Thursday, September 30, 2010

Youth Olympic Games: An Awesome Opening Ceremony

By Stacey Gan Pin Hui, Diploma in Media Studies & Management

Stacey, who was covering the YOG opening ceremony as a young journalist, shares her experience.
(From left)Marcus, Rebecca and Stacey

If there was one thing that could have literally dampened the high spirits of those seated at the Marina Bay floating platform on 14 August, it would have been rain. Fortunately, the threat of rain proved to be empty, though rain clouds did hover menacingly over the venue of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) opening ceremony. My classmates, Marcus and Rebecca, and I were among the 27,000 attendees who did not have to use the plastic ponchos provided in our goodie bags after all. The ceremony began as scheduled, much to our relief.

The massive scale of the event only began to dawn on us as we sat in the media section, located at the highest level of the seating gallery against a backdrop of the flags of all 204 participating countries. We watched in awe as journalists, photographers and cameramen from all over the world streamed past us. We admired their equipment, feeling like we had yet to earn our stripes in order to sit with them. It was really an international gathering! Thais sat beside Canadians while Germans chatted excitedly to each other as the Brazilians near them rummaged through their goodie bags. A cacophony of voices with accents from all five continents surrounded us, and left us feeling like we had travelled overseas.

Clocking in at an estimated two and a half hours, Singapore’s version of the Olympic opening ceremony kicked off with a performance by Malay, Chinese, Indian and Eurasian participants. This introduced Singapore’s multi-cultural society to an estimated 2 billion viewers around the world to. For me, that segment was reminiscent of National Day Parade performances, where messages of racial harmony are de rigueur. But when I considered that the world was seeing, for the first time, what Singaporeans have always enjoyed every year, I began to appreciate it in a whole new light.

The next segment, titled ‘Origins’, took the audience through a brief recap of Singapore’s journey from past to present. As a Singaporean, I was thrilled to see our nation’s story being told on such a platform, with the world watching. Singapore does have a lot of achievements to be proud of, built on the hard work and determination of our ancestors, and I was glad that as host city of the YOG, we had been given a chance to let the world know how far we have come.

The rest of the ceremony was laden with symbolism, with segments about what motivates the young Olympians to strive for excellence, and how they overcome insecurities and fears to do their best in the face of competition. There was even a segment titled ‘S.O.S.’ that called for the world to work together to address global problems such as war and natural disasters. Each segment was kept short and sweet, hardly exceeding 10 minutes each. It made the ceremony feel like a fast-paced movie with spectacular special effects such as laser shows and generous fireworks displays at the end of each segment.

The next highlight was the parade of flags of all participating countries. Marcus, Rebecca and I waited impatiently for Singapore’s flag to enter. As we waited, the audience members took turns to cheer themselves hoarse when their nation’s flag was paraded. The excitement and sense of anticipation around us was incredible. A large group of Belgians were seated in front of us, and all of them stood up in a great show of support for their country, yelling, clapping and waving miniature Olympic flags when the Belgian flag made its appearance. As host nation of the YOG, Singapore’s flag was the last to enter, and I do not think I am being biased by saying that it received the longest and loudest cheers. It was my first time cheering for my country along with such an enormous audience, and it warmed my heart to see that it was not just the Singaporeans who stood up for Singapore’s flag. In fact, the majority of the people around us stood up to applaud. How fantastic it was to watch the foreign journalists that my classmates and I had admired earlier cheering for Singapore!

If I had to name my favourite part of the ceremony, it would have to be the culmination of the YOG torch relay. The flame was brought to the Marina Bay floating platform on a giant phoenix vessel built to carry the torchbearer across Marina Bay. The phoenix was beautifully lit up and everyone watched in awe as it cruised across the Singapore River towards the floating platform, looking like a fabled creature from an ancient legend. The grandiosity of it all was not lost on the audience, and we heard plenty of stunned gasps and exclamations of delight at the sight of the phoenix.

The torch relay continued, with several torchbearers passing the flame, as they made their way to the floating platform. The last torch-bearer, 16-year-old sailor Darren Choy, ran across the reflective pool behind the main stage to light the YOG cauldron, which was housed in a lighthouse structure. When the Flame touched the base of the structure, it travelled impressively up the lighthouse in a column of fire, spiralling upwards and quickly reaching the top where it was greeted by tremendous applause from a dazzled audience. I clapped enthusiastically too, overwhelmed by the sensational finale.

Having attended the YOG opening ceremony as part of the media team from Nanyang Polytechnic, I am honoured to have had the chance to witness this historic event. The experience has given me a taste of what it is like to view events like this through the eyes of someone who works in the media industry, and has allowed me to rub shoulders with accredited journalists all over the world. I look forward to more of such opportunities in future, and hope that I will never let myself become jaded or take these opportunities for granted!

Friday, September 24, 2010

What Happens When Some of the Richest Men in the U.S. Get Together?

They talk about money...and have milkshakes.


Warren Buffett, Jay-Z, and Steve Forbes recently sat down for a discussion. What else could they talk about besides money? The 3 have very little in common besides being brilliant business men and being rich.

The 3 sat down for an hour long conversation on “the power of luck”, the music business, and success and giving among other things. Take a look...


Tips on Getting Rich From a RICH Man

Back in January of ’09 I posted 10 investing tips from Warren Buffett, Buffett listed things like “be frugal”, “stick with what you know”, and "believe in America”. For all you out there who don’t know who Warren Buffett is where have you been?


According to his Wikipedia page:

Warren Edward Buffett is an American investor, industrialist and philanthropist. He is one of the most successful investors in the world. Often called the "legendary investor Warren Buffett", he is the primary shareholder, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is consistently ranked among the world's wealthiest people, he was ranked as the world's second wealthiest person in 2009 and is currently the third wealthiest person in the world as of 2010.

Buffett is called the "Oracle of Omaha" or the "Sage of Omaha" and is noted for his adherence to the value investing philosophy and for his personal frugality despite his immense wealth. Buffett is also a notable philanthropist, having pledged to give away 99 percent of his fortune to philanthropic causes, primarily via the Gates Foundation. He also serves as a member of the board of trustees at Grinnell College.

So now you know why the man is mentioned so often in finance circles. I don’t really quite know “what I want to be when I grow up” but I know I want to follow in his footsteps. I have a long way to go. Maybe if we follow his tips we can have a piece of what he has.

Fivecentnickle has nicely laid Buffett’s tips out for us:

1. Reinvest your profits. When you make money, reinvest your profits instead of spending them. Even a small sum can ultimately be turned into great wealth.

2. Be willing to be different. Don’t base your decisions on what everyone else is saying or doing. Think for yourself if you want to be above average.

3. Never suck your thumb. Do your homework, and be prepared to quickly make up your mind and act on it. Avoid unnecessary sitting and thinking.

4. Spell out the deal before you start. Your leverage is always greatest before you begin a job. Always work out the specifics of a deal before you start, even if you’re dealing with friends or family.

5. Watch small expenses. Be vigilant about minimizing your expenses, both in business and in your personal life. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you profits or paycheck go further than ever before.

6. Limit what you borrow. You can’t borrow your way to wealth, so be careful with loans and credit cards. And if you get in over your head, negotiate with your lenders to pay what you can. Once you’re debt free, save money and start investing.

7. Be persistent. With tenacity and ingenuity, you can win against a more established competitor.

8. Know when to quit. Know when to walk away from a losing proposition. There’s no sense in repeating the same old mistakes trying to dig yourself out of a hole.

9. Assess the risks. When faced with a decision, imagine the best- and worst-case scenarios. If the benefits don’t outweigh the risks, then think twice before proceeding.

10. Know what success really means. There’s more to life than money. According to Buffett, “When you get to my age, you’ll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you. That’s the ultimate test of how you’ve lived your life.”

A lot can be learned about how to manage money from millionaires, after all they weren’t always rich (most of them anyway). So, Mr. Buffett, I salute you!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now

When I was growing up money was tight, or non-existent, so I didn’t learn much about how to handle money from my parents. I did learn what NOT to do financially and I have tried to live by doing the opposite of what my parents have done and I think it has been ok so far.

My piggy bank.

I can’t help but think, “I wish someone would have told me about…” when I was growing up.

My dad's piggy bank. hahaha

Growing up I did have the normal babysitting, paper routes, lawn mowing jobs but I was never able to save the money past putting it in my pocket. Once I hit high school my mom did open a checking and savings account for me, but money never seemed to stay there long either. In college, my checking account was set up so I had to keep $500 in it at all times, which was a good lesson in building up my account.

I received my first credit card in college and didn’t know what to do with it or how to use it. I charged lots of dumb things on it that took a LONG time to pay off. I bought a Playstation on credit and it took me almost 2 years to pay off. I didn’t learn my lesson though. I kept charging and kept owing because, well, that what my parents had done.

Knowing what I know now, the blueprint set out by my parents had me designed to repeat their bad money habits and not to succeed financially. Some things like having a set limit in my checking account that I don’t let my account fall below is great but everything else I learned the hard way and on my own.

If I knew then what I know now about savings, credit cards, loans, and investing I would have a lot more money in my pocket and would be paying less of my hard earned money to everyone else.

What did I learn from my parents?

Well, I learned not to purchase anything on credit that I can’t pay for outright (still working on this one). I learned to sacrifice things I want for things I need. I learned that after 7 years your credit history is cleared, even though my parents still blame each other for their current financial mess some 18 years after getting divorced. I learned the value of hard work and when to ask for help.

What didn’t I learn from my parents?

Basically everything important. I didn’t learn the power of compound interest. I didn’t learn how to budget. I didn’t learn the importance of using credit correctly. I didn’t learn that I should have found other ways to pay for undergrad and grad school because now Sallie Mae owns me. I didn’t learn how the value of my credit, my dad always told me that all I have is my name (my honor) and my credit. He would say, so don’t let anyone mess them up. I didn’t learn not to put utilities, credit, cell phones in my name for other people (I got burned a couple times on this one, but in my defense the people were family so I figured I would be ok, WRONG). I didn’t learn about retirement planning because my mom feels it’s a waste, but I plan on retiring so I need to plan.

What are some of the things you wish someone would have told you growing up about money and finances?

What are some of the things that someone DID share with you that helped you learn how to handle your money?


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Does Money Equal Happiness?


Money is the root of all evil, or so the saying goes. But is it?

We need money to survive. Everything costs. Even if we don’t physically have the money in hand, we still spend it. Everyone knows, those with money are better and those without money are bad…well that’s the thinking, right?


So, does money equal happiness?

This question has a complicated answer, but the short answer is yes, I think it does. Maybe not in the way you’re thinking…

I was having a discussion last night, when the person I was talking to said to me “I think you would be happier if you just had more money.” I didn’t know how to respond. Sure, I would be happy if I had more money, but I would be happy because my bills would be paid and my family taken care of. Not because I could have tons of stuff. I don’t need stuff, I do, however, need to know my family is taken care of.

Being financially comfortable to me is ideal, that’s what I’m shooting for. Knowing needs are met makes me happy. This doesn’t mean I need a lot of money, it just means I need enough money to do what I need to do.
Greed and happiness are 2 different things. Greed, to me, is the opposite of happiness. Greed is all consuming and ugly. Happiness is, well, happy. It’s light and fluffy and shiny and good. Those who need millions of dollars or lots of things can’t be happy; they are too consumed with stuff. And I would bet they aren’t even happy with all the stuff they have, it’s just stuff at the end of the day.

Money often goes hand in hand with stress. But most times money leads to stress because we don’t have enough to do what we need. So in that case, having more money would be good and take some stress away, hopefully making you happier because you have less stress. Money can also be stressful if you are in a constant chase for more than you need.

Can someone be happy without money? To this, I also answer yes. There are populations of people who have given up worldly treasures, such as money, and they are happier than they could have ever dreamt. Is this because they don’t have to worry about money or because they are now free to focus on things more important than being consumed with money? Probably a bit of both, but more of the latter.

Money can lead to happiness, and unhappiness just as easy. Next time you think your life would be easier if you could just hit the lotto, try to change your thinking. Focus on what you have and what you need, truly need. Think of ways to get you were you need to be and what would make your life comfortable, you don’t need much more than that.

So yes, money can lead to happiness if the powers of money are used for good, not evil. And remember...