The oil & gas (O&G), marine & offshore industry that I worked in is experiencing one of the worst headwinds in decades. Perhaps it is not just this sector per se that is affected adversely, many private sectors are also experiencing anaemic growth or falling earnings.
Colleagues being layoff, even MD has left. Everyone can be made redundant!
For me, “layoffs” not just headlined the news. It struck people I know in the industry as well as colleagues who were sharing the same office.
The latest addition to the expulsion list is our Singaporean MD.
Officially he resigned. However chances are either he was asked to leave or there are difficult circumstances forcing him to resign. My MD’s departure means that I have a new boss and he is sitting in the head office in Europe. My colleagues and I have strange feelings about this new boss so far. Hence sentiments are not favourable. Well, although I am use to all these corporate bullshit of frequent changes, this time it is quite different because of the lack of jobs in the industry.
Undoubtedly, the current oil crisis unfolds to be much more severe and long lasting compares to the 2008/09 GFC. During the GFC, while it was terribly bad initially, but the Singapore economy and oil price recovered quickly to mitigate any real damage. Morale is rock bottom now. Uncertainty is looming as anytime, anyone (me included) can be made redundant, if the lack of jobs persist.
Nobody takes me seriously last year. But now…..
Today everywhere I go, I hear people saying “The economy is not good lar!”
This is huge contrast to last year where sentiments are less pessimistic. Even when oil price was already depressed in the beginning of last year, most people were still oblivious and busy with existing projects and optimism of an oil rebound was still elevated.
Back then, as nuisance and sceptical as I could be, I was constantly preaching to colleagues, friends and relatives about the “What if downside” that is going to affect us badly. I drew attention that it could well be NOT just an oil crisis, but possible double whammy hits of bad general economic conditions as well.
I also highlighted that “it is not as if we are going to do nothing and cry about the imminent bad times ahead. On the contrary, we should be well-prepared both mentally and financially for the worst. Be prudent and conserve enough so that we can brace ourselves and weather the nastiest storms ahead and eventually still turn out just fine, when the tides subside!”
It may surprise you. In fact, NONE of the people I spoke to actually taken me seriously, EXCEPT for my wife and few very close friends. Most lament about me plaguing with angst and over-pessimism. Some also changed new cars thereafter or contemplate buying new cars and properties. I will then cease my “warning topics” and changed subject if I sensed any unappreciation from the recipients. End of the day, I do not want to be a spoil spot in a friendly conversation.
Today the same group of people that resisted my ideology about the possible dire forward situation back then, is NOW pressing the “Emergency Button” bemoaning how bad the oil sector and economy is. None of them approach me to show acknowledgements or appreciations of what I shared back then. Call this behaviour human nature? *Smiles*
As for me after all, I did already feel good to share what I somehow anticipates in advance. Through sharing, it depicts my very own way of showing concern to the people around me without any personal hidden agenda.
Perhaps the biggest blessing of my relentless effort to share my concern is not the appreciation I get from the people. It is the blessing of the actions I take after sharing, which often turns out to be positive.
Do more in work when you still can
For instance, sensing the bad times ahead last year, I took on more work despite no increment.
This possibly explains why I am still keeping my job intact up till today.
Last year I had sold a big part of my equity portfolio to conserve cash. I was flushed with more good news as equity prices are actually lower now. Many were unconvinced on my actions then.
Hedged home loan interest
In view of the rising interest rates, I initiated refinancing of my home loan end last year. This month, I completed hedging my home loan with fixed 2 years rate at 1.88% p.a. Notwithstanding any actions the Fed may take, at least I feel safe to be able to quantify what I have to pay in the next two years for my home loan installments.
Expensive car sold
Last month, I sold my beloved car after many years. I am driving a borrowed car right now which is almost wholly financed by the car allowance I received from my company. If I were to buy a car later, it will also be a used car with no loan and minimal commitment.
A plan for the downturn in the financial market
To prepare for any unforeseen stock crash (i.e. if it happens), I had also devised a stock plan. It may not be perfect but at least a Rolf’s plan. I reckon the plan will be useful if I am still able to stay employed and have sufficient cash warchest.
For tomorrow or days ahead, I am uncertain if my rice bowl will be broken?
What I am certain is even if I were to lose my main source of income, I still have sufficient to last me for a couple of years. And at the very least, my wife is still working and not in the O&G industry. This is called work diversification between couples. Haha.
For all that matters, mental preparation is even more important than financial preparation. Due to all my sharing and writing about any impending crisis, I am now in the right frame of mind even if I lose my job. You know sometimes, the ego in man hurts more than the money!
If the darkest hour does not come, I am happy. If it comes, I am ready.
Rolf's final thoughts
This article is definitely not a brag for my spot-on prediction. By the way, I did not make any prediction!
Counterintuitive to that, it is a compassionate reminder to people I care, that situation can turn much worse than we first anticipated. And if we are NOT prudent and NOT well-prepared, we may end up in an undesirable situation. Sometimes not just hurting ourself but also people around us.
Unlike some people I know who put the blame on their “bad luck” working in the sector, I actually think that this is a blessing in disguise, a test of my resilience. Mind you… I have a big family to feed with heavy expenses, so this crisis is really no joke. In any case, we did enjoy a good last decade in the O&G industry.
The only consolation for me now is I am well-prepared both mentally and financially to tackle any drastic situation ahead.
In fact, I had already panned out the several options of what I am going to do, in case the big axed is waved at me. In my next article, I hope to share my plans ahead.