Saturday, March 24, 2007

Stay - when you are needed

A long time friend sent me this story.


A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. "Your son is here," she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened.

Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young
uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a
message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed.All through the night, the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile.

He refused. Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital - the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.

Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse. While she did what she had to do, he

Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her. "Who was that man?" he asked.

The nurse was startled, "He was your father," she answered.

"No, he wasn't," the Marine replied. "I never saw him before in my life."

"Then why didn't you say something when I took you to him?"

"I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and
his son just wasn't here. When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed."

The next time someone needs you ... just be there. Stay.

Engage in a debate

Dear Mr Tan

I can say I am among the first to discover, read and enjoy your blog at least some long while ago. I am reading it every day now.

I hope your blog will inspire more local senior executives, public figures and thought leaders to come up with even better form of blogging.

I like your genre of blog, very practical, insightful, helpful observations and perspectives on financial and social issues.

One may or need not always agree with your sincere views.

I wonder why no senior executives in the same or related industry, public figures or thought leaders come by your blog and engage you in debate about your views or offer alternative perspectives especially on financial matters? Perhaps you could encourage more meaningful responses to make your blog even more interesting and useful for your readers.

It is often we read, learn and quote western foreign management gurus such as Jack Welch, perhaps we should more appreciate our own local managers who are so willing to share their observations, local wisdom and insights, more relevant at least in the local context.


BP Pan

USA Treasury Secretary

Someone told me.

Henry Paulson was chairman of Goldman Sachs. He earned more than USD 30 million in 2005.

He was invited by President Bush to be the Secretary of the Treasury, for a salary of less than USD 200,000. He accepted. He did not need to be paid the same salary as he earned in the private sector.

Perhaps, there are other motivation for people, such as Henry Paulson, to serve in the top levels of government?

Ministers' Salaries

Are ministers' salaries too high?

Read Dr Money's views in: Blog

Return over past 20 years

Annualized returns in SGD, with dividend re-invested, as follows:

measured as at 31/12/2006
5 yr 10 yr 15 yr 20 yr
Singapore Equity 17.8% 8.0% 9.3% 9.2%
Global Equity 6.5% 9.1% 8.7% 7.7%
Global Bond 3.9% 4.5% 5.3% 5.5%

Over the past 20 years, Singapore Equity earned an average return of 9.2% per annum, global equity earned 7.7% p.a. and global bonds earned 5.5% p.a.

Over the past 10 years, Singapore equity earned 8% p.a., gobal equity earned 9.1% p.a. and global bonds earned 4.5% p.a.

These returns are all converted to S$ and include the reinvestment of dividends.

Conclusion: invest in global equity or Singapore equity to get a better, long term return. Invest for many years, to average out the fluctuations.

A different way to determine the market salary

Someone suggested a different way to determine the market salary of government minsters and top civil servants. It goes like this:

* find out the mean salary of the top 1,000 people who earned the highest salary
* this is used as a benchmark to determine the salary of ministers and top civil servants.
* the office holders can earn a certain percentage (may be more than 100%) of the benchmark salary.

His argument:

* the benchmark should be calculated on 1,000 people, and not the top 8 people
* the economy needs least 1,000 top people to manage it well
* a larger base gives greater stability
* it ensures that a very high proportion of the top people remain in the cohort each year

To calculate the benchmark for the young top talents, he suggested that it should be based on the top 1,000 salaries in the relevant age group, for example, 30 to 35 years.

This suggestion seems to make a lot of sense. I do not know what is the benchmark for the top 1,000 people, and if it reflects a better trend over the years.

It is worth exploring.

Encourage car pooling

I attended a function at Shangri-la Hotel last night. There were 3 people in my car.

The road to Shangri-la was congested. Traffic moved slowly. It took 30 minutes just to clear the last kilometer.

On arriving at Shangri-la, there was no parking space. We were asked to park at the nearby apartments. There were three big functions at the hotel.

Guess what? Most of the people drove to the hotel alone. There was insufficient parking spaces.

I hope that there is some way to encourage people to take public transport or car pool. Maybe, this can be done through a contact center or website.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Planning for Retirement

Dear Mr Tan

I would like to seek your advice on planning for retirement.

Currently, I am 37 years. I have 2 sons and my mother to take care. I have done some insurance planning & annunity for my mother. But, I am not sure whether it is sufficient.

We have incomeshield plan "b". But, we want to take up the Enhanced ishield basic rider, we have exclusions on the family members. Do you think we should accept the exclusions?

What do you think of share investments and unit trusts? I have invested in Tech fund as well as shares using CPF. As for unit trust, I bought 'Bridge' from POSB using special account.


My reply:

I hope that it is all right with you, if I ask X to advise you. X is an insurance adviser with NTUC Income. I am confident that he wil be able to give you good advice as the products from NTUC Income provide good value to the consumers. I have recommend many of my friends to X and he has served them well.

You can also read about some of these FAQs:

Ideal plan

They are posted in FAQ

You can also read my financial planning tips in my website,


A suitable plan for a new born child?

Dear Mr Tan,

I'll like to buy some insurance for my son to save for his education. Which one would you recommend? Living or Education or investment linked products such as Ideal Plan?The return for education products are not so attractive but investment linked products carries a risk. My son is 1 mth old.


My reply:

I recommend an investment linked plan. If you are investing for 20 years, the risk will average out, and you should be able to get an attractive return, which is better than an education plan (life insurance policy).

There is the risk that the stockmarket may be at a low point at the time that you need to draw out the money. In that case, you can draw out in installments over three years or wait for a better time. You do not need to take out all of the funds at one time.

Because you have the flexibility to choose the right time to realise your investment, you can turn "risk to your advantage".

Read about it in this FAQ

Ideal plan for a child

Should I continue my current ILP plan?

Dear Mr Tan

1)Is the difference for Term Insurance and Life Insurance only lies on there are saving in the life insurance and whereas the converage is generally the same for both type of insurances.

Reply: Generally, the coverage is the same. In the case of a life insurance policy, the protection and savings are combined into one product. I advocate that protection should be bought separately. This gives you greater flexibility in your investments and ensure that you get a better return.

2) I am 40 years old and I have a ILP life insurance which I bought 12years ago and only recently the cash value is about the same as the total premium I have paid, will it be better if I surrender this policy and buy term insurance policy which is cheaper and invest the rest in the global fund on a monthly basis.

Reply: It depends on the charges that you will continue to pay on your ILP policy.

You have incurred high charges in the past, which explains why it takes 12 years just to break even. This has been a bad investment (due to the high charges) but there is no way for you to recover them.

You can study the charges on your ILP policy for the future years, compared to the alternative type of investment (which also have charges). I suggest that you visit the business center of NTUC Income and talk to a consultant.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Analysis of a "currency linked" investment

I have the option to make the following investment of $1 million:

a) 1 m in SGD deposit : 2.9%pa (interest : $2,383 per month )
b) 1 m in USD deposit @ 1.53 = USD 653,594 @ 4.9%pa (interest: USD 2632 per month )
c) currency-linked investment: 1 million SGD/ USD : strike at 1.5240, 5% p.a. (USD 656,168, interest USD 2,696)

The interest rate between (b) and (c) is only 0.1% difference. If USD falls by 2%, I face the loss. If it gains by 2%, the bank gives me only 0.4% (difference between 1.524 and 1.53) and keeps the difference of 1.6%. I have decided NOT to buy the "currency linked" investment.

If I wish to invest in USD, it is better to take the straight forward deposit, ie (b) above. Do not invest in (c).

Activities of Center For Seniors

21 March 2007

Forum Page
Straits Times

I refer to your editorial on 20 March 07, entitled "It's time to rethink 'old'".

Think "old" and we often think of frailty and disability of seniors, and liability for society. The more kindly among us often advise those about to retire at 62, or earlier, to "take it easy'.

The newly-formed Centre For Seniors (CFS), which will open its doors in Junction 8 tower block next month, will point seniors in the other direction, to continue to work for as long as possible or be otherwise actively engaged.

Most seniors today enjoy good health and are able to work for a few more years. To retire when they can work is to suffer loss of income, companionship at the workplace, and less CPF savings.

Next month CFS will launch its "Seniors Employment Guidance" programme in partnership with NTUC's "Silver Collar Dragon Boat" programme. SEG will reach out to workers who are closer to 62 years, to inform them of the benefits of continuing to work and of the need to take into account their physical, mental, social and financial needs as they age.

At the same time, CFS will launch another programme called "Life-Long Learning", to enrich those seniors who have retired or who are not in the workforce eg housewives. This programme, run together with YAH! Community College of Marine Parade Family Service Centre, will impart understanding of self and lifeskills and will
foster comradeship among course participants.

The vision of CFS is "A Singapore in which seniors enjoy their rightful place in the family, the community and the country."

Tan Kin Lian
Centre For Seniors

Too many groups catering to the elderly?

From a journalist:

1. Do you think the current group of committees are enough to cover the areas of concern or interest to the elderly? Do you think there ought to be more?

Reply: There are many elderly in Singapore. This group is growing rapidly. To fully cater for the diverse needs of the elderly, we need to have many organisations, providing different types of services and attracting different groups of the elderly, according to their area of interest.

2. Somewhat conversely, with so many committees taking care of the elderly, do you think that members of the public would be confused? What can be done to distinguish them?

Reply: The elderly person does not need to be involved with all the groups. They only need to be introduced to a group that can serve their needs. The Center for Seniors will be setting up a contact center and website. We hope to build a database of the various groups and their services. The seniors can call our contact center and be introduced to a group or activity that meet their interest and needs.

3. Last there are groups such as the Alzheimers' Association who feel that not enough
is being done for their groups. What do you think of this, and which other groups do you think can be better served?

Reply: I am not familiar with the situation of the Alzheimer's Association or other special groups. I hope that they are able to find the solution to their challenges.

Make it easy for elderly to board the bus

Dear Mr Tan,

The platforms on the buses for boarding and alighting are too high for senior citizens. I have seen senior citizens struggled to alight from our public buses. This makes me worries that they may fall from the steps of the buses.

From my observation,other than having a lower platform for buses, the government can also educate the boarding commuters do not stand too near to the bus stop curb. This will allow buses to stop closer to the bus stop which will alleviate the height of boarding for the communters.

I hope very near future buses will be more elderly friendly. I wonder if the authority has any plan for this. What is your view and experiences that you have on our public transport with regards to the buses platform?


My reply:

Thank you for your observation. I have not paid attention to this matter before. I shall now do so.

Suitable product for 59 year old


I am 59 years old and is will continue to work in a trading company till age of 62 years.

I do have $250K cash in hand now and I hope you can recommend what are the best investment products other than bank's fixed deposit for me.

I have a $100K I-Gifts policy, IncomeShield, and a personal accident policy.

I just purchased a HDB EA unit with full payment and I have already arranged necessary coverage & protection for my wife & daughter including insurance products.

I would like to hear your suggestions as this money is for my own future spending & use.


My reply:

I suggest that you invest $150,000 in a life annuity and keep the $100,000 in the money market fund (to be invested into the Global Equity fund when the stockmarket corrects to a lower level.

You can read the FAQ on these two products at:

I will ask a consultant to explain these two products to you.

Sevem wonders of the world

What are the "seven wonders of the world". A little girl identified them as:

* to see
* to hear
* to smell
* to taste
* to feel
* to laugh
* to love

A blog for corporate branding

Dear Mr Tan,

I've been following your blog for a while now. I just wanna to thank you for showing the way for other C-level executives to give some thoughts on using blogging as a medium to convey a company's vision or as a way to branding.

Even though you've retired, I thought you'd still have valuable insights. It is great to see your write about your blogging experience so far in relation to other corporations or executives itching to take that big step forward.

Keep up with the blog~ I enjoy reading your stuff!

What programming was like 40 years ago

I worked as a computer programmer nearly 40 years ago. I developed accounting, inventory and management reports for a large trading house.

The main frame computer had a memory of 32,000 bytes and a disk storage capacity of 4 megabytes. The computer system cost about 100 years of my salary. My special skill was to use the limited resource effectively.

Today, a personal computer costing $1,500 (ie half a month's salary of a programmer) has a memory of 500 megabytes (ie 1,500 times of 32K bytes) and a disk storage capacity of 90 Gbytes (ie 20,000 times of 4 megabytes).

How times have changed.

Wireless@SG hotspots

I have signed up for Wireless@SG.

I checked for a list of hotspots in the website of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

Here are the establishments with many hotspots at their branches:

* Delifrance
* Starbucks
* Coffee Connection
* Burger King
* Kentucky Fried Chicken
* Library
* Hans
* Pizza Hut
* Hospital

If you like branded coffee or fast food, you are likely to find a hotspot.

High performance organisation

At a management seminar, a speaker talk about a "high performance organisation".

It has the following key elements:

* direction
* good decision making
* integrated approach towards talent
* good in implementation
* sustainable, winning culture

This is a good framework.

Recruit Talent

At a management seminar, several speakers talk about the importance of recruiting talented people.

Apparently, "talent" is different from knowledge and skill.

I ask the speaker what aspects of "talent" is required?

His reply is:
* intellect
* teamwork
* customer service
* courage

I agree with these qualities. It is good to be clear about what is needed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Magazines for people above 45: Prime, Gao Feng

I met the publisher of the PRIME and Gao Feng magazines. They are targetted at people above 45.

PRIME is about being in the prime of one's life. It is about celebrating one's life at whatever age they are at.

The bi-monthly magazine caters to both men and women who are 45 and above, going to retire as well as those already retired and living it up. They are a special segment that is hardly catered to in Singapore.

The magazine covers four areas including health, wealth, nutrition and leisure, and the topics are customised for this specific market.

The bi-monthly magazine's was launched in July 2006. It is available at selected news-stands and sold at $5.

It is all about changing mindsets, breaking down stereotypes and educating this very special population in Singapore.

Gao Feng is the chinese version, also bi-monthly and carrying the same content and sold at $5.

Bid for your own COE

There is a few letters in the newspaper about bidding for COE (certificate of entitlement) to use a private car.

Apparently, the buyers are not happy that the car dealers will pocket the profit from a drop in the COE price. If the price increase, the deliver is not obliged to deliver the car and can pressure the buyer to top up.

Perhaps, the car buyers should learn how to bid for the COE on their own. It may not be difficult.

If someone is knowledgeable how this can be done, send an e-mail to me. I shall share the experience. Maybe, the car buyer can get better control of the process.

Part time employment for seniors

I am the chairman of the Center for Seniors. It is a non-profit society.

One of the goals of the Center is to assist seniors to get part time employment. I approached two organisations to identify part time jobs that are suitable for seniors. These organisations are:

* NTUC Fairprice.

I received a positive and encouraging response from the chief executives, Saw Phaik Hwa (SMRT) and Tan Kian Chew (Fairprice). I wish to thank them.

We are now looking at part time work during peak hours to assist the commuters (of SMRT) and customers (of Fairprice). Details are now being worked out.

Hospital bill for $20,000

I knew a person who suffered an unexpected heart attack. He went to hospital for one day, and passed away.

The family received a bill for more than $20,000. After government subsidy, the bill was $9,000.

It was much higher than they had expected. This is a second shock to the family, after the unexpected death.

Lesson: have adequate life or medical insurance to cover this unexpected cost!

3G Mobile Data

I subsribed for a 3G mobile data card and pays $60 a month for unlimited access.

It allows me to use my notebook computer and access the internet anywhere in Singapore. The speed is quite satisfactory. I do not need to be near a wi-fi hotspot.

This is a good way for mobile people to keep in touch with the internet. As I do not have a town office, it allows me to work anywhere in Singapore. My personal office is my home.

I enjoy the new lifestyle.

Simplify our public transport system

Many people find the system of bus services to be too complicated. They give up. They buy a car and use it all the time, almost.

There are many occasions where it is better to use public transport. It saves on driving time, and the hassle of looking for a parking space.

But, we need to simplify the system, so that people will find it easier to use public transport.

Here are my wishes:

* have more trains on the MRT system, so that it is less crowded and more frequent
* have low cost feeder services to MRT stations, using light buses or even private cars
* have express bus services to link the major towns centers, with just a few stops in between

Maybe, Hong Kong has a system that looks closer to my "wishes". Someone said that their system is more efficient.

Super-risky home loans

Larry Haverkamp talks about the problem with sub-prime mortgage loans in USA and its potential impact on financial markets.

Read about it in his blog

Monday, March 19, 2007

Preparing for a Talk on Financial Planning

I was asked to give a talk on financial planning to seniors. What do I talk about?

After considering this matter, I decided that the topics in my website will be suitable, ie

These are questions that many people have asked me before. I have placed them in my website. I believe that they will be suitable to the seniors as well.

I will also handle questions that can be raised after my talk.

How to handle a technical call center

Hello, Mr. Tan.

I have been to your talk before and a consistent visitor of your web site. I am impressed with how NTUC Income created its world class call center.

Understand that you are a person that most willing to share your knowledge and experience.

I am from a IT service line that had a call centre, but wanted badly to improve it to a world class standard.

Currently, I manage an IT Service Centre. With your years of experience in management, I believe you are the best person to advice me.


My reply:

I suggest that you pay a visit to Call Center One (a subsidiary of NTUC Income). It is located at Beach Road. The manager can show you how they handle technical calls. You can decide if it is worthwhile to outsource the first level calls to them. They can pass the second level calls to be handled by your experts.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tips on Financial Planning

Many people visit my blog to get my views and tips on financial planning.

You will find my latest thinking on investment matters in the blog.

If you wish to have some general tips, you have to visit my website, Tan Kin Lian. Click on "Ask Mr Tan". You can send questions to me.

Logic9 (Sudoku) teaches 3 important skills

At the NUS symposium, I introduced Logic9 (Sudoku) to many participants. They enjoyed my 3 tips on how to solve the puzzle.

I said that Logic9 teaches 3 important skills:

- strategy
- thinking (left and right brain)
- entrepreneurship.

How it is possible?

To solve a logic9 puzzle, one has to know where to start. This is learning about "strategy".

You have to learn 3 tips - 1 uses the "left brain" and 2 uses the "right brain". This improves your focus and thinking.

For the complex puzzle (level 5), you have to deal with uncertainty. You have to take a tentative decision and see if it is right. If not, you have to re-do it. This is what entrepreneurship is about.


Older people are "not wanted"

At the NUS symposium, someone said that older people are "not wanted". They find it difficult to get work or to contribute their knowledge, even if they have experience. Even former parliamentarians and retired civil servants face this difficulty.

Here is my view.

* it is a matter of matching supply and demand
* the older people have knowledge and experience
* many businesses need, but do not know how to access them
* we need to find a new model for this to work

Here is a possible solution:

* set up a portal
* the experienced people can indicate their availablility and charges
* those who need the services can contact them
* agents can help to make the matches

Being old

At the NUS symposium, someone said, "What's wrong with being old?" Why must we invent new terms, such as "mature".

It is a privilege to be "old". Only the lucky ones get "old". The others are not around anymore.

Young people are happy to be described as "young". Why should old people avoid being called "old"?

I agree with her view.


At the symposium in NUS, I learned that there are 6 levels of learning:

* data
* information
* knowledge
* understanding
* insight
* wisdom

Most schools prepare the students only for the first 3 stages. Their focus is to prepare the students to "make a living". It is better to educate them "to live a life".

Some ideas about learnng:

* it is an attitude
* learning is part of living
* approach life in a learning mode
* to learn, one must have an enquiring mind
* one can be wise at a young age
* an older person with a closed mind has probably stopped learning at 20

Some interesting thoughts.

Allow more people to attend the university courses

I attended a symposium at NUS.

A participant suggested that NUS should allow the public to attend its classes, if there are vacant places. The university representative said that it cost the university $24,000 a year to train an undergraduate, of which 75% is subsidised by the government. Priority has to be given to the undergraduates.

Here is my suggestion.

Perhaps each lecture hall can have a video camera. The public can log in through the internet and watch the classes. It may not be as good as being in class, but it is the next best available.

Bloomberg TV allows the public to view snippets of their programs through the internet.

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