Where would I invest $100,000 in Singapore right now? (2020)

47

A couple of readers have asked me whether now is a good time to be investing in the markets.

My view is that with the exception of certain areas that look a big pricey (big tech I’m looking at you), stocks look pretty fairly priced right now, given all the uncertainty.

There are massive inflationary forces in play due to all the money printing and stimulus, and there are also massive deflationary forces due to COVID19 and the demand shock.

For the time being at least, the two forces have cancelled each other out, so we have a period of relative stability. I don’t think this lasts though, so eventually either force will win out.

Whatever the case, there’s no doubt that a lot of big name stocks are significantly cheaper than where they were back in Jan 2020.

So is it a good time to be investing?

Well, definitely better than it was in Jan 2020.

Basics: Where would I invest $100,000 in Singapore right now?

Anyway, to really answer that question, I wanted to share how I would invest $100,000 right now.

Ground Rules

A couple of ground rules:

  • Assumes I start with nothing – I’m going to assume I’m starting with no prior investments, and investing completely fresh into the market. I will take prices as they stand today, and with a view to investing the money over the next 6 months.
  • Why $100,000? – I like $100,000 because it’s a big enough sum to have proper asset allocation, without having to worry about transaction costs. With a portfolio size like $10,000, brokerage fees do add up, so it’s hard to get meaningful diversification, and a Robo like StashAway or Syfe, or just picking a global ETF (eg. the IWDA), may make more sense.
  • Pure investment amounts – This $100,000 is pure investment funds (ie. the equity portion of one’s portfolio), so it excludes any emergency funds / cash / short term bonds set aside for short term use. The right weightage between the equity portion here and bonds / cash can be tailored based on individual risk appetite.
  • No more than 8 counters – One of the feedback I got on the All-Weather Portfolio was that it was too complex for the average investor. To take that feedback on board, I’m going to keep this portfolio to no more than 8 counters. This will keep it simple and minimize hassle for investors.

FYI we’ll share commentary on the 2020 crisis every weekend going forward, so for those of you who haven’t signed up for our mailing list, please do – its absolutely free.

It’s a weekly newsletter that goes out at noon every Sunday, and rounds up the week’s posts so you never miss anything.

Please also note that this is not intended to be financial advice. Do note the disclaimer below

The content here is for informational purposes only and should NOT be taken as legal, business, tax, or investment advice. It does NOT constitute an offer or solicitation to purchase any investment or a recommendation to buy or sell a security. In fact, the content is not directed to any investor or potential investor and may not be used to evaluate or make any investment.

 Do note that this is not financial advice. If you are in doubt as to the action you should take, please consult your stock broker or financial advisor.

How would I invest $100,000 in Singapore?

The broad allocation I would use, is set out below. Read on for my detailed thought process.

  • Gold – $15,000
    • GLD ETF – $15,000
  • Singapore – $35,000
    • UOB – $15,000
    • MCT – $10,000
    • MIT – $5,000
  • US – $30,000
    • QQQ – $15,000
    • JP Morgan – $7,500
    • Exxon Mobil – $7,500
  • China – $20,000
    • Vanguard Total China ETF (3169) – $20,000

Why Gold?

So I wanted to include a hedge in this portfolio. I wanted something that was outside of the capital markets, and that regardless of how much money printing the world was going to do, it would continue to retain its value.

I thought about US Treasuries, but frankly speaking, I don’t see much upside there unless the US is going into negative interest rates. I don’t think they will, so I left them out – but if you disagree, Treasuries could definitely be worth a look at.

Anyway, if we leave out US Treasuries, the next best choice will have to be gold.

I’ve been bullish on gold for a while now, and if I am right, I think the real wave for gold is barely even getting started.

Gold is a hedge against monetary stimulus and currency depreciations, and with the way the world is set up right now, we’re probably going to see a lot of that in the next 6 to 12 months.

I put $15,000 into gold for this portfolio. No need to overcomplicate matters, so I went with a physical backed gold ETF being GLD (IAU works too for lower fees). It’s the largest gold ETF in the world, so it has very good liquidity.

If you want something more leveraged, you can look at gold miners. The ETFs are GDX and GDXJ.

Singapore vs Global investments?

Whether to invest in pure Singapore vs globally is a very personal question.

There’s genuinely no right or wrong here, it depends on the kind of investor you are.

For me personally, I think that there are significant headwinds facing Singapore right now.

I penned an article to Patrons recently on this, and the crux is that there are 3 crucial headwinds: (1) Singapore is very reliant on international flows of goods and people which are severely impacted by COVID-19, (2) Singapore is very reliant on old world industrials which again are severely impacted (as opposed to tech), and (3) the easy part of this COVID crisis with big stimulus is over, what comes next is going to be a grind.

The playbook that worked so well for Singapore since independence will need to be adapted for the current world.

As a Singaporean, I hope with all my heart that we succeed. But as an investor, I don’t see that as a risk I need to take when diversification is so easy.

How to split globally?

I also think that the twin engines of the world going forward will be the US economy, and the China economy.

So I will split my money between Singapore, US, and China. Singapore gets the biggest at $35,000, followed by US at $30,000, and China at $20,000.

One interesting thing to point out is that Temasek themselves also allocate to Singapore, China and US as their top 3 allocations. The difference though, is that China is bigger than US for them.

I don’t profess to know why Temasek does this, but for me as a retail investor, I don’t think having China > US makes sense.

China is still earlier in their development phase, so their capital markets are less efficient. This means that active investing and private asset classes are the key to outperformance. That works for someone like Temasek, but for retail investors who have full time jobs to tend to, and who don’t have access to the same private asset classes, it just doesn’t make the same sense.

So for our portfolio, we will allocate more to US than China.

Singapore – $35,000

  • Singapore – $35,000
    • UOB – $15,000
    • MCT – $10,000
    • MIT – $5,000

I’ve seen a lot of articles bashing the STI recently. Now I get that, but I think that’s also missing the point.

The STI shouldn’t be compared to something like the S&P500, because it just doesn’t have that same tech component. The S&P500 has about 20% weightage to the FAANG right now, and if you strip out the FAANG, the S&P500 hasn’t really gone anywhere.

The main highlight of the SGX, is for the slower growth, mature yield stocks. Ie. The banks, the REITs, and the Temasek Linked Cos.

So instead of going for the entire index, we’ll just go for exactly what we want.

United Overseas Bank (UOB) – $15,000

It’s a pretty fair tossup between the 3 local banks, and I eventually settled on UOB because on a Price/Book basis, it’s cheaper than DBS right now. UOB is about 0.9x book value, while DBS is close to 1.0x book value.

It also avoids the HK exposure that you get from OCBC.

Ideally, I would like to add DBS too, but we’re constrained by the no more than 8 counters rule, so UOB will suffice.

Mapletree Commercial Trust (MCT) – $10,000

If I had to pick 1 REIT to get exposure to Singapore Commercial Real Estate, it would have to be Mapletree Commercial Trust.

You get exposure to the retail asset class (40% – Vivocity), business park (40% – Mapletree Business City), and office (20% – Mapletree Anson, BAML, PSA Building).

Retail probably isn’t going to do so great for a year or two, but the business park component should offset that to a certain extent.

At its current price of 1.92, it’s at about 1.1x book value.

I don’t think it’s an amazing price right now ($1.5 that we saw in April was an amazing price), but it’s still pretty fairly valued.

Mapletree Industrial Trust (MIT) – $5,000

I needed one more REIT to get exposure to the industrial asset class. It was a tossup between Ascendas REIT and MIT, but in the end I decided to go with MIT because of the data center exposure.

Data centers are hot as hell right now because of COVID driving all that cloud demand, and supply side, data centers took tight at least for the next year or two.

That said, MIT looks slightly pricey, so I only allocated $5,000 to it.

US

  • US – $30,000
    • QQQ – $15,000
    • JP Morgan – $7,500
    • Exxon Mobil – $7,500

NASDAQ100 (QQQ) – $15,000

It has reached a point where most of the outperformance in the S&P500 is coming from Big Tech.

So I figured let’s not pretend anymore, and go all-in to the NASDAQ via the QQQ or VGT.

With our Singapore portfolio, we already have good exposure to old world industries, so we really want the high growth, tech exposure here.

This gives us exposure to some of the best names in tech globally, the Facebooks, and Apples, the Microsofts etc, all in one ETF.

JP Morgan – $7,500

I also wanted to get some exposure to the US banking sector.

Unlike in 2008 where banks were the ground zero, this time around, banks look far better positioned to weather the storm.

JP Morgan to me, is probably the strongest US bank right now. It’s been on the FH Stock Watch for quite a while now, and the recent Q2 results looked very strong.

Exxon Mobil – $7,500

I also wanted some exposure to oil.

With all the cuts to oil capex, we could potentially be setting ourselves up for an oil supply shock down the road. And with all that money printing and stimulus, it’s not hard to see oil really flying when the economy restarts.

We may be past peak oil, but I don’t see oil going away so soon.

Either way, with big oil at 50% or more down from their highs, I do like the risk-reward here.

To be honest all of the 4 oil majors (Exxon, Chevron, BP, Shell) each have their own pros and cons, so they’re all fine. I went with Exxon for this list because its US listed and easy to access. BP and Shell are on the LSE and not all investors have brokers to access that exchange cheaply.

Btw for those who need a good and cheap international stock broker, you can check out my recommendations here. For smaller amounts, Saxo is a good choice (there’s an account opening bonus now if you use this link – drop an email to [email protected] for the full steps), and for sums above US$100,000 Interactive Brokers is good choice.

China

  • China – $20,000
    • Vanguard Total China ETF (3169) – $20,000

And finally, no portfolio we build will be complete without some exposure to China.

China is tough to get exposure to, so in the end I went with a slightly more obscure ETF.

I really like this one because it gives me exposure to both A and H shares, and is pretty diversified across the big asset classes.

Expense ratio also comes in at an acceptable 0.4%. For those who want something with a little more liquidity though, you can check out the iShares MSCI China ETF (2801).

Closing Thoughts: Lump sum or average in?

For those who are keen, you can check out Patron for my latest full Stock Watch, as well as my personal portfolio breakdown (updated weekly with position changes).

The way I see it, there’s just massive uncertainty over how the next 6 months plays out.

Not only that, there’s a biological, virus related component that is impossible to predict.

Human nature – at least we can understand to a certain extent. But how the virus evolves or mutates – that just can go either way.

Maybe the virus evolves into something that is harmless, and international travel resumes in Jan 2021. Maybe the virus evolves into a more deadly and virulent strain, and we go into deeper lockdown.

I don’t think anyone out there can say with certainty which outcome we’re going to see in the months ahead.

Sure, if you lump sum invest, you could make bigger money, but you’re also just taking a bet that the virus situation gets better, or that the stimulus will hold. That may or may not hold true.

So from a risk management perspective, I think averaging into this market makes sense.

Sure, you may make less money, but this also allows you to allow events to unfold, and commit capital on a regular basis.

Makes the most sense to me at least.

As always, this article is written on 17 July 2020 and will not be updated going forward. You can check out Patron for my latest thoughts, my Stock Watch and Personal Portfolio.

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Looking for a comprehensive guide to investing that covers stocks, REITs, bonds, CPF and asset allocation? Check out the FH Complete Guide to Investing.

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47 COMMENTS

    • This was intended purely for the equity portion of the portfolio, so I removed all the cash / short term bond components. The amount of allocation to bonds / cash can be adjusted based on individual risk appetite.

  1. Why don’t you set-up a $100K paper-based portfolio that you update on weekly basis based on the counters you recommended and the readers can track the performance as we progress along? Will be interesting to see the quarterly & annual performance of this paper portfolio.

    • That’s an interesting thought, another reader asked for this too. Do you know of any online platform where I can easily track this and make it public?

  2. Hi FH,

    Haha I always thought you would prefer Dbs as your first thought for banking shares.

    Anyway, for Ascendas Reit, they actually have quite a % of data centres in their portfolio, which u might have missed that out.

    • Haha I like DBS as well, but since UOB is cheaper right now I put UOB on this list. I’ll probably just buy both (or rather all 3) and be done with it though.

      Got it, thanks for raising the point on A-REIT!

    • Less efficient from withholding tax perspective though. You’ll get hit 30% for dividends – which you won’t if you go to LSE.

  3. Do it on Google sheets and just lock it so only you can edit it. You can also pull in prices from Google finance so you don’t need to maintain it.

  4. Do it on Google sheets and just lock it so only you can edit it. You can also pull in prices from Google finance so you don’t need to maintain it.

  5. Apologies for the double comment above, was attempting to reply to the question above about setting up a portfolio tracker.

    A few thoughts on the portfolio itself. I agree with the allocation to GLD, though I prefer AAAU, it has an 0.18% ER and is convertible to physical gold at Perth Mint which is a short flight away should we ever need to take possession.

    Having 45% of the portfolio allocated to just five stocks is too much concentration and idiosyncratic risk for me. Singapore REITs are certainly worth holding, but I’d broaden to include a few more of the high quality options. I would happily pay the few dollars trading fees for the added diversification. I would also hold both UOB and DBS.

    If the time frame is only 3-5 years I agree with a recovery/value tilt through financials, but I’d do it using XLF (or the Vanguard equivalent) again for diversification.

    I’m actually not that bullish on oil, it’s had some good gains recently and could spike again with OPEC+ discipline and the falling shale rig count in the US, but long term it’s history. The hydrogen revolution is coming. The EU just announced its hydrogen plan amounting to hundreds of billions of Euros. If Biden wins the White House there will be a green new deal. If the EU and US align there will likely be a carbon border adjustment tax to fight free-riders. China would be forced to come to the clean energy table. There are a number of clean energy companies that have seen 1500% growth over the last couple of years, I’d be more inclined to take a gamble on a few of the most promising ones, than pump money into a single oil stock. It would require research, but it’s high risk, potentially high reward.

    I’d be more cautious about going big on QQQ. There’s a danger of recency bias here. QQQ hasn’t been this over extended versus SPY since the 2001 bubble (see chart link below). There are lots of good arguments why “it’s different this time” – strong balance sheets, economic moats, COVID accelerating existing trends and so on – but the valuations of some of the big tech companies are unlikely to ever be justified. Big tech is the most crowded trade in town. Some people might be comfortable buying in now but not me personally. I have actually been reducing exposure to big tech the last few weeks as it’s gone parabolic, taking some profits. If you do want QQQ, there is an Ireland domicile UCITS version EQQQ that might just edge it for Singaporean investors on expenses.

    For a short time frame like three years I’d be more inclined to buy some value, maybe an equal weight SPY, or a quality small cap ETF like IJR. Value has been hammered for a long time now and it’s so beaten up, so contrarian, yet if the recovery takes off, it’s likely to outperform growth, at least for a while.

    For a longer time frame, and a core portfolio equity holding, I’d go for something more diversified, VDEV or SWRD maybe.

    For China exposure I’d either go for diversification via an Emerging Asia ETF, like EEMA, that would give you 50% China and 30% Taiwan and South Korea, or I’d go active with something like the Matthews China Fund (MCHFX) which has easily beaten the MSCI China index because it avoids all the state owned enterprise dross that would be included in a broad ETF.

    QQQ vs SPY:

    https://i2.wp.com/deepvalueetfaccumulator.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/QQQ-SPY-MAR-10-1999-JAN-31-2020.png

    • Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the really insightful comment. Some thoughts from me:

      1) AAAU is a really interesting one, will look into it.

      2) I get the argument about peak oil, but I’m not quite sure I agree with this. I don’t think oil is done just yet. It’s a bet I’m willing to take, especially with prices where they are right now.

      3) QQQ is tricky. Like you said it’s the most crowded trade in the world, and valuations are high, but that doesn’t tell us about timing of when the rally will end. Lots of room to play around with this for the active investor.

      4) Haha value has been touted for many years now, but the rotation has yet to occur. If it does occur though, it’s probably going to be a big, multiyear paradigm shift. So this is a trade where we’ll have lots of time to get on board, and not necessarily a trade I may want to be too early to.

      5) I disagree with the Emerging Asia one. I actually want the pure exposure to China, without exposure to Taiwan or SK. Just a personal choice perhaps.

      How would you allocate $100,000, if constrained by the rules in the article? Really curious to see how you would do it.

  6. What about GLDM given it contains lowest expense ratio vs. GLD & IAU?

    Thanks for the insights once again, agree that Gold is very likely to appreciate in such unpredictable times.

  7. try simplywall.st. I am tracking my portfolio here and it allows me to track dividends also. I think free version can take limited stocks only.

  8. It’s an interesting question!

    My investing philosophy is close to the Jack Bogle school; simple, diversified, tax efficient, buy, hold and rebalance, something you can live with long term. Whilst I think you prefer high conviction, concentrated bets with a bit more active trading and stock picking. Not saying one is better, but they’re different starting points. I am generally not looking to make tactical trades with my broad portfolio, I want to set and forget otherwise I would be tempted to tinker, which hurts long term returns. I would also have trouble sleeping at night holding single stocks like Exxon and JP Morgan. I can remember Deepwater Horizon. I’m comfortable with the energy / financials plays, but I’d do it through ETFs.

    I also have a slightly different view on whether now is a good time to be investing, and this is where I diverge from the Bogle school, who say don’t market time and don’t worry about the price you pay. I do care about price, it’s a key driver of long term returns. The end of March 2020 was a good time to be investing, but right now it’s worth being cautious for a few months at least as we see how reopening works, or doesn’t.

    At the broad index level, SPY, QQQ, Dax 30, China MSCI etc, prices are either back where they were, or higher than they were, in January, but we have significantly more economic uncertainty. Valuations across almost every asset class are at historically elevated levels and we are reaching the natural limits of debt saturation. At best I think we’re heading towards Japanification, at worst a complete monetary collapse. Of course it’s entirely possible I am too bearish, and there are tactical opportunities out there, but I would say this a highly challenging time to be investing and fraught with risk.

    However, the question where would I invest $100,000 right now really depends on risk appetite, investment horizon, other assets and investor psychology, so it’s not easy to answer, I’ll give you that! Your portfolio is based on sound logic and isn’t far off what I would do also.

    If my horizon is short term (three to five years) and I need the money for a property purchase, for example, I would be highly defensive, something like 15% global equities (VHVE / VFEA), 15% gold (AAAU) and 70% cash.

    If my horizon is more than 20 years, I have no need to touch it and could trust myself to ride through a really serious downturn I would probably go for an asset allocation of something like 55% global equities (VWRA), 15% SREITs (MINT, MLT, MCT, Ascendas), 15% gold (AAAU), 10% global aggregate bonds (AGGU), 5% Bitcoin. This is not far off the long term portfolio I have, though the “eight tickers” constraint means it’s simplified.

    I have a long term fixed rate mortgage which is my inflation hedge, otherwise I might be tempted to hold some TIPS. I also have a separate portfolio of about 10-15% with no rules where I do what I like, trading, speculating, winning, losing, options, making short term bets for anything from a few days to a few years. This satisfies the inveterate gambler in me. Never underestimate behavioral factors in portfolio design.

    Incidentally, the subject of China as an investment is worthy of a full post (or three). There are very compelling arguments both for and against, I would be interested to hear your thesis.

    • Hi Matt, really interesting views, thanks again for sharing. Really enjoyed reading this.

      That’s a very global portfolio you would go for. I think for me, at the end of the day, I would probably still allocate more to Sg vs Global. Maybe 40% sg, 30% US, 30% China? But that’s the beauty of this – one can tailor it to their own risk appetite and views!

      Good point you raised on China. I’ve been meaning to do one for a while, but can’t quite figure out the right angle to go for.

      Cheers!

  9. Im a RDS.B shareholder on NYSE via SCB trading. Bought in during the March/April lows. Q1 2020 full dividend was credited without any withholding. (Non US person).

    A shares are subject to Dutch 15% withholding apparently.

  10. Are you worried about MCT’s office exposure. Google is a major tenant and apparently big on the wfh home trend. Should be ok for now due to lease lock in but suspect many companies would look to downside their office foot print.

    • Actually the way I see it, if companies reduce office footprint, they will cut their CBD spaces, so in some ways business parks may benefit.

      Good point on the Google wfh thing though, genuinely don’t know what Google will do.

      But my view on MCT is that I love the underlying properties, and I am confident they will remain relevant for years to come. If the market is going to sell off because of short term issues like this, I will definitely add.

  11. Hi, FH, I been following your blog for sometime now, I also would like to add exposure to gold. However im not sure which gold shares counter to choose ? And on which exchange ? local or foreign exchange ?

    I have about 10 holdings local sgx stocks in different industries. I also see very strong headwinds ahead of singapore.

    I would really like to know in depth as to why you choose GLD listed on New York instead of SDPR gold etf on SGX ? Whats the difference ?

    Like to hear from you. Thank you very much.

  12. Hi JJ,

    It is related to liquidity.

    If you look at the volume for SDPR gold etf in SGX, the transaction volume is too low. It will cause issue when you want to sell the counter, even you might have difficulty to buy at desire volume.

    Where as the transaction volume in NYSE is around 10 million per day, source https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/GLD/

    If your trading volume is not very large for this counter eg less than 100k share per trade, you can easily buy/sell your stock in NYSE.

    Just my two cents.
    CC

  13. FH, great article. For someone who has only purchased SG stocks thus far, how would you advise buying the Vanguard Total China ETF? Will it require conversion of SGD to HKD and a brokerage with access to the HK stock exchange? thank you!

    • Yes, that is correct. You can check out Saxo, FSMOne, or Interactive Brokers. The first 2 are good for lower sums, while interactive brokers is best if you’re investing bigger sums (> US$100,000 ideally). For smaller sums, I like Saxo, but there are some who prefer FSMOne, ultimately a personal choice.

      I have a guide here with more information: https://financialhorse.com/best-stock-broker-2020/

      There is a referral promo now if you open with Saxo. You can use the link in the article above if you’re interested. 🙂

  14. Hi FH, thanks for the insight. I am a new investor with a small handful of SG bank stocks and I have decided to adopt a long-term “buy and hold” passive investment approach, for which I was also recently advised to buy into the Vanguard Total China ETF, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this in your article.

    Given that it is domiciled in the HKEX, could I ask whether there are any “hidden” taxes involved (e.g. how the US markets have a 30% dividend tax for foreign investors and real estate tax as well) for the HKEX if I were to buy the Vanguard Total China ETF? Just want to be 100% sure what I am getting myself into before committing to a long-term investment with this ETF.

    Thanks a bunch!

    • No additional taxes I am aware of tbh. There are exchange related fees and ETF related fees, but on the tax front there’s no withholding tax equivalent that I’m aware of.

  15. Hi FH,
    regarding the Vanguard Total China ETF. I noticed you chose 3169 (HKD) as opposed to 9169 (USD). Just wondering what’s your reason behind this?

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