God’s Plan For Us

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

I believe all Christians know that God has plans for each of us. The only difference is in what type of plan God has for us. When I was in my previous religious church, I could only think of “missions” each time I think of God’s plan for me. I hated missions. So, by extension I hated God’s plan. I tried to avoid being called as much as I could. I am not surprised that all religious churches that are under the bondage of theology preach the same thing. Yet the above verse says otherwise.

The truth is, God has plans for us but those plans are not about missions. They are good for us. They give us future and hope. What type of future and hope does God want us to have? Based on the whole context of the Bible and the fact that God is not a sadist, we can deduce that the future and hope that God wants us to have must be prosperity in every area of our lives. God wants us to have healthy bodies, strong families, good friends, successful careers, blooming business, a lot of money in the bank and everything else that we desire. The Bible is filled with the promises of God wanting us to live prosperous lives.

This means we don’t have to scheme to make God give us what we want. God wants us to be rich more that we want to be rich. When we pray, we are not trying to persuade God to give us what we ask for as though he has no intention of doing so in the first place. The above verse has made it clear that it is the intention of our God to give us good future and hope. So, stop trying to make God do what he wants to do in the first place.

Instead, our role as believers is to position ourselves to receive the blessings God has given to us. When we pray, confess, tithe and practice any other spiritual disciple, we are effectively positioning ourselves to receive the prosperity from God. We are not trying to persuade God. This is something we must always remember in our spiritual walk. God has made it clear that he wants us rich. We don’t have to persuade him to do so.

How about missions? Does God want us to do missions? The answer is, mission is a by-product of God’s plan for us. Think. How are we going to convince the rest of the world that they need to believe in Jesus? Will you tell them that Jesus is God because the Bible says so and the Bible is the true Word of God because it says it is? The real problem the world has with the Gospel comes from the bad impression given by those religious “Christians” out there. They thought those religious “Christians” are real Christians and thus avoid becoming one.

The case in point is the event that happened in Singapore a few months ago. A few women from a local church ganged up to seize power in a women NGO. The reason for the coup was they accused the organization of promoting homosexual lifestyles based on some flimsy reasoning. These female crusaders became the persecutors, judges and executioners at the same time. Their evil acts had sparked outrage in the entire nation. Even the church pastor openly supported their evil acts. To cut the long story short, the women in Singapore joined forces to throw these crusaders out. The entire event gave the impression that Christians are evil and cannot be trusted.

It is up to us, the true Christians to correct those impressions. What are we supposed to do? The answer is to live the life God wants us to live. We need to live in accordance to the good plan God has for us as stated in the above verse. When our lives display clear prosperity like good health, abundant wealth, successful careers and blooming businesses, we become lights in the midst of darkness. We become attractive. People will be attracted to us because they want to live the same lives as us. They will then be more receptive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the real mission God has in mind for us.

Do you intend to obey?

The Optimist’s Creed

I promise myself:

1. To be so strong that nothing can disturb my peace of mind.

2. To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person I meet.

3. To make all my friends feel that there is something worthwhile in them.

4. To look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism come true.

5. To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.

6. To be as enthusiastic about the success of others as I am of my own.

7. To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

8. To wear a cheerful expression at all times and give a smile to every living creature I meet.

9. To give so much time to improving myself that I have no time to criticize others.

10. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

11. To think well of myself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words but in great deeds.

12. To live in the faith that the whole world is on my side, so long as I am true to the best that is to me.

Christian D Larson (1874-1954)

Is There A Lion Out There?

13 The lazy person claims, “There’s a lion on the road! Yes, I’m sure there’s a lion out there!”
Proverbs 26:13 (NLT)

What I like most about the book of Proverbs is its practicality. It contains scenarios, which we can identify easily around us. The above verse tells us one of the favorite excuses of those who are lazy. They are convinced that there is a lion out there waiting to eat them if they go out. So, it is better to stay inside the house, be poor and die of starvation that to go out. This is the characteristic of those who are lazy. They always prefer the option of doing nothing.

I would like to expound the meaning of laziness here. It is not limited to the idea of not physically working. There are many people who have been working hard physically but they mentally lazy. They refuse to think of ways to improve themselves and their earning power.

In Singapore, you can seldom find people who are physically lazy. We are not a welfare state. Our “welfare” policy is: If you don’t work, you don’t eat. The only welfare pay out here is limited to those who are disabled and old. The welfare payment is very small. So, no one can take advantage on the welfare payment. On the whole, we Singaporeans are not physically lazy because we cannot afford to do so. However, that does not mean we are not immune to mental laziness. What is mental laziness? I shall explain in this article.

Most of us have no problem in looking for jobs and work in it. If we don’t earn enough, we may think of moonlighting at night. Is that the only way to get more wealth? How about starting a business or taking up additional courses? When faced with this question, most people will come up a lot of reasons why business will not work. There are no limits to the reasons they can come up with.

No money for capital.
No money for school fees.
Economy is bad (when the economy is really bad).
Cost is too high (when the economy is good)
Too tired after work.
No time to study.
Do not have the knowledge.
Not good in studying.
Not everyone can be rich because economists say there is a limit on money supply.
It is better to be happy that to be rich.
If God wants me to be rich, I will be rich.

The above list is not exhaustive. I am merely showing that there is no limit on the excuses people can make in order to stay inside their comfort zone. If you happen to be one of those who is doing the same, remember this, while you are producing reasons why you cannot be rich, there are others out there who are working their way to achieve their riches. 10 years from now, you will wish that you had done the same.

So, the moral here is, stop making excuses and move forward to get all the riches you desire.

Some may ask, “How about you? You are teaching others. What have you done yourself?” Here is my answer.

I am presently a resident engineer in a condominium development. The pay is good and the position is stable at least for 2 years. However, this job can basically be called “Jack of all trades and master of none,” I am not that naïve to think that I can ask for more money being a generalist. I need to specialize. Right now, I am giving myself one week to decide on which area to specialize in and I will take action on this coming Monday. For the moment I am more inclined towards steel structures. I want to be a specialist in this subject. Specialists earn more than generalists.

Next, I have an auto trading account in place. It is basically a forex trading account that comes with the option of incorporating various computer trading programs to trade for me. What I have to do is to choose the programs I want and set the risk parameters. The programs will trade for me 24 hours a day and five days a week even when I am sleeping. It is my wish that over time, I will see an avalanche of profits rushing into my account.

I have attended a property investment seminar. However I have not started anything because the property market in Singapore is quite erratic. Properties have been selling like hot cakes since May despite no real indication of economic recovery. Not only that, rents have been falling. All these tell me that the property market may face a downturn soon. I am waiting for it to happen so that I can pick up properties at low price.

You may also notice that I have this blog. Right now, I don’t think I can sell this blog for a few billion dollars but that does not mean I cannot do so in the future. I am working to develop it into a source of inspiration for people around the world. It is my wish that people around the world will visit this blog, read the articles, be inspired and go out to achieve their own breakthroughs in their lives. This blog is also a medium for me to showcase my capability and talent that can help me to make money in other areas.

These are the areas I am currently working on. I am looking at an entrepreneur course but I plan to take it after this project ends. I don’t want to overwhelm myself. After all, the Bible advised us not to wear ourselves out to get rich. I will just focus on these few areas.

The above are the actions I took in securing my future and to advance to the next level. I hope it inspires you to take your first step to do the same.

Do Not Fear Failures

16 The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.
Proverbs 24:16 (NLT)

The theme for this article is failure. The above verse begins with ,” The godly may trip seven times..” The “seven” here is not literally the number 7. It means no matter how many times. So, I can rephase it into, “No matter how many times the godly fail, they will get up again.”

This is the characteristic of the godly. We are resilient. We can withstand all the attacks from Satan and hit him back until he collapse. This reminds me of the last episode of Star Trek Voyager. Starship Voyager entered a Borg infested region in her attempt to enter the transwarp conduit to find a way home. Usually the Borg cubes have superior firepower than Voyager but this time is different. Voyager is equipped with the future armor technology, thanks to the time travelling Admiral Janeway.

As Voyager entered the Borg region, a few cubes took up defensive position and fired at her. The armor technology enabled Voyager to take those blasts with minimum dent in her shields. Then, Captain Janeway ordered 2 trans-phasic torpedoes to be fired at one cube. The cube exploded on impact and was destroyed. The Borg retreated.

I like this scene. It gives me a picture on the difference between the godly and the wicked. The wicked can fire all their phasers and torpedoes at us, creating the impression that they have the upper hand but what they do not realize is we have God on our side. Our God has given us everything we need to withstand those attacks. Our shields and armor can hod those attacks. Our shields will not fail. We will not be boarded and the warp core will not breach. If God does not think we can overcome the trouble, he would not have allowed the attacks to happen in the first place.

So, it is important for us to remind ourselves that whatever trouble we are in right now, God thinks we can overcome it. In other words, the existence of the trouble is the proof that God has given us everything we need to overcome it. We have a choice in this situation. Will you choose to agree with God and overcome the trouble or will you choose to contradict God and allow your self to be defeated? The choice is yours.

Another point I want to make here is, we are not immune to troubles. Being a Christian does not mean you can have no trouble in your life. We may not be of the world but we are physically in the world. We are as physically vulnerable as the rest of humanity but we have a secret weapon that they don’t, our faith.

 Through our faith, we are linked to the supernatural blessings of God.
 Through our faith, we can triumph over every trouble.
 Through our faith, we can turn our poverty into prosperity.
 Through our faith, we can turn our sickness with health.
 Through our faith, we can turn our failures into success.

In conclusion, no matter how many times you appeared to have failed, do not give up your faith. The movie is not over yet. The only way the movie can end is when you win. You are the hero in this movie. God has decreed that this movie must have a good ending and good ending means you win.

Improve Your Competence

29 Do you see any truly competent workers? They will serve kings rather than working for ordinary people.
Proverbs 22:29(NLT)

I have written on this verse before. This time I am taking another approach. The key word here is “competence”. Being competent means being able to perform our normal duties with higher efficiency, which in turn leads to faster results, better quality and lesser mistakes.

In the above verse, God wants us to be competent in our jobs and area of expertise. He pointed out that competent workers serve kings, not ordinary people. It seems to me that God wants us to improve in our jobs in order to get higher salaries. I am sure many of us will find such advice to be redundant. It is basic common sense. Why would God gave us such a common sense advice?

I believe he wants to remind us of a blind spot we often miss in our quest for improvements. Let me ask you this question. What comes into your mind when you think of getting rich? Most people with think of going out there to start a business, taking courses to get a better job or migrating to a richer country. Most of us cannot see how we can get rich in working in our current jobs. After all, if my job can make me rich, I am already rich by now.

The only exceptions are those high flyers who are on track to higher promotions. As for the rest of us, we look at the greener pastures at the other side of the fence and wish we can get there. So, Proverbs 22:29 is a timely reminder from God that there is also wealth where we are right now.

Let me give you a biblical example. David was a shepherd boy before he was summoned into the palace to serve King Saul. Do you think he had wasted his time as a shepherd? The answer is no. When David was working as a shepherd, he learned many things like building up his faith in God, fighting skills (like sling shots) when he fought the predators and familiarized with the topography of the region. When David took up the post of army commander, he was able to put in use the skills he had learned when he was a shepherd. So, David did not really waste his time as a shepherd.

This is the same for us. You may not see any opportunity for advancement in your present job. However, you need to realize that just because you don’t see it, it does not mean opportunity does not exist. God wants us to capitalize on the opportunities he has provided in our current jobs. He may wants you to move to another company or stay on with the existing one but the bottom line is there are many things you can do right now in your current job to improve your competency.

The following are some suggestions on how we should do it.

Work with the mentality of abundance.
People can tell the difference whether you work with a positive mindset or work grudgingly. When you fulfill the responsibilities of your job with a positive mindset, you will feel happy and more enthusiastic. People around you will be able to sense your joy and they will be drawn to you. You will have favor from God and men.

Not only that, working in a positive mindset is also a lifestyle of faith. When you are in faith, you can have everything you want. This is a guarantee from God.

Make it a habit to improve your job.
Even if your job is routine, it does not mean that you cannot think of ways to improve it. If you are a dish washer, think of ways to wash your dishes faster and cleaner. If you are selling burgers, think of ways to serve better and deliver the burgers faster to your customers. Whatever you are doing right now, there is always way to improve them. When you make it a habit to keep improving your works, your competence will also improve and you will be on your way to move up your career ladder.

Specialization.
I don’t think I need to convince anyone that specialists can earn more money than generalist. Being a specialist means focusing your efforts in acquiring knowledge and skills in a specific area of interest in order to become one of the best people in that area.

If you are a civil engineer, you can specialize in the construction of tall buildings, tunnels, bridges, dams or any other critical areas. If you are a chef, you don’t have to have the expertise to cook a lot of dishes. You can even specialize in desserts or cakes. So, you don’t even have to know how to fry a fish to be a high paying chef.

Specialization can indeed improve our income but it comes with a high price. It takes hard work in learning and taking additional courses after work. It won’t be a bed of roses but the reward is great.

Niche combinations.
Let me give you an example in this area. Supposing an music company needs to hire a manager to expand their business. The ideal candidate will need to have basic competence in management. However, if the job requires close interaction with the musicians, the company may want the candidate to have some music background. So, we have a special niche here, someone with both management and music background.

If you happen to fit into these 2 categories, you can demand a higher salary due to your uniqueness. There are many people out there with management expertise but you are the one who know music. There are many musicians out there but you are the one with management expertise. You may not be the best in management and music but the combination of both gives you an advantage.

In fact, this is the direction I am planning to take. Instead of taking courses in more advanced level in engineering, I am planning to expand my competence into area like quality. I want to be an engineer with expertise in ensuring overall quality in buildings. I will need to broaden instead of deepening my knowledge. I am learning more on architectural, electrical and mechanical works.

I am sure such expertise will be in demand as Singaporeans emphasize more in quality now.

Conclusion
No matter how bad your job situation looks like right now, there is always something to learn. You can only learn if you adopt a positive attitude in your job. Use it as an opportunity to improve in your competence. When you are truly competent, you will serve kings not ordinary men. You can even be the king’s business partner.

God wants us to improve in our competence. Don’t give up.

The Lord Directs Our Steps

24 The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?
Proverbs 20:24 (NLT)

I like this verse because it gives me the assurance that God will always be on my side and he will be personally see to it that I will always have the prosperity I want. So, it is not necessary for me to understand everything along the way. Please note that the verse does not say it is wrong in wanting to understand things. It is natural and praiseworthy in wanting to understand things. After all God gave us brains for us to use. So, being a scientist is not a sin.

However, if you have lived long enough in this world, you will realize that situations are not always straightforward and can be easily understood. Welcome to the real world. I like the school environment because everything is so structured. As a student, you will attend lessons in accordance with the established timetable and be taught according to the established syllabus. You know in advance where you will be. You will also be told on what will you be tested in and where you can go if you achieve a certain grade in your examinations. Everything is clear and structured.

This was how I live my life until I completed my engineering degree in the National University of Singapore. After that, I suddenly found myself in a new world. When I started working, I was quite disoriented. No one told me what was my next level and what I must achieve in order to reach it. It short, my early working life had been a constant struggle until I learned about the truth of the Bible.

Today, my life is different. While I am still physically in the same world as I was when I first graduated, I no longer think the same. I am not lost nor disoriented. I may not know completely what is in store for me in the future, I can still live in peace because I know the Lord is directing my steps. God is still in control and he is leading me in his path of prosperity.

I seek to learn and understand the things around me. If I can understand them, I thank God for it but if I can’t, I am still in peace because I know my God is on my side. This is important for us if we want to have peace in our lives. We cannot afford to secure our peace on our limited understanding on the situation around us. If we do so, our peace may end up fluctuating like the stock market. When we hear good news, we are happy. When we hear bad news, we are sad. The bigger problem here is, there are usually more bad news than good from the media.

Consider this. When a thousand planes managed to take off and land safely, no media bothers to report on them, but when one plane crashed, the media make it their headlines. Our current mass media system favors bad news over the good. If your peace depends on what they report, you will have a very miserable life.

Therefore it is essential for us to put our trust in God. The situations around us make look good or bad but our God will never abandon us. He is always on our side and constantly working behind the scenes to bring us prosperity. Why worry over the situation? It does not matter if you cannot understand what is happening. What truly matters is you must believe that the Lord directs your steps.

A Revolutionary Concept In Retirement Planning

I am sure most of us are familiar with the concept of retirement planning. Financial institutions like banks, insurance companies and independent financial advisory firms have been promoting it to improve their business. Wherever you go to for your retirement planning needs, you will always get some standard textbook answers on this subject, which will result in commission income for these institutions.

In this article, I will run through these “textbook answers”, reveal their flaws and propose the true engineering solution to it.

Let us begin with the basic definition.

What is retirement?
All of us will have to retire unless we happen to die in our jobs. Retirement is a stage where we no longer do the jobs we used to do nor do we receive the salary we used to receive. Why do we retire? There are 2 basic reasons for people to retire:
1. Too old to work.
2. Too rich to work.

As you can see, the first case is the equivalent of being thrown out of your job while the second case is the situation of you throwing out your job. The objective of retirement planning is to ensure that we retire for the second reason. We retire because we become too rich to work and not because we become so old that our employer wants to get rid of us.

Now, that we have determined the reason for retirement, let us move on to the standard textbook answers on how to plan for retirement.

Standard textbook retirement planning.
Here are the basic steps on how to plan for retirement according to the standard textbook:
1. Determine the annual expenses needed to pay for your desired lifestyle after retirement.
2. Estimate the amount of years you are expected to live from your retirement onwards.
3. Multiply the annual expenses to the amount of years you are expected to live after retirement.
4. Factor in the expected rate of inflation from now until your retirement age.
5. The result is the retirement fund you need to build up in order to fund your ideal retirement.
6. Create a wealth building plan to build up that amount. This plan will invariably involve putting aside a portion of your current income to the recommended investment portfolio.

The above are the basic steps for the conventional retirement planning. They are available in every financial institution that is interested in making money out of this idea. Can you see the flaws in the above steps? Let me start by pointing out the obvious.

Flaws in the standard textbook retirement planning

Consider the last step, Step 6. How are you going to build up the amount for retirement derived in the above steps? You will probably be told that you need to invest regularly into a portfolio that will give you a certain percentage of annual growth. However, there is no guarantee in the estimated growth. Your advisor will not be liable if the recommended portfolio fails to achieve the targeted growth stated in the plan.

By the time you realize that your investment fails to achieve the target for retirement, it is too late for you. You will not going to retire in style. As for the financial planner who planned the failed investment, he or she will still be keeping the commission you paid from your investments. You need to be aware that financial planners get rich from the commissions from clients like you, not from their own investments. Their expertise is in persuading others to invest with them so that they can earn their commissions.

Financial planners are expert salesmen. They are not expert investors. So, if you choose to trust your financial planners with your life savings, you are heading for your own doom.

Next, let us assume that you can really achieve the targeted amount for your retirement. Let us assume some numbers here. Consider the following:

Based on your retirement planning, you need $5 million at age 60 to enjoy your desired retirement lifestyle for the next 30 years and you have successfully achieved the $5 million.

What is next? What are you going to do with that $5 million in your investment? Are you leaving the amount in the stock market? If you do that, you are exposing your retirement nest eggs vulnerable to the fluctuations of the stockmarket. Any market crash happens during your retirement will have the potential to cancel your retirement.

However, if you choose to liquidate your investments and keep the $5 million in your bank account, you are subjecting your retirement fund to inflation. No one can predict how high inflation can rise. When inflation becomes very high, you will lose a significant portion of your $5 million savings. Your retirement plan can still be cancelled.

What are you going to do? If you are thinking of withdrawing half into cash and leave the other half in investment, you will still face the risk in both sides.

So, the question is, how can such a bad plan become a standard textbook retirement plan? Who invented such a bad plan? Obviously that person cannot be an engineer. Engineers will never come out with such a toxic plan. Trusting a non-engineer for your financial future is very risky.

I believe that one of the main reason the global finance is in such a mess is the financial sector is run by non-engineers. Non-engineers should not be allow to be involved in the financial sector, let alone becoming financial advisors or planners.

Please note that I have nothing against non-engineers. I am sure most of the readers of this blog are not engineers. I have nothing against you. However, if we truly want to have a prosperous economic system and retire comfortably it is essential that we regulate the financial sector and only allow people with proper engineering background and training to manage it. In the end all of us, (engineers and non engineers) will benefit from a properly managed financial system.

There are many jobs that non-engineers can do but finance is not one of them.

At this point, I believe many will ask me what is the solution to the flawed retirement planning? Here is the answer.

Yeap Chee Seng’s engineering solution to retirement planning.
The engineering way toward retirement planning is to look at the retirement income and not the total amount. Instead of asking, “How much money do I need to save to retire?”, the engineering question is, “How much passive income I need in order to retire?”

The key word here is passive income. Passive income is defined as the income we receive without having to work for it. The clearest example is the income from rentals. If you have a property which you rent out, the rent will come to you every month without you having to work for it. If the amount of rents you receive is more than your total expenses, you are free to retire.

This means the correct way to plan for your retirement is to build up sources of passive income. In the above passage I use rental properties as an example but it is not the only source of passive income. There are many others, which I will cover in future posting.

How do you execute your retirement planning? This article is not meant to be exhaustive by itself. I can only give you some brief guidelines here. Maybe I will expound on this in future.

First, start your own research on the sources of passive income. The internet has many choices for us choose from. Then, make your move to build up your source of passive income. As you do, keep improving and enhancing your system. You have to keep reminding yourself that the real objective is regular passive income.

It will be helpful if the field you are involved in to be one of your hobbies or areas of interest. It is less tiring to do the things you like. Your hard work will not feel like hard work if you enjoy it.

Yes, it requires hard work. You have to do additional work after your regular paid job. In your paid job, you work to make your employer rich. It takes basic common sense to start working to make yourself rich by building up some sources of passive income to fund your retirement.

Is there an easier way? Of course there is. Give your money to the financial planner with no engineering background and hope for the best.

How about the target of my passive income? Your current income is a good guide. Let us assume that you own an internet business that gives you an income of 10% of your salary. What you have to do is either to increase the sales of your internet products by 10 times or set up 9 other internet businesses that gives the same result.

Once your passive income matches your earned income regularly, you are ready to retire anytime. You have to make sure that you don’t spend more than your passive income. At this stage, you can choose to resign if you want to. If you choose to keep on working, use your salary to build more asset base to create a bigger buffer in your financial fortress.

The result is financial independence the engineering way.