so many mistakes and I think it is important to pass on the lessons learnt to everyone, especially the new investors who are starting the journey with their hard-earned money so that they can avoid the potential pitfalls that I went through.
Lesson 1: It Is Easy To Get Carried Away When You Are Winning
The people who lost the most money in a casino are not those who started off losing but they are the ones who have won first, tasted the sweet fruits of success, and wanted more. When they lose, they raise the stakes higher to want to win back everything, thus, risking an even greater loss.
I had a winning start to both my investing and trading journey, I achieve a 10% return in my first year of investing and a whooping 200k return in my first year of options trading. Then, in the second year onwards, the humbling experience came to bring me back to reality.
Lesson 2: No One Is Responsible For Your Money Except You
No one, especially your mentors, should be held responsible for the outcome of your investments, whether success or failure. You are the one who made the decision, with or without the influence of people who are encouraging you to buy/ sell. Ultimately, it is your money and your decision to do what you wish to do with it. Having this mindset is important in preventing you from going down the path of blaming others for your misery and helps you gain control of your investing game and ownership of your own happiness.
Lesson 3: Blue Chip Companies Will Not Fall [Myth]
Many people think that by buying into big reputable companies, they are likely to make money and their capital over time. That is not true, look at how the giants, SPH, Keppel Corp, and Singtel, have fallen through the years because of the changes in the macro-environment. Even powerful FAANG stocks like Facebook (Meta) and Netflix have dropped more than 50% in the past 6 months.
Also, the Singapore government may help bail out the bigger companies or prevent bankruptcy for some of the companies that are hiring a large number of Singaporeans but after all the rights issues or share dilutions, these companies share prices are totally crushed. When they dilute more and more shares, the share price will reflect its actual worth. While these companies are still listed on the stock exchange, the share price has dropped close to 90%, which is as good as losing all of your capital or being delisted.
Lesson 4: There Is Always Risk In Investing
The moment that you decide to put your hard-earned money into an investment and make money work harder for you or while you sleep, first understand this, you are already taking a risk that may cause you to lose some (in some extreme cases, all) of your capital.
The only guarantee is putting your money in the biscuit tin under your bed or putting them in the bank. Even that has a risk of your house catching fire or bank collapse if there is a bank run. Essentially, you are taking some kind of risk to get the rewards that you think are worth the risk.
Lesson 5: Cut Loss Is A Painful Thing But It May Save You From A Bigger Heartache
When things don’t go our way or when investment decisions are wrong, the first reaction is often denial, while secretly wishing or still keeping the faith that things will get better. When we get past that phase, it becomes painful acceptance things are not going to go back to where they were previously. Lastly, it takes great courage to make the decision to finally cut loss, because the money that you lose is no longer on paper anymore.
If I had been decisive or courageous to make the decision to cut my loss earlier in my investing journey, after knowing that the oil and gas companies are not going back to their glory years, I would have avoided the massive 135k loss which I eventually lose when I sold off all bad-performing stocks in 2021.
Lesson 6: Don’t Ever Ignore Your Portfolio Or Buy And Forget
There was a period of time when the share price of my stock was dropping so much that I decided to ignore them altogether. I did average down on some companies that I thought had higher chances of recovery but I spent most of my time away from the stock market. I should have taken time to think of how to repair the investments but I was too demoralized to do so. I allowed time to depress the stock prices further until they were at a point of no return, where the companies ran into issues and were on the brink of collapse.
Lesson 7: Keep Learning And Keep Improving
I spent the early part of my investing journey following people’s advice on blogs and forums and did not really do proper research into each individual company. I thought that by investing in REITS, blue chip companies, and stocks listed in the safe haven of the Singapore stock market, I was safe. I was wrong as the high dividend yield stocks such as Neratel and First REIT couldn’t sustain their dividend payout and eventually ran into trouble.
A building without a proper foundation will be weak and by investing based on rumors, hearsays, and plenty of hype during a bull market, I ended up investing in the wrong companies that could not deliver on their promise. So, to the new investors, I hope you do your due diligence in researching more into the companies and businesses that you are investing in. And when things change, get out before it is too late. Keep learning (reading) and improving as an investor because that will help you go far in your investing journey.
Learning 8: There Will Be Ups And There Will Be Down Moments But If You Don’t Give Up, You Will Eventually Win
My 10-year investing journey is filled with ups and downs, I win as a new investor with a 10% return in the first year, but had to cut $135k of loss after 9 years. Then, I win again with options trading initially and then accumulated more than 600k of unrealized loss when the US stock market entered a bear market. There will be more ups and downs in the years ahead but I believe that if I do not give up, all these experiences and lessons learned from my mistakes will eventually help me become a better investor. And in the next two to three decades ahead, I will eventually win when I look back on my 40-year investing record.
Lesson 9: In Every Crisis, There Are Opportunities And The Greatest Comes From the Biggest Crisis
When the stock market crashed during the pandemic, I was able to pick up really good stocks such as the Singapore Banks at a cheap price and later sell them for a handsome profit. I was able to use options to generate great returns when the world was still coping with the ever-mutating covid situation, with the beta, and omicron strains getting more contagious and infectious. Some people looked back and wished that the 2020 crash had lasted a longer while for them to have more opportunities to buy stocks at a cheap price.
Lesson 10: Always Remember Life Is More Than Just About Building Wealth
I don’t deny that money and wealth are important in life to help us live a better quality of life but I hope that in this relentless pursuit of wealth, you do not neglect the things that are really important in life, such as your own health (mental and physical) and the relationships with your loved ones, your dreams and aspirations.
All these, together with wealth, help you find your meaning in life and allow you to live every day with a purpose. If you neglect these intangible things and focused on just building wealth alone, you will one day realise there is no meaning in pursuing so much wealth and then suffering poor health or having no one by your side when you need someone to talk to. If your life is all about earning more money, you will be rich in cash but poor in memories. Ultimately, you are not going to bring all this money with you when you leave this place.
To everyone who has made it to the end of this very long post (which I spent hours writing), thank you for your time and for devoting a part of your life to reading it. I hope you find it useful and you learn something from my mistakes and the things that work for me. If there are any parts of this article that you need further clarification on, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me via email for a chat. Thank you and I wish you all the best in your investing and trading journey.
<< Subscribe to my blog to have all these articles delivered directly to your email address >>
*** FREE MONEY ***
Sign up for WeBull Securities Brokerage and fund any amount to receive up to USD500 in share value (Apple, Tesla, Microsoft, Google)
Receive Free Money (USD30~USD500) When You Sign Up With WeBull Securities Platform (Fund ANY Amount)
*** FREE RESOURCES ***
Keen to learn about options trading but do not wish to pay for expensive courses, this newbie guide will help gain the knowledge and fundamentals to understand options better. And it’s totally free!
The Newbie’s Guide To Options Trading
After accumulating more than 600k of unrealized losses on my portfolio, I wrote this article to encourage friends and investors who are also losing a lot of money to the market.
If You Are Feeling Depressed From Losing Lots Of Money In The Stock Market, Here’s An Article For You
In the 10 years of my investing journey, I have made many mistakes but also learned many lessons from these mistakes. I compiled the 10 most valuable lessons that I have learned and may they help you succeed in your investing journey.
Happy 10 Years Of Investing | 348k (Realised) Profit, 635k (Unrealized) Loss & 10 Lessons Learnt
The precious 6 lessons I learnt after cutting more than half a million of losses in the stock market through bad investments and risky trades.
6 Lessons Learnt After Losing 551k In 10 Years Of Investing & Options Trading | What Newbies Should Know They Start Investing/ Trading
How I managed to build a 1M investment/ trading portfolio despite coming from humble beginnings.
How A Poor Kid Got To A 1M Investment Portfolio | Tips & Principles Of Building Wealth
I did these 10 side hustles while holding a full-time job, so I share them here so you can be inspired to grow your wealth through a side hustle that you enjoy.
I Did These 10 Side Hustles While Working Full Time | 10 Side Hustle Ideas To Help You Earn An Extra Income
Struggling with inflation and high cost of living? Try these 10 methods to help you save money and accumulate more savings for investments or rainy days.
10 Ways To Save Money To Help You Fight Inflation & Rising Costs Of Living
Why I am building $120,000 of cash reserves in Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB) & 5 reasons why I think SSB is a worthy low or zero risk investment that you can consider.
Why I Am Building $120,000 Of Cash Reserves In Singapore Savings Bonds (SSB)? | 5 Reasons Why SSB Is A Worthy Low Risk Investment
Sharing why I am doing Dollar Cost Average (DCA) into SPY and QQQ ETF for long term investments and a step-by-step guide to doing it automatically with Interactive Brokers.
Why I Am Doing DCA (Automatically) For SPY & QQQ For My Long Term Investment? (20% ~ 30% Upside Potential) | Step By Step Guide To Activating Automatic Recurring Investment On IBKR
*** FREE MOTIVATIONAL BOOK ***
If earning more money from your investment does not excite you anymore, you may be seeking a purpose that brings fulfillment and meaning in life. I have written a motivational book that may be useful to you in some ways. You can also download a free copy here:
2 thoughts on “Happy 10 Years Of Investing | 348k (Realised) Profit, 635k (Unrealized) Loss & 10 Lessons Learnt”
All that matters is you learn from the past. From my 30 year experience which I did not have many losing years the key is to look for names that have extremely low downside risk.
Thanks Rob for your valuable advice.