I was watching the movie Me Before You on a flight.
There was a heartbreaking scene when Will Traynor insisted on ending his life despite all the efforts of Louisa Clark to show him that there were still reasons to continue living.
“But…I need it to end here. No more chair. No more pneumonia. No more burning limbs. No more pain and tiredness and waking up every morning already wishing it was over. When we get back, I am still going to go to Switzerland. And if you do love me, Clark, as you say you do, the thing that would make me happier than anything is if you would come with me. So I’m asking you – if you feel the things you say you feel – then do it. Be with me. Give me the end I’m hoping for.”
I couldn’t stop tears rolling down my cheek.
At this untimely moment, a flight attendant stood in front of me and asked me the irrelevant question “coffee or tea, please?” while waiting for an embarrassed passenger’s answer.
Didn’t she see that I need a tissue rather than a coffee?
The touching story of Me Before You resonates with the complicated world of Investment in at least three facts:
1. When something unfortunate happens, the whole game changes and the world is never the same again.
Traynor had been living a good life – being young and attractive, handling big deals in his work, playing extreme sports, and enjoying nice vacations. He had everything men wish for until a tragic accident happened and changed everything. From that moment onwards, “getting through each day requires almost superhuman strength”.
In the past two decades, we have our fair share of unfortunate events that affected everyone in one way or another. Things can’t be intact any more after that fatal day.
• Widespread bankruptcy and a high unemployment rate of 4.4 percent caused by the Asian Financial Crisis from July 1997.
• ‘Terrorist attack’ became a generic term in newspaper headlines since September 11, 2001.
• Retail sales fell 10 to 50 percent and many retail and restaurant chains closed down after the outbreak of SARS in February 2003.
• Many doomed investments never really recovered from their losses after the sub-prime crisis that started in December 2007.
2. Nothing can save the situation when rules of the game have changed.
To some Property buyers or investors, the day the whole property game changes is the introduction of TDSR (Total Debt Servicing Ratio).
However, fine-tuning the TDSR rules from September 1 doesn’t guarantee that home owners and investors can obtain the bank’s approval and successfully refinance their housing debts.
It’s because rules of the game have changed. Banks have been much more cautious in borrowing since 2013. They are not going to benefit their home mortgage department and risk dealing with potential increase in bad debts.
And this doesn’t apply to new loan applications which are still under the governance of the TDSR framework. Potential buyers are still stuck if their debt obligations are above 60 percent.
Frankly, the announcement of MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) serves to kick the ball to the court of the banks in case interest rates climb up later this year.
Even relaxing other cooling measures is not going to revive the property market. Not even the tweaking of Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty and Seller’s Stamp Duty.
Because times have changed. The economy has slowed down. The supply and demand gap has widened. The buying craze has died down.
It’s just like Clark’s ambitious plan to take Traynor to horse racing, a concert and a vacation in Mauritius – all in vain to convince Traynor that his life was worth living.
Clark’s biggest mistake was that she forgot Traynor was no longer the same person before the accident. He was no longer that invulnerable ‘me’ before but a sensitive and bitter patient now.
Just as what Traynor’s ex-girlfriend explained to Clark,
“You know, you can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.”
3. It is much more painful to lose something you once own, then you never own it before.
Traynor didn’t have to die. Despite the fact that his was immobile, he still lived in a beautiful castle, with the company of his loving parents, a personal doctor and a lovely caregiver who’s in love with him.
But what made it unbearable was the painful memories of his glamorous past.
It is similar to someone being a winner all his life. But suddenly one day he is under the curse to be a loser for the rest of his life. It is tough to be put in hell when one used to be living in heaven.
In investment, it is more painful to end up with losses and debts after the taste of profits. In reality, the buying regret is more unbearable than the missed opportunity.
Many property owners who bought at the peak of the property market in 1996 got burnt and lost their investment. Some took almost 15 years to just breakeven and finally saw the prices of their properties recovered.
Investors who went after the high-end property market in 2007 were still stuck with properties that they paid for $4,000 psf. Average loss is $1 million for units purchased in 2007 and sold recently.
“Some mistakes … just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you,” Traynor told Clark.
We all make mistakes. But how many of us can learn from our mistakes and avoid repeating them again?
The writer shares his experience as a property investor in Singapore at PropertySoul.com. He has attracted a regular group of followers, with blog posts frequently reposted at Yahoo News, TheFinance.sg, Singapore Investment Bloggers, Propertyguru.com.sg, The Singapore Daily, Propwise.sg, Singapore Business Review, Temasek Review and other wealth blogs.