Friday, December 29, 2006

Have you set your goals in 2007?

Have you heard before the acronym SMART? It is 5 basic criteria for goals setting. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time.

Specific: What is it exactly that I want to achieve? (e.g. I want to earn $10000 per month)

Measurable: What must be able to state a measurable outcome? (e.g. $10000 per month is the measurable outcome.

Attainable: Is the goal achievable? Don’t set mission impossible. Make sure your goals are achievable.

Realistic: Hey, what is the point to set 100% mission possible? Make sure your goal is challenging enough to motivate you. Setting stretch achievable goals is key. If you don’t know whether your goals are achievable, do more research before you identify the goals.

Time: When you want to achieve your goals? What is your schedule? 6 months.

A good simple example of goal statement, I want to earn $10000 per month by the end of year 2007. I’m working on my goals in 2007 now.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Insurance is protection against the unexpected

When you buy an insurance policy, you will pay a premium to maintain coverage in case of bad event occurs. If the bad event occurs, you win because you get the insurance coverage. If it does not occur, you win too because of the assurances you gain from the coverage. If something does happen, you can sleep at night. You're covered. That is the purpose of insurance.

Inflation Rate (Cosumer Prices) by Countries in 2005 - Top 50 Countries

Check your inflation rate for your country below. Let me know if your country is not listed here.

  1. Afghanistan - 16.3%
  2. Argentina - 9.6%
  3. Australia - 2.7%
  4. Austria - 2.3%
  5. Bangladesh - 7.0%
  6. Belgium - 2.8%
  7. Brazil - 6.9%
  8. Brunei - 0.9%
  9. Burma - 20.2%
  10. Canada - 2.2%
  11. China - 1.8%
  12. Costa Rica - 13.8%
  13. Denmark - 1.8%
  14. Egypt - 4.9%
  15. Finland - 0.9%
  16. France - 1.7%
  17. Germany - 2.0%
  18. Greenland -1.6%
  19. Hong Kong - 0.9%
  20. Hungrary - 3.6%
  21. Iceland - 4.0%
  22. India - 4.2%
  23. Iran - 13.5%
  24. Iraq - 33.0%
  25. Isreal - 1.3%
  26. Italy - 2.0%
  27. Japan - -0.3%
  28. Kuwait - 4.1%
  29. Korea, South - 2.8%
  30. Macau - 3.8%
  31. Madagascar - 15%
  32. Malaysia - 3.0%
  33. Mexico - 3.0%
  34. Mongolia - 9.5%
  35. Nepal - 7.8%
  36. Netherlands - 1.7%
  37. New Zealand - 3.0%
  38. Nigeria - 13.5%
  39. Norway - 1.6%
  40. Pakistan - 9.1%
  41. Philippines - 7.6%
  42. Russia - 12.7%
  43. Singapore - 0.4%
  44. Sri Langka - 11.6%
  45. Taiwan - 2.3%
  46. Thailand - 4.5%
  47. Turkey - 8.2%
  48. United Kingdom - 2.1%
  49. United States - 3.2%
  50. Vietnam - 8.3%
[Updated on 21 August 2011]: For latest Malaysian inflation rate, you can refer here which also includes other interest rates as well.

    Monday, December 25, 2006

    Freedom From Fear

    Fear is the main source of failure. It must be eliminated before one can become rich and successful.

    The 7 basis fears which appear most often in the minds:

    • The fear of poverty
    • The fear of criticism
    • The fear of ill health
    • The fear of loss of love
    • The fear of the lost of liberty
    • The fear of old age
    • The fear of death

    4 techniques to get rid of your fear:

    1. Admit your fear
    2. Analyze you fear to see if it is really justified
    3. Take action
    4. Focus at the present

    Out of these techniques, the most powerful one is the step 3, “Take Action”. This is due to the fact that if you do the things you fear, you will gain the power to do it. Not believe me? Try it. This applies not only to your personal finance but also your daily life. All successful people do not fear is simply not because they’re hero. They are just like us. The secret is they gain the power of doing it by doing the things they fear.

    Sunday, December 24, 2006

    My house will be ready by next year

    This is the house that I bought last year. It costs about $280K. It is located at Sungai Petani (A very small down in Kedah, Malaysia). This place is called "Bandar Laguna Merbok" -

    We are expected to move in by early next year (Jan 2007). The estimated money spend to this house is around $80K (i.e. renovation, furniture, lighting, air conditioner, ceiling fan, electrical wiring, kitchen accessories, LCD TV, and many more).

    This means now the value of my house should be $280K + $80K. Opss… I forgot the loan interest that I pay to the bank every month. This is also most people make the same mistake too. As per today, the total interest that I have paid is $10K. Ok, let’s calculate my house value again. $280 + $80K + $10K = $370K. So, I need to sell at lest $370K to make the profits. I checked the value of my house now, it is around $310K. So, I’m losing $60K at least for this year. :(

    Having say that, is this true? No way, this is for stupid seller. If I were to sell, I will able to sell at least $400K. You know why? Because the market value of $300K doesn’t include the “Upgrade” that I made to my house. I’m selling my upgraded house but not the original house. If I'm able to sell 400K (already a very conservative value), I’m earning 30K which is around 8% of my orignal house value. Hmm… 8% a year, not bad but I’m expecting to be 14% appreciation in my house value. I want 14%!!! I will evaluate the house value again next year 2007. Hopefully the appreciate value goes up to 14% in a year!!! Possible? Wish me luck! Merry Christmas!

    Friday, December 22, 2006

    What is Job Security?

    Working from 8 am to 5 pm is the job security? No no no, look at the latest retrenchment at Intel. How can this be true? The concept for become an employee has job security is no longer true. It is not secure to work for someone. As long as you put your financial future to somebody else, you’re in great danger. How long could you last if your 8 am to 5 pm job income has stopped? Will your saving enough to support you until you find another job? Will your family affected?

    If you’re fresh grad, you probably won’t need to worry this as you have less commitments and your market value is still high. What if you are already 5-10 years of experiences and you get retrenched? Do you still have market value? What makes a company to hire you for $8K but and fresh grad just costs $3K. So if you want to stay employed and work for someone forever in your life, please make sure you have market value or make yourself a valuable asset to the company. Unless the company bankrupt, else they will not lay off their most valuable assets. Happy Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday!

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    High Risk, High Return, No Homework

    Having said that I may a little bit contradict to myself, there might have a case where no homework is required but produce high return and high risk. Yes, the answer the “rich quick scheme”. Especially in the internet, we have all seen the advertisements for get rich quicker or what they like to call achieve financial freedom.

    Are they fraud? Yes, most of them but depends on how you look at it. Have you heard about auto-surf? They could be some sort of pyramid scheme. To know about pyramid scheme in detail, check out this link.

    The figure above summarizes the pyramid scheme. 88% are loser and 12% are winner. If you can find a way to figure out how you can be the top 12% earlier of the people who join the program, you win the game. That’s why I said it depends on how you look at it whether it is a fraud or not. 88% is your risk here. How do I reduce the risk? Do more homework? Hmm… not really. From my experience no matter how many homework you do, you will end up to reduce the risk by 2%-3% which is 85% changes that you will lose.

    Well, what I can do to if I want reduce the risk more? Are you kidding me? You want low risk, high return and no homework? Is that possible? Hahaha... yes, there is such thing but may required some amount of homework. I'm not kidding you. The answer is to set up the pyramid scam website and watch the 88% losers and 12% winners play their game. Use a special formula to determine when is the best time to close your site to get the optimum profits. Then, say Bye Bye.

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    High Risk, High Return, More Homework

    The world is very fair. You want to earn big, you need to do a lot of homework. Go for stock market directly. Make big money! Ok, this is too risky for you. Then let’s go for mutual fund or unit trust with minimum of homework required. Well, you don’t want to do homework at all? “Fund of Funds” is the answer then. Unfortunately, I don’t think “Fund of Funds” is popular yet in most of the countries. Well, remember if you do less homework, you will get low return too and of course low risk.

    Monday, December 18, 2006

    You’ll never win if you always play safe.

    How can you win when you’re not willing to play the game? Also, you can be certain that the words financial independence or financial freedom will never be in your vocabulary. Even millionaires have lost money though investment. But, the point is this does not stop them from taking more risks. Don’t play safe all the time. We need to take some risk to make a big money. If we lost, we learn from the mistake and try to prevent the same mistake again. Make sure you know why you lose. Having say that, I’m not the risk taker too. I’m starting to learn it now.

    Sunday, December 17, 2006

    Motivation is the key to success!

    I define achieving financial freedom or becoming financially independent as my success. If I can achieve it, then I'm a successful person. To achieve it, there is very basic criteria that I must have is “Motivation”. If I can get myself motivated most of the time, I believe my success will just come to me easily. It is just a matter of time. I believe once I get motivated, my life will be happier, healthier and meaningful which I believe those are the essential element to achieve financial freedom.

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Should I use real estate agent to rent my house?

    Using the services of real estate agents can be good or bad. The good is that it will save your much work, time and efforts. They will advertise for you, and try very hard to come up with a deal acceptable to both parties. The bad is that you have to pay them for their service. Even worst, you might run into some dishonest man with the intention is *only* to earn your money rather than just finding a good deal for you.

    So, should you use real estate agent? It depends on the demand. In the area of your house, when people want to buy house, what is the majority choice? Go for real estate agent or look at the advertisement (newspaper, notice board and etc.) Don’t know? As a rule of thumb, “very rich” people look for real estate agent. If your area is a “very rich” people area, forgot about doing at your own. Use the real estate agent. If your area is in middle, you can try your luck on both. If your area is for poor people, I suggest you do your own advertisement.

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    Why location is so important in real estate investment?

    Whether you’re buying it for your own use, as an investment or as a rental, location is the main point for real estate or property investment. Simple to say yet not many people is really practicing it. Most of us buy a house depending on our own wants and needs. Put your wants or needs to the second priority but put what others need at first.

    Let’s take my own life experience where I bought my first house because I like it so much. The view from apartment is so nice. It is a really good view and I like it so much.

    Not only have a nice view, it is the “Perfect Location” as it is a place near my office. I bought it for $120K in 2001. Guess what, today is 2006 the value of my house is still $120K. Should I happy that the value is not depreciating at least ??? Obviously, I made a wrong investment just because I judged based on my wants and needs.

    If you really want to make big money, we have to invest in a place where others find irresistible. You fall in love in the location is not enough, let’s put it to the second priority. The first priority should be everyone falls in love in the location. Remember, it is the “Perfect Location” for everyone but is not just for yourself.

    Sunday, December 10, 2006

    The Perfect Investment

    This is how I define perfect investment. The perfect investment must have the following criteria.

    1. Must have a return higher than inflation rate
    2. Should consume my minimal time.
    3. Could be financed by other people's money
    4. Must have a return which is within my control
    5. Has acceptable risk
    6. Able to give tax relief (optional)

    What is the perfect investment then? The answer is the property investment or real estate investment. That's why I'm the owner of 3 houses at the age of 29 but driving a old lousy 8 years old car. Property investment or real estate investment fulfills all my perfect investment criteria above. Some countries may give you tax relief for buying a house under certain conditions.

    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    Rich Dad Poor Dad

    The best selling book Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money--That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki, I read this book few years ago and I’m not sure if I can remember exactly the content of this book. As far as what I can remember, there are 2 most important things in this book. They might have more but it seems like I only can remember these 2. So, I think the rest of the points in this book are not important. Perhaps I should say not the key points of his book.

    First thing, he told us don’t go to school if you want to become rich. Why? Our education system is pretty good to produce employee, but not the other way. The education is design to teach how to work for people and not people to work for you. Most importantly as I said before, school to not teach how to manage your personal finance wisely. This is kind of true at least in my country, Malaysia. I believe it also applies to all the country around the world. When you look a round, the really rich guy is the “Business Man” and most of them do not have the highest education qualification. Hey, what’s wrong? The book explains what’s wrong. Some of the readers may misunderstand this book as “If I don’t go to school, I will become rich.” This is definitely not right. Do you know 90% of the people who do not go to school fail getting rich? Not only rich and majority are even living below average. No matter you go to school or not go to school, the effort for you to become rich is the same. It is a matter of going to school is in comfort zone and therefore you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. This is my opinion.

    Second thing, Robert also has a definition of an asset versus a liability that is different from conventional accounting. Simple stated, assets generate income or cash and liabilities consume cash. Rich people accumulate assets. People who aren't rich accumulate liabilities. For example, a car, a boat are actually liabilities as they consume cash. The real assets are such as stocks, bonds, tax lien certificates, rental real estate, and other investments. They generate income or cash (e.g. dividend, interest, value appreciation). He also acknowledges that it is possible to use the principle of compound interest and regular saving to achieve financial independence. He also stated the problem with this approach is it's a long, patient one and most people get started too late for it to work.

    As a conclusion, they are many ways to get rich. Rich Dad, Poor Dad explains the way to get rich in his opinion. However, keep in mind that it may not apply to you. Read this book and take the important messages which can be applied to yourself to achieve your own financial objective.

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    Who say debts are bad?

    Do you aware there are good debts and bad debts? Good debts are debts taken out on assets that will increase in value such as properties, business or education. Be careful guys, not every debts taken for properties, business or education are good debts. The debts become good only if the investment return is higher than your debt interest.

    So, what are bad debts? Do I still need to explain more? Ok ok, I still explain. Debts that are taking out to buy things that do not appreciate but decrease in value are bad debts. Am I really true? I’m not 100% right too. Buying car could be a good debt if you know how. Huh? Don't get me wrong buying car for business but it is for personal use like what you usually do. I will post more on that in the next post. Stay tune.

    How to choose a unit trust fund?

    I have seen unit trust which doesn't make any money at all. The interest that you get may even lower than the fixed deposit. What the heck?

    Obviously, we want to invest in the better funds. But, how ?

    1. Meet your financial objective

    If you’re the looking for capital grow, choose funds that as the main objective of the fund (i.e. aggressive growth fund). If you’re looking for income, choose funds that pay dividend regularly (i.e. bond fund).

    2. Good Management

    Well, most of you may not know how good the fund management is. As a rule of thumb, just look at the company performance. Read their annual report. How many years the company has been survived? Is the company a leader in this field?

    3. Good Track Record

    Yes, I know past performance is not an absolute indicator of future performance. This is especially true if you invest in stock. However, we’re talking about unit trust here. This rule most of the time is applicable. But, keep in mind that it’s not 100% bullet proof.

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Audio Version

    Wow, the the audio version of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". I'm not aware there is an audio version of it. I must buy this!!! If I do buy this, I will put this in my car and listen to it while I am driving my car to office everyday.

    Here is the description of this audio book:

    What are the habits all successful people share? In this audio presentation, Stephen R. Covey answers that question and teaches you how to make the Seven Habits a part of your life. Each audio system is designed to help you create an empowering center of correct paradigms from which you can effectively solve problems, maximize opportunities, and continually learn and integrate principles of effectiveness in an upward spiral of growth.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    What are futures?

    Many people trade in future contracts. A future contract is a contract to buy or sell a specify quantity of a commodity, financial instrument, or stock index on a pre-specified date in the future. These contracts are freely tradable up to the time of performance on a futures exchange. This is very similar to stock or bond exchanges. There are future exchanges throughout the world and generally, each one is dedicated to a specific type of financial instrument or commodity, for example, a gold exchange or options (stock futures) exchange.

    Futures are also known as derivatives. You are not buying or selling the actual commodity being sold, just the right to buy or sell the commodity on a given date in the future. As a general rule, you will not hold the contract till the maturity date unless you are purchasing for business purpose (such as wheat futures for a large bread factory). You will buy and sell the futures trying to profit on the differences in price s for the underlying commodity.

    Saturday, November 04, 2006

    You Invest, I Invest

    Does this sound familiar? “You jump, I jump” from the movie of "Titanic". In financial, this is suicide. You can’t practice this in investment.

    Many people invest simply because others around them are investing. When you ask them, what do you guys invest? They normally will reply, “Huh? I just know the investment A can earn lot money. Person A already gets $10k return out of it and many people are recommending this investment. Even if you do trust that person very well, try to discuss with him to find out the reason why he says so. In a way, you gain some knowledge too rather than just trust the guy blindly. If he doesn’t know, try to do some research why many people recommend that investment. What are the advantages and disadvantages? Does this investment help my personal financial goal? If I lost in this investment, what is the impact to my personal financial goal? Do all the homework and make your own judgment.

    Remember, just don’t practice “You jump, I jump” in investment. It doesn’t work. A good investor doesn’t act that way. Follow them. Do homework!!!

    Why do we need a clear financial goal?

    One of the reasons why we mess up our finance is we don't exactly know what we want. Do you know exactly what you want? In other words, we do not have a clear financial goal. Without clear financial goal, you will be dissatisfied with where your life is going and how you're using your financial resources’.

    I bet 99% of us will have a common goal which we would like to call, "I want to make a lot of money". Well, that is a very rough goal but not specify enough. Your financial goal must be specify. The first question, you may want to ask yourself is how much money I make is enough? The clear financial goal should be something like this: "I have 2 million net worth at the age of 40". Simple? That is long term goal and you have to break it down to short term goals (e.g. investment strategy) to support it.

    Without clear financial goal, you are aimlessly in life. Yes, we might have some money in bank but get killed slowly by inflation. Even if you do invest, you will be invest without direction which also a major reasons why many of us mess up with our finance such as listening to the wrong advice, relying on unsuitable advisor, attracted by the advertisement and many many more. That is why it comes to the importance of financial planning.

    Goal setting is essential for anyone who wants to succeed in life as what have been explained by he Stephen R. Covey's habit 2 "Begin with the End in Mind" in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you do not have financial goal now, find a quiet place, think of what do you want to achieve in your finance? It is ok to change and review your financial goal in future. In fact, your financial goal should be reviewed from time to time. The most importantly, define your own financial goal first if you do not have it now and use it to help you to make your major financial decision.

    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    What's the difference between unit trust and mutual fund?

    What? I thought they're the same? Technically they're the not the same but you can say that they're similar. Nowadays, it seems like both terms are confusing and interchangeable. To make thing simple and let’s kill all the confusion, mutual fund is the American term for unit trust. Mutual fund is found in US and unit trust is found in UK. They’re very similar and you’re safe to assume they’re the same.

    Why do you still border to know their differences since they are both are investment scheme that serve the same purpose? In terms of their structure, they are the same too. Both of them have the fund manager, trustee and unit holders just like the unit trust. So, let’s ignore it. No difference. They’re the same.

    Most importantly what you really need to understand is the types of unit trust and different categories of unit trust. Finally, choose what types of unit trust fund that meet your desired objective.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    What is unit trust?

    A unit trust is an investment scheme that pools money from investors to meet a specify finance objective. The fun manager runs the fund and invests the money from investor to make sure it meets the fund's objective. When we talk about unit trust, it involves 3 parties that you must know. This is how the whole unit trust structure works.

    • Fund Manager to run the trust for profit.
    • Trustees to ensure the fund manager keep to the fund's investment objective.
    • Unit holders to invest like you as an investor.
    You are the unit holder, the investor. The fund manager help you to manage while the trustee make sure the manager do a right thing - do not cheat your money.

    There are many reasons why unit trust is for you and indeed for most of the people. I’m here to only list down top 2 reasons:
    • Professional Fund Manager. Ok, you have the money. Do you really know which share you should buy? Ok simple question, do you think you can do a better job than those professional full time fund manager who is expert on this area? If the answer is yes, then you can forget about unit trust. I would suggest you to take your money (assuming you have enough money) and invest on your own. If the answer is no, well, you can hire those professional fund manager with a little of money just to help you to invest. Isn't that good?
    • Diversification. Your funds are instantly diversified the moment you invest your money. Your money will be invested in a broad range of shares, bonds, and other securities. The fund manager typically invests in 50 to 100 companies. If you’re investing on you own, do you think you have the enough money to get the same effect of diversification? Opps… I forgot to tell you why we need diversification. The whole point we need diversification is to reduce the risk. Diversification is also the main concept of unit trust – help you to reduce the risk rather than to put all your money into 1 company’s stock.
    To make it simple and short, unit trust is a investment scheme that allow you hire someone to invest for you and also allow you use other’s people money to help you diversify your investment. That is all about “Unit Trust”. Just remember this just in case someone asks you.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    An ultimate financial freedom book

    I always keep asking, is there an ultimate financial freedom book? It guides me to achieve financial freedom and financial independence to solve all my financial problems. So, I keep searching for it many years. I read many financial and investment books and sadly it doesn’t seem help at all until I read a book called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

    Yes, you read it right. As you may know, this book is not a financial book. But, how does it help? The answer is rather simple. It helps me to transform all my knowledge on those financial books to the action. I never take action until the day I read this book. Knowledge without action is useless. This book explains the 7 habits which are based on the basic principle and natural law. Due to the fact the 7 habits are universal, it must be learned if you want to succeed in anything you want in life. Therefore in order to achieve financial freedom or financial independence, you must also master these 7 habits. If not, no matter how many financial books that you have read, it is going to be wasted.

    As a conclusion of my years of finding, I have to admit that there is no one ultimate financial freedom book. You have to read many financial books and most importantly you need to apply what you have learned. To apply what you have learned and to reach your goal or success, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
    is a must.

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    The secret of wealth and happiness

    In many years, I was searching for the answer of wealth and financial freedom until one day I finally realized this secret. What is the secret of wealth and financial freedom? Ok, let me reveal and share the secret to you but please don't be surprise when you know the answer is that simple. Well, human is a very weird and complex animal, I have to admit that. We are working so hard to achieve our goal and yet our goal is so simple to reach. Why? Probably they haven't realized the 3 simple steps below. Sad to say that, yet it is simple, most of the people cannot do it.

    Ok here it comes. The 3 simple steps are:

    1. Spend less than your monthly income
    2. Buy only things that you can really afford
    3. To accept the that there are things that you have to do without
    These 3 steps not just necessary for financial freedom but also critical to happiness. Ok, let assume you are violating step 1 and step 2 continuously for years. Yes, you may enjoy the one little happy moment at the beginning, and what is next? Will you still happy? Even if you follow the step 1 and step 2 but not in step 3 which means you can't accept the things that you have to do without, will you still happy? Step 3 is the hardest thing throughout my life experience.

    Now, you have already known the secret. These 3 steps are very important and very basic for wealth and happiness. If you are able to perform all these 3 steps continuously for years, you will be financial freedom and it is just a matter of time. Step 3, think about it. Can you really make it?

    Tuesday, October 17, 2006

    Why do you need Financial Planning?

    Many people do not realize the importance of financial planning. The reason is simply nobody tells them the importance of it. Let's look at the reality, did your teacher in school teach you how to invest? Did your professor in university teach you how to buy insurance? How about your parents? Perhaps yes? How about your colleagues at work? Even if they do, do they really give you the right information about financial planning?

    Let me share with the 3 major things why financial planning is important.

    • Inflation. At 4% inflation, $ 100 k today will be worth only $ 67 K in 10 years. Do you aware that the percentage of your yearly income increment has to be factored in the inflation rate?
    • Retirement. At the age of 55, the average man is expected to have 14 years of retired life and the average woman is expected to have 19 years. Do you have enough money to support yourself for that length of time after your retirement?
    • Education Cost. If you have kids, the education cost of $ 100 k will cost $280 k in 18 years. Do you realize that college cost is increasing faster then the inflation?

    Financial planning is important because it is a basic defending tool against these 3 major unrealized future financial issues.

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    What is financial planning?

    Financial planning is a continuous process to analyze your current financial situation and then to identify the actions to be taken to solve your financial problem and to achieve your financial goal.

    For instance, financial planning helps you to decide the following:

    1. Should I spend now or should I save for later?
    2. Should I pay off my housing loan or spend the money for renovation?
    3. Should my investments focus on short term or long term?
    4. Should I increase my retirement savings?
    5. What type of insurance I should buy?
    A true financial plan does not focus on one particular aspect or product, but instead it takes all areas of planning into consideration when making financial decisions.

    Sunday, October 01, 2006

    Privacy Policy for

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