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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Toys R Us files for bankruptcy - What can we learn from it.

If you ever needed confirmation that these are tough times, Toys R Us has just filed for bankruptcy in the US. An excerpt from the Reuters report:

Toys ‘R’ Us Inc, the largest U.S. toy store chain, filed for bankruptcy protection late Monday, the latest sign of turmoil in the retail industry that is caught in a viselike grip of online shopping and discount chains.


Toys ‘R’ Us received a commitment for over $3 billion in debtor-in-possession financing from lenders including a JPMorgan-led bank syndicate and certain existing lenders, said the Wayne, New Jersey-based company, which also operates the Babies ‘R’ Us chain.

The financing, subject to court approval, reassures its suppliers they will get paid for their Lego building blocks and Barbie dolls that are being shipped for the holiday season.


Toys ‘R’ Us is the second-largest toy seller in the United States behind Amazon, according to consulting firm Kloster Trading Corp.

“What they have going for them is they are the last major player in their market,” said David Berliner, a partner and restructuring specialist with BDO Consulting.

This means that Toys R Us will probably survive this, but why did it happen?

When Toys R Us first came to Malaysia, it was based on the ground floor in Subang Parade. It was a kid's dream come true and was stocked full of wonderful toys.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

We are all born for a wise purpose

Today I downloaded a free ebook called "The Art of Money Getting; or , Golden Rules for Making Money" by P.T. Barnum. In one of its passages, he wrote, "We are all, no doubt, born for a wise purpose." (The whole passage is reproduced later in this article. Scroll down to read it.)

I quite like that phrase, "wise purpose", because it is never easy to discern wisdom in our purpose, and also not easy to form purpose from wisdom.

But I suspect that many go through life without their true purpose. They also bump along life's bumpy roads without a pinch of wisdom. (Although, surviving such bumpy roads may lead us to wisdom.)

Life is a maze, so you should be amazed at it.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Refrain from Anger, and Turn from Wrath

A Biblical Call from David

In Psalms 37:8, David sang, "Refrain from anger, and turn from wrath; do not fret -- it leads only to evil." (NIV)

How many of us get angry unnecessarily? It's true that we sometimes "lose our heads" over petty issues. But when you find yourself getting angry for no apparent reason, scolding others who may not have done anything wrong, you may need to manage your anger.

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. Proverbs 29:11

Don't get me wrong. A life without anger is perhaps best for the peacemakers. But sometimes we need anger. Righteous anger spurs the righteous into taking action; or how else do you expect your everyday police officer and law enforcer to do their duty? They need to feel the burn of righteous anger, the need to clamp down on evildoers.

But for the everyday Joe a life filled with anger may be detrimental. It's bad for you, and bad for those around you. If you explode at every little mistake that others do, and if you find yourself clenching your jaws, or even your fists, too often, it's time to take a long hard look at yourself before something bad happens.

Friday, 14 July 2017

If you want something to happen, focus on it.

Focusing means taking time to focus.

When I first heard about Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule, I thought that it was either a brilliant idea or a joke. A brilliant idea because it was difficult to disprove, yet its premise sounded so plausible. It would be one of those ideas that would take a long time to prove, or disprove, just as the theory of evolution and survival of the fittest was in the time of Charles Darwin.

But in today's world, we are forced to learn things, to accomplish things. Learning takes time, and effective learning means focusing on something until you have understood it, grasped it.

Unfortunately, the younger generation seem to lack an ability to focus, because they get distracted very easily. Focusing, in effect, means not getting distracted. It means, putting your efforts into something for a prolonged period of time.

Monday, 10 July 2017

If your life is a dream, you need a reality check

Reality Check Time

Ever felt that you have everything in life? That everything is going smooth? That everything you could ever ask for is granted?

Perhaps you need a wake up call. Perhaps you need a reality check.

Welcome to reality.

Why a reality check?

Because every cent you spend, someone has to earn it. And if it isn't you who's earning, better check on whoever is suffering for your sake.... can he or she sustain your expenses?

Because when you spend with abandon, you do not keep track of how much you spend. And you can easily exceed the budget that is available.

And because if you're dreaming, there's a good chance that it could turn into a nightmare. Keeping track of reality helps you avoid that sticky situation.

So what is a reality check?

You need to see if your accounts are in the black. Are you nearing bankruptcy, digging yourself into a pit of debt? Do you have enough to sustain yourself in case you're out of work for the next 6 months?

You need to see if your job is secure. Are you on shaky footing when it comes to future employment, or is your income as secure and strong as a fortress?

You need to see if your lifestyle is sustainable. Are you spending out of your league, merely to be part of the "in" group? Are you spending unnecessarily?

You need to see if whoever you are relying on for financial support is able to support you at the rate you're going. Are you quickly and steadily depleting his or her resources? Are you depleting their wealth at a rate that cannot be replenished quickly enough?

You need to see if you are giving others a fair deal. Do you contribute as much to your lifestyle as they do? Are you taking them for a ride? What's your contribution to them?

You need to see if whatever you're enjoying is rational and reasonable. Are you spending like a queen? Are you under the illusion that you can spend with abandon, because somehow there's an unlimited pool of wealth somewhere, that you can keep drawing from without it ever drying up?

A dried up lake in Bolivia.

Because every pool dries up.

You need to know that. Every pool of money, in the bank, in the piggy bank, or under the pillow, they can dry up if you spend with abandon.

Rivers and lakes dry up too. Magnificent landmarks of nature can suddenly become barren thanks to deforestation, dam building, droughts, etc. It follows then, the little pools of wealth that you have, can dry up faster than your wet hair when it's blown.

Droughts are out of our control. Deforestation may take place on adjacent land. Dams are built upriver. Normally, lake owners and stream owners do not plan for droughts, deforestation, and dams. But these things happen.

Plan for the future.

You need to plan for the future, after you wake up from the reality check. You deserve to be financially secure. You deserve a life well lived. But you certainly do not deserve a few glamorous years of high flying lifestyle followed by a lifetime of regret. 

I can tell you that I've met a number of people who come to me, broke, or even bankrupt, and they sometimes tell me, "When I was younger, I lived the life! I enjoyed life! I never thought a minute about how I spent my money."

Save money, squirrel it away, for a rainy day. Hide it away where you will not touch it, and neither your wife nor children can get their hands on it. Keep it safe, in the bank, not under your pillow.

And adjust your lifestyle, to make it sustainable for the long term. Are you spending too much? Cut it down. Are your expenses unavoidable? Find cheaper alternatives. Everybody wants the best, but not everybody needs the best. Are you eating up your spouse's income like nobody's business? Pray about it, and give the guy a break. 

Find a job if you have to. 

You might think that you have made a huge contribution to the household's expenses by becoming a housewife. In fact, you've become a large burden to the household. 

You might think that you've made a wise decision by forcing your husband to invest in unproductive properties and paying for renovations that he will never enjoy. That's your takeaway in case you get your divorce, but you're killing him with the monthly instalments.

You might think that a vanity "part-time" or "occasional" freelance work qualifies you as gainfully employed. The truth is, if you have very few jobs, and you cannot even contribute to the bank loan instalments, you are a drag on the household.

Wake up, have a reality check. 

Life isn't always smooth. But if you can face reality and do something about it, perhaps life can indeed be blissful. It might not be perfect, but then again, it's hard for anything to be perfect. 

Lower your expectations, and accept a simpler life. Lower your standards, lower your expenses, and make life more sustainable.

Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Because if you're kind to your loved ones, they'll live longer, and they'll be around longer, to live life with you.