Random thoughts from Taiwan

Greetings from Taiwan everyone! I’m currently in Taiwan for a work trip and will spend a little over two weeks on this beautiful tiny island. The last time I was here was in November 2019. Considering I used to come here every half year or so for work trips prior to the global pandemic, it sure felt good to step foot here again after almost three years.

Unlike Canada, the US, and many other countries, Taiwan still has a quarantine requirement upon arrival. The quarantine period dropped from 7 days to 3 days in recent months. I was hoping there would be no quarantine by mid-September but that wasn’t the case. 

Unfortunately, the quarantine period is really 4 days since the day you arrive in the country counts as day 0. 

Taiwan, Taiwan, Taiwan

I arrived in Taiwan at 5 in the morning. I was very impressed with how efficient it was at the airport when all the mandated COVID procedures (get a local SIM card, fill in telephone info, get screened, collect saliva for PCR test). I was out of the airport about 35 minutes after landing!

As I write this, I’m already out of the 3-day quarantine period and I’m finally allowed to go outside. I do have to continue to self-monitor for the next 4 days though…

Some random stuff about my experience so far…

  • The bento box meals I got from the hotel were not very good. It’s weird because the food looked quite good when I opened the bento boxes, but the taste was completely different. I decided to use Uber Eats on the second day and it became very helpful. Interestingly, I have never used Uber Eats prior to this trip. Since I couldn’t get out of my hotel room to meet the delivery person, I had to write down specific delivery instructions in Mandarin (got to thank Google Translate for that). 
breakfast
Quarantine Day 1 breakfast. Lettuce + smoked salmon between the croissant, salad with tuna & granola, and a cup of fruits. I only at the fruits…
dinner
Quarantine Day 2 dinner. It looked OK & acceptable but tasted terrible. 🙁
  • At the airport, I bought a 7-day SIM card for $18 CAD. What did it come with? Well, unlimited LTE data (yup, unlimited, all you can eat, no throttle) and 50 minutes of calling. The same type of pre-paid plan probably would cost an arm and a leg back in Canada. That’s another reason why I believe in investing in Canadian telecommunication companies like Telus and BCE. 
  • I am not kidding but the most exciting thing of the day while in quarantine was hearing the hotel staff ring the doorbell, indicating food had arrived. Unfortunately, the excitement was quickly diminished by the poor food. 
  • I was lucky that I had a giant window in the room and a nice view. The room was a decent size too (~320 square feet). It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like staying in a smaller room with a limited view or no view at all.
hotel room
A pretty decent room to get locked up for 4 days
hotel room view
can’t complain about this view
  • On Saturday, Sep 16, I was sitting in the room and all of sudden I was feeling dizzy. I was wondering what was going on and then realized things in the room were swaying back and forth! An earthquake! The shake lasted about 25 – 30 seconds and it was a weird feeling knowing that I was on the 17th floor. Turned out there was a 6.4-magnitude earthquake in eastern Taiwan. In the Taipei region, the earthquake was about 2.0-magnitude. I’ve experienced quite a few earthquakes before (a bunch in Japan) but never on a high floor.
  • I stumbled upon a traditional market close by my hotel on the day I was finally able to step outside. When I was a kid, my mom used to take me out shopping at these traditional markets and I still had some distinct memories (good & bad) from these markets. What I found quite interesting was how cheap the different items were. A head of broccoli for $1.70 CAD and a bag of peppers for $2.10 CAD. But then I suppose wages are a lot lower in Taiwan than in Canada so the lower cost of living in Taiwan makes a lot of sense.
market
  • During the 4-day self-monitoring period, I’m supposed to submit a “declaration of temporary leaving during self-initiated epidemic prevention” form each day. I’m required to return to the designated hotel each night and stay in my room between 11 PM and 7 AM. I also had to show the hotel staff my rapid test result on the first day of the 4-day self-monitoring period before I was allowed to go out. They sure don’t take things lightly here in Taiwan!
  • I had the pleasure to meet up with Steve from The Frugal Expat for coffee. We talked for over 4 hours. It was always great to meet up with bloggers in the personal community as we can talk about so many different topics. While we were in the café we felt things swaying back and forth. Another earthquake! Since we were close to the door, Steve and I just sat and observed. Turned out it was a magnitude 6.8 earthquake off the southeastern part of Taiwan. Afterwards, I learned that some buildings fell down and there were some mudslides closer to the epicentre. Crazy stuff! 
Bob_Steve
Great time chatting with Steve

Needless to say, I was happy to get out of quarantine. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have to quarantine for 14 days!

What to do with my investment?

There have been a lot of talks and discussions about inflation rates and interest rates. Will the Bank of Canada and other central banks continue to raise interest rates in an effort to decrease inflation rates? Will inflation rates finally go down to the historical target of between two to three percent?

Due to all these uncertainties, the stock market has been extremely volatile lately. In late August, the S&P 500 dropped by 3.4% after the Fed chair warns of ‘pain’ from inflation fight. Then in mid-September, all stock indices tumbled due to worse than expected inflation data, creating the worst day since June 2020.

Am I the only one to see a lot of similarities between what’s happening in recent months and what happened between February and March 2020?

Yup, uncertainties and fear.

Nobody is certain what’s going to happen with the inflation rates. Will inflation rates keep going up? Are we going to see hyperinflation? A major tool that the central banks use to fight against inflation is interest rates. By raising interest rates, the central banks are hoping that people and businesses will not spend as much money, and therefore bring down the inflation rates.

But the raising and decreasing cause and effect typically take six months or longer. In the meantime, there are a lot of uncertainties and questions. 

Then there’s always the worry the knee jerking raising interest rates would cause a prolonged recession. 

Are you worried and having difficulties sleeping at night because of all the market volatility lately?

I sure am not!

As investors there are a few things we need to remember:

  • The typical economic indicators are outside of our control. These indicators include but are not limited to the following: interest rates, inflation rates, unemployment rates, and retail sales.
  • It’s normal for the stock market to go up and down. Over the long term, the stock market has returned about 8% annually.
  • We investors need to focus on things that we can control. These include how quickly can we pay off debts like mortgages and consumer debt (I sure hope you don’t have any consumer debt before you start investing), how much money we can save and invest each month, what kind of investments we purchase, and what kind of investment strategy we’re deploying (i.e. dividend, index, rental properties, etc).
  • Always, always, always focus on things that we can control! Can we save an extra $50 this month to invest when the market is down? Or can we put aside the $50 toward the rainy day fund for the future? Stop worrying about what the experts or stock analysts are telling you on TV. That’s just a lot of noise. 
  • Speaking of what we can control, avoid making buying and selling decisions purely based on emotion. This is where we can get ourselves into some serious troubles. Therefore, separate emotions from any investment decisions.
  • Know yourself as an investor. Do you sleep better when you make a lump sum investment? Or do you sleep better spreading out your investment over time?
  • Likelike, if you’re about to make a big buying or selling decision, I’d recommend sleeping on it before making that decision. We tend to make very poor decisions when we can’t think clearly.
  • Understand a company’s long term profitability outlook from a macro point of view. Is Apple going to continue to make billions each quarter? Are people going to continue to use Telus’ cell coverage? Are people going to continue banking with Royal Bank or are they going to suddenly hide money under their mattresses? 
  • Follow your strategy, and think long term. 

Months ago, I used to get a lot of questions about what to invest in, because the stock market was perceived at an all-time high. Nowadays, I get a lot of questions about whether it’s safe to invest because the market is so volatile and the future outlook is not so good.

If you were to go shopping at a store and everything is now 20% off in the store, would you be buying more items, or would you be telling yourself that you’d wait until everything is back to regular price?

That logic doesn’t make sense does it? But for some reason, that’s how many investors think when the market is down. 

Think long term, separate your emotions from investing decisions, take advantage of dollar cost averaging, and remember that time in the market is far more important than timing the market

Happy investing everyone!

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9 thoughts on “Random thoughts from Taiwan”

  1. Your quarantine experience is way better than what I experienced in Shanghai where I landed in late June. It was frustrating and stressful. Enjoy your trip there!
    Kevin

    Reply

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