Alvin Poh

How To Buy and Sell Forex Pairs

The first currency is the base currency. The second currency is the settlement currency.

E.g. for the USD/SGD pair:

If you wanted to obtain Singapore Dollars (SGD), you would SELL the USD/SGD pair.

If you wanted to obtain United State Dollars (USD), you would BUY the USD/SGD pair.

How To Use Wildcard Characters in MySQL statements

You’ll need to make use of wildcard characters to perform powerful searches in MySQL. The 2 wildcard characters that you can use in “LIKE”-queries in MySQL are:

% which matches 0 or more characters
_ which matches exactly one character

To search for a date, you can use a query like the following, which gives you everything that happened from 10 to 19 August of 2015, between 9:01am to 9:09am.

SELECT * FROM `yourTable` WHERE `datetime` LIKE ‘2015-08-1_ 09:0%’

How to correctly display CSV files (Excel 2013)

Excel 2013 has an issue displaying files in CSV format that other versions of Excel doesn’t seem to have. To fix this, you’ll just need to open the CSV file with any text editor (like Notepad), and add the following as the first line:


This sets the comma (or any other character that you need) as the separator. Now just save and close the file from your text editor, and then open it with Excel 2013.

Standard Chartered (StanChart SCB) vs Saxo vs Interactive Brokers (IBKR) – Commissions Compared

I’ve been looking at several brokerages that can allow me to start investing through a lazy portfolio in Singapore, and it seems like these 3 brokerages are the most popular:

  1. Standard Chartered (or StanChart / SCB)
  2. Saxo Capital Markets
  3. Interactive Brokers

I’ve created a spreadsheet of the commission charges that these brokerages charge me on ETFs on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), as follows. Note: Saxo has recently increased its commissions for counters on the LSE from a minimum of GBP8 to GBP25. Also, the currencies in the spreadsheet are NOT EQUAL. Even though the ETFs that I’m looking at are based in USD, Saxo is charging commissions based in GBP. StanChart and IBKR are in USD.

SCB vs Saxo vs IBKR

stanchart vs saxo vs interactive brokers commissions cheapest


  • Saxo is really expensive.
  • If you’re planning on making multiple small trades, then StanChart looks to be the cheapest. Especially since they have no minimums.
  • If you’re planning on making bigger trades (above USD3,000 per trade), then Interactive Brokers is going to be MUCH cheaper.

Personally, I have been using Saxo for several months, and they have awesome customer service. Their office is at Raffles Place and anything you need is a phone call away – plus their officers actually follow up on your case. Funding and withdrawal is also same-business-day if you have a HSBC account (Saxo is using HSBC).

However, because I intend to trade more frequently, I decided to setup an Interactive Brokers account, and I’ve been loving them since. Account set up was fast, I can fund the account in SGD and/or USD, and the interface is straight-forward. The best thing is, IBKR has really, really good spot forex rates, unlike what StanChart charges (typically you’ll face around a loss of 1-2% on forex conversion charges).

The Best Index Fund Portfolio Mix For Non-US Investors

I hear a lot of references to Warren Buffett whenever I look at investment methodologies and techniques, e.g. “Follow how Buffett Invests” or “This is what Buffett would have done”, but it’s never what Buffett has specifically said so himself. Except for this:

“There are a few investment managers, of course, who are very good – though in the short run, it’s difficult to determine whether a great record is due to luck or talent. Most advisors, however, are far better at generating high fees than they are at generating high returns. In truth, their core competence is salesmanship. Rather than listen to their siren songs, investors – large and small – should instead read Jack Bogle’s The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.”

– Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, 2014 Annual Shareholder Letter, page 19.

For those interested, the book can be found on Amazon: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns.

The premise is simple: instead of picking individual stocks, just buy the entire stock market. There’s nothing more efficient and optimised than a low-cost Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF). For US investors, the US has plenty of US-domiciled ETFs that are great. For non-US investors, buying ETFs domiciled in the US has several disadvantages that make it a pretty lousy deal:

  1. Dividends are taxed. For Singaporeans, it’s going to be 30%.
  2. If you own a total of more than USD60,000 of US assets (stocks, ETFs, properties, etc), you’ll face an estate tax. For Singaporeans, it’ll be a fixed sum PLUS around 18% to 35% of your assets. Just as a fun piece of trivia: if you are a US national, your limit is not USD60,000, but around USD5,000,000.

Here’s a snapshot of 2012’s gift and estate tax rates for foreign nationals in the US:

us foreign foreigner gift estate tax rates

From: US Taxation of Foreign Nationals

So where do we start?

You’re going to be wanting a portfolio of index funds, or otherwise known as a lazy portfolio. Make no mistake though, it’s not a bad thing to be lazy in this case. What you’re going to get is something that is easy, cheap, quick to implement, and more profitable than most other things that you can invest in.

There is an entire encyclopedia of information about the various portfolios that you can use that you’ll be able to find on Google, but I like things simple – so I’m keeping it to as little funds as necessary.

For non-US investors, ETFs on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) are typically domiciled in Luxembourg or Ireland, and are attractive because:

  1. No capital gains tax
  2. No dividend withholding tax for you (however, dividends will still be taxed at source, and is between the UK and wherever the fund’s component lie.)
  3. High estate/inheritance tax limit (currently £325,000)
  4. No stamp duty

And what is the recommend portfolio?

I was previously buying VWRD, until I started questioning the efficiency of collecting dividends. I didn’t like the fact that VWRD issued dividends, because I would have to figure out what to do with the dividends. Typically, I’d need to hold on to them for a while until I was next ready to buy more of VWRD. If you think about it, that meant I’d have to incur a commission when I used the dividends to buy more of VWRD, and very possibly had to incur a dividends tax at source too.

If you like receiving dividends (VWRD has around 2+% dividend yield a year), VWRD is great. However, I have discovered that iShares has an ETF, the iShares Core MSCI World UCITS ETF (IWDA), that is benchmarked on the MSCI World Index, and more importantly, accumulates instead of distributing its dividends. This means that if IWDA were to be giving a 1 cent dividend, it would automatically be accumulated into the ETF, raising its price by 1 cent instead. As a long-term investor, I found this to be very appealing.

The only drawback is that IWDA does not contain any emerging markets, which VWRD has. To complete IWDA, you’ll need another ETF, the iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets IMI USD (EIMI). Both IWDA and EIMI trade on the LSE, and in USD.


Go for ETFs on the LSE. VWRD if you’d like to receive dividend payouts, or IWDA + EIMI if you prefer to have your dividends automatically reinvested for you.

Best Quest Protein Bar Flavors

I’ve been trying the many various flavors that Quest has for its awesome protein bars, and after getting box after box from iHerb, this is my personal ranking of their flavors:

1. quest protein bars cookies and cream Cookies and Cream
My favorite flavor, with bits of cookies and cream in the bar. Tasty!
2. quest protein bars cinnamon roll Cinnamon Roll
Ridiculously good. Tastes just like a cinnamon roll.
3. quest protein bars chocolate brownie Chocolate Brownie
My favorite chocolate flavor. Non-crumbly, solid chocolate taste.
4. quest protein bars strawberry cheesecake Strawberry Cheesecake
A little sweeter than the other flavors, but a good change from the usual chocolate-ly flavors.
5. quest protein bars chocolate chip cookie dough Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Not a bad flavor, but crumbly.
6. double chocolate chunk Double Chocolate Chunk
The worst of all chocolate flavors. Like a mix of the Chocolate Brownie and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavors, but in a bad way.

How to redirect one domain to other domain with all query string variables (htaccess)

If you ever have the need to move domain names, the following .htaccess code will help move all visitors to your second domain name. This method also preserves your URLs’ query string variables, so there’s a less likely chance of something breaking.

You can use this:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST}$
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301]

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