During the month of March, I took part in a financial competition. I was easily one of the older participant there, a bit paiseh (embarrassed) to win all the youngsters. But I made several new young friends, won a prize, taught my students, had lots of fun, and that’s really what matters 🙂
The event is the National Cashflow Competition, where we play this board game called Asset Finesse (AF). In AF, the goal is to achieve a net worth of 200k inclusive of 1 property. The player starts off each turn with an income and expenses, and collects the net cash flow. The game simulate the real working life in Singapore, when workers work for wages, spend their money on stuff, build up their assets and attempt to achieve a set of financial goals.
What’s interesting for this board game, and different from the others that I had played like “Monopoly” and “Cashflow” (Rich Dad, Poor Dad), is that this is uniquely Singapore. It incorporates local financial elements like CPF & HDB, and even the stocks that we buy in the game are familiar e.g. SIA. The objective of the competition is to promote financial literacy in young adults, and that’s why I see many students taking part for their schools. I joined the Open category, where I pitted my wits against other adult players.
Since I am a prize winner, I guess I can share some lessons I gathered from the board game. So here it goes:
1. To win, I have to accumulate 200k and a property. This is similar to my real world financial life, when I buy a roof over my head and build up enough wealth to generate passive income to match my expenses. Once my expenses are totally covered by passive income, I am financially independent.
The sure way to achieve this in real world is simple: earn as much as you can, spend as little as possible, invest the savings in assets. With time, you are sure to be financially independent. But this simple way is not easy; there are too many distractions, naysayers, scams and unforeseen events that may sidetrack you. How disciplined and determined are you?
Tip: the winner is the one who achieve the financial goals first. To reach the goals asap, throw the dice fast and encourage the other players to do the same. The faster the tokens move around the board, the faster you can collect your income, make your investments and reach your goals. It also helps if you are lucky to have big dice throws.
2. In the game, we collect our nett pay once we passed “Paycheck”. The amount we collect depends on how much we can earn from the fixed pay, investments the players made in stocks, business and property, and how much we spend on expenses like insurance and children. The more you can invest in assets, the more cash flow you will get when you collect your pay. With more cash, you can make bigger investments and buy larger businesses. It is a recurring cycle, no wonder the rich gets richer, faster.
In life, the fastest way to wealth may be to inherit it, the surest way is to earn your own. I always teach my students to do well in their studies, be disciplined in their manners and have dreams of their future.
Good grades may lead to a good life or it may be a prison for employment. But I am definite that a better education offers more choices in life. It is difficult for most of my students (in a neighborhood school), cos the fun that they can have now sure beats studying hard for that next exam. But I will persist in teaching them properly, so that they will start to dream someday.
Tip: you will get bigger and better cash flows from businesses than from stocks. Aim to buy good businesses (there are some that are not so good) rather than stocks, so that you will generate more cash to buy that game-winning property. Buying a property in the game, just like in life, is likely the largest purchase and you will take a while to build up your cash assets before you are able to buy.
3. We have to draw “Domestic”, “Commercial” or “Capital” cards after each turn of the dice. Some cards allow the player to buy assets, others are events that happens to you or allows you to make attacks on other players. Which board game square you land in matters, especially in the later stages of the game, as it will allow you to buy your assets to reach your goals or to stop another player from finishing ahead of you. So part of your success in this game depends on the throw of the dice, and this is just like life. To succeed in life, we need luck, and when we land in the right square and opportunity presents itself, we better be prepared to use it fully, or watch with regret as we pass the dice to the next player in turn.
There are many opportunities in life, but most come disguised. Only the prepared and courageous are able to use these opportunities to improve their lives. I have a strong feeling the next big one is around the corner. Now the path looks dark, but who knows if the light will appear just around that next corner. So I prepare myself: saving more, reading more, talking to people more.
Tip: Buy insurances to cover against “domestic” disasters, make use of your “commercial” cards to attack and defend (recognize which are the good cards in the pack), and always try to be prepared for when you land in a “capital” square to be able to buy assets. Depending on what cards you draw, play the game to your favor e.g. if you draw a good attacking card, prepare for an opportunity to attack the right player, take his assets and win the game!
4. Cash doesn’t count in the final tally of the game. The game last for an hour, or ends earlier if any player can reach the 200k goal. At the end of the game, the 200k includes all assets like stocks, bonds, businesses, property and cpf. But cash is excluded as an asset. In real life, this obviously is not true. Cash is low yielding and depreciates with inflation but in crisis time, cash is still king.
Just look at the recent January stock tumble, investors flocked to safe havens like US$, gold, yen and cash, all low to zero yielding instruments. But in this game of AF, cash has no value. Of cos, you will still need to accumulate cash to buy assets to win the game, thus the name of the competition says it all: cash flow, and not cash, is what counts.
Tip: near to the end of the game of one hour, it is crucial to convert all your cash to assets, even if you have to buy them at a high price. Better that, than to stay in cash and not be counted as your score. I recommend to start converting all cash to assets 10 mins before the game ends, cos you need time and luck to land on the right square to allow you to buy.
Before I went to the competition, I was trying to find any game tips online, but there were none. So this may be the first AF game guide! Hopefully, my experience will help another novice AF player some day in the next competition, or even in life’s financial game.
On that weekend, I was really pleased to meet some of my current and ex students at the game. One of them also won a prize in the end, and he credits his win to my coaching. But what was really pleasing to me that day was that I met 2 ex students (one of them had his father join the competition too) and when I spoke to them, they told me they were inspired by my financial lessons in school. And when I had a chance to speak to my student’s dad, he told me his boy had spoken of me highly, and even encouraged the father to join the competition this year so that they can learn financial literacy together!
When I taught the boys in school about financial and life lessons, little did I expect to have such impact on them, and now even of their family. I was very happy (more happy than when I won the prize at the game) that my teachings were meaningful to the boys. Like what a teaching advertisement says, you never know when a teacher’s influence starts and ends.
And the smile on the faces of my students, both current and ex, when one of them won a prize or when they clapped hard for me when I went up to receive my prize, was truly my reward for the National Cashflow Competition 2016. I am not sure if I will play again next year, but I will remember this year fondly, because of my students.