Saturday, December 29, 2007

Snow Mountain Tunnel

I travelled through the Snow Mountain Tunnel today. Here is a description from Wikipedia.

The Hsuehshan Tunnel (雪山隧道) or "Snow Mountain" tunnel, is the longest tunnel in Taiwan, located on the Taipei-Yilan Freeway (Taiwan National Highway No. 5).

The road connects the city of Taipei to the northeastern county of Yilan (Ilan), cutting down the journey time from two hours to just half an hour.

One of the key aims of constructing the tunnel was to connect the western coast of Taiwan, where 95% of the population live, to the eastern coast of the island and in doing so tackle the unbalanced development on the island.

It is constructed with one pilot tunnel and two main tunnels for eastbound and westbound traffic. The total length is 12.942 km, making the Hsuehshan Tunnel the second longest road tunnel in East Asia and the fifth longest road tunnel in the world.

While excavating the tunnel, engineers encountered difficult geological problems. There were serious tunnel collapses with groundwater flooding took place periodically during tunnel construction. Altogether, 25 lives were lost during 15 years of construction.

It opened in June 2006 to severe traffic jams. The Hsuehshan Tunnel broadcasts a dedicated radio station on two FM channels inside the tunnel. Drivers can tune to either of the two FM stations to hear announcements regarding the Heushshan Tunnel, rules for driving inside the tunnel, and music.

Taroko Gorge, Hualien, Taiwan

Taroko Gorge is located on the eastern coast of Taiwan, about 4 hours drive from the capital Taipei. Taroko has the largest marble gorge in the world. After Taipei, this is the most visited site in Taiwan.

The Park is 36 kilometres from north to south and 42 kilometres from east to west. The park has many high mountains and steep gorges, with many peaks towering above 3,000 metres in height, and with many natural watersheds.

The spectacular Taroko Gorge and the scenic beauty of the Liwu River can be viewed conveniently from the Central Cross-Island Highway. The many waterfalls, diverse forms of plant and animal life, and the indigenous Taroko people, together create the rich texture of this unique natural ecosystem.

The Taroko Gorge is basically the 20km stretch of the Cross Island Highway between Taroko National Park HQ and Tiansiang. The narrowest and most amazing parts of the gorge are at the Swallow's Grotto and Tunnel of Nine Turns. The Eternal Spring Shrine was built to commemorate the 212 workers who lost their lives building the cross island highway. The names of the workers are inscribed in rock on the inside of the shrine.

Adequate Taxis in Taipei

There are plenty of taxis in Taipei. It is easy to get a taxi within 1 minute. The supply is more than adequate to meet demand. The service is excellent.

The taxi fares are at the right level. They are 4 to 8 times of public transport. They are not cheap, but not expensive either.

The taxi drivers work hard to meet their operating expenses and to earn a net income. There seem to be enough people willing to drive a taxi. This ensures that there is a correct balance of supply and demand. It is an excellent source of meaningful work for unemployed people.

The excellent public tranport and taxi service in Taipei probably make it less necessary for the city dwellers to own a private car.

The regulated taxi system in Taipei seems to work extremely well, in getting an efficient system that serves the commuters and taxi drivers well.

Perhaps it is time for Singapore to learn from the experience of Taipei in managing their public transport and taxi service?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Technique to solve Logic Quiz

Try this quiz during the new year holidays.

The original quiz is purported to be created by Einstein. Only 2% of the population could solve it. Most visitors to my blog (like you) probably belong to the 2%.

You can read the quiz in this webpage:

Click on "Technique" at the bottom of that page, to learn the steps on how to solve the quiz.

There you are. You now belong to the 2%.

After that, you can try more quizzes here:

Cost and benefit of health insurance

Dr. Money gives a few practical advice regarding your health insurance. He teaches you how to measure the cost and benefit and make the right choice.,4136,142914,00.html?

More articles from Dr. Money

Existing life insurance policies

Dear Mr. Tan,

I have just retired. I am not sure if I should continue to pay the premium on my current life insurance policies, especially those that require me to pay for the whole of life. I can afford to pay the premium, but I am not sure if the return is worth while. What is your advice to me?


If you are able to continue to pay the premium, you can look at the return on your existing policies over the next 5 or 10 years. If the return is higher than other types of investment, then you can continue these policies.

Read this FAQ:

Difficult to get a taxi in Singapore

My friend in Taiwan told me that he found it difficult to get a taxi when he was in Singapore. He said politely, "Perhaps Singapore's economy is doing well, that everyone wants to take a taxi."

My first trip on Taipei MRT

I took my first trip on the Taipei MRT today. I bought a stored value ticket for NT 500 (SGD 25). The deposit is NT 100 and the stored value is NT 400.

A trip of up to 6 stops cost NT 20 ($1) cash, NT 16 ($0.80) on the stored value card. The train is not crowded. I was able to get a seat on the forward and return journey.

The experience is better than Singapore MRT. Taipei MRT has received the No 1 award for reliability, safety and quality standards.

Strategies to make profit

There are three strategies for a company to make profit:

1. Operate efficiently, reduce cost, offer good value to customers and make a fair margin.
2. Exploit the market situation and customer ignorance to increase profit
3. Design products to "rip off" the customer; pay high commission to people to market the product.

I want to encourage businesses to adopt stragegy 1 (i.e. the ethical approach). It is very sad to see more businesses adopt the other two strategies.

Avoid high charges

Dear Mr. Tan,

Should I go for those linked with investment (XXX Life Manager Plus) or those (YYY Guaranteed 15 for Life) that only need to pay for 15 yrs and covered for life?


Both of these policies have high charges. A large portion of your premium goes to pay the commission of the agent.

My advice is to buy Term insurance and invest the difference in a low cost, diversified equity fund.

Read the following FAQs.

Feeder Bus Service

Some commuters do not like the feeder bus system. They consider it a hassle to take a feeder bus, change to a train, and take another feeder bus. They prefer to have no transfer, if possible.

I find a feeder system to be acceptable, if:

1. Waiting time for the feeder bus is less than 5 minutes
2. Walking distance is short
3. The feeder bus goes directly to the destination, with minimal detour.

By accepting transfers, we can have a more efficient system, with better connections, less waiting time, and lower cost.

In 2000, I took the train in Switzerland from Zurich Airport to St Moritz in the mountains. The journey involved two transfers of train. I have to take the airport train to Zurich main station, change to another train to the foot of the mountain and make a further change to go up to the mountain.

All the transfers were done on the same platform of the station. I get down a train and wait less than 10 minutes for a connecting train. It was quite convenient and easy, although it was my first time to take the train in Switzerland.

The train journey cost about SGD 50. If I took a limousine, the fare would be more than SGD 1,000.

Taipei Rapid Transit System

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Began operation March 28, 1996
System length In service: 74.4 km
No. of lines 8
No. of stations 67
Daily ridership 1,214,728 (in November 2007)
Operator Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC)
Taipei Rapid Transit System
Traditional Chinese: 台北大眾捷運系統
Estimated cost: US$ 32 billion (phase 1 and 2)

The Taipei Rapid Transit System, also known as the MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit), or by locals simply as the Metro Taipei is a rapid transit system connecting the Taipei metropolitan area. The system is currently operated by the Taipei Rapid Transit Corporation (TRTC).

Since Taipei Metro joined the Nova International Railway Benchmarking Group and the Community of Metros (Nova/CoMET) in 2002, it has started collecting and analyzing data of the 33 Key Performance Indicators set by Nova/CoMET in order to compare them with those of other metro systems around the world, as a reference to improve its operation. Taipei Metro also has gained keys to success from case studies on different subjects such as safety, reliability, and incidents, and from the operational experiences of other metro systems.

According to a study conducted by the Railway Technology Strategy Centre of Imperial College, and data gathered by Nova/CoMET, the Taipei Metro has ranked number 1 in the world for three consecutive years in terms of reliability, safety and quality standards.

The Taipei Metro is one of the most expensive rapid transit systems ever constructed.

Since its completion, the TRTS has reduced travel time from one end of Taipei to the other from up to three or more hours to less than an hour, and has been effective in relieving some of Taipei's traffic congestion problems.

The TRTS also includes several public facilities such as Maokong Gondola, underground shopping malls, parks, and public squares. Modifications to existing railway lines to integrate into the MRT are underway.

Taxi Fares for 5 km trip

Here is a rough comparison of taxi fares for a 5 km trip during the peak hours.

London GBP 9 SGD 30
Sydney AUD 12 SGD 16
New York USD 8 SGD 12
Singapore SGD 7 (plus ERP and CBD)
Hong Kong HKD 40 SGD 8
Taipei NT 160 SGD 8

Taxi fares are no longer cheap in Singapore. The most expensive is London.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Shops in Hualien

Hualien is a tourist town in the east of Taiwan. The shops are closed in the day. The roads are almost deserted. There are only a few cars moving around.

The shops open for business at night. The streets are busy.

I have never seen a town operate like this before. In many places in Europe, the shops are open during the day and closed at night.

Taxi Fares in London

Taxi fares in London are quite complicated.

The meter calculates the maximum fare based on:
Time of day
Distance travelled
Taxi speed

The passenger will be expected to pay the full fare displayed on the meter at the end of the journey unless the driver and passenger agree on the final fare to be charged before the start of the journey.

Taxi fares
There are three tariffs, as follows:
Tariff code 1: Monday to Friday 06:00 - 20:00
Tariff code 2: Monday to Friday20:00 - 22:00, Saturday and Sunday 06:00 - 22:00
Tariff code 3: Every night 22:00 - 06:00 and Public holidays

Fare for tariff code 1:
1 mile £4.20 - £6.20
2 miles: £6.60 - £9.40
4 miles: £11 - £15
6 miles: £14 - £20

For tariff code 2 and 3, the fare is upto 20% higher than tariff code 1.

There is a minimum fare of £2.20 at all times.

Extra charges
Extra charges must be added on the meter at the start of the journey. There are no extra charges for luggage or additional passengers.

Telephone Bookings: up to £2 if the taxi is booked by telephone
Heathrow extra: £2 for journeys that start from Heathrow Airport ranks
Christmas and New Year: £4 for journeys
Bank cards: 10 per cent and 15 per cent of the metered fare

Taxi Fares in Sydney

Current Fares - Effective From 27 August 2007

Hiring Charges: $3.00
Distance Rate:
Tariff 1: $1.79 per kilometre Between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily
Tariff 2: Tariff 1 + 20% Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily
Radio Booking fee: $1.60 surcharge in addition to the fare.
Waiting time: $46.20 per hour (72.17c per minute - less than 25.77 KPH)
Luggage Rates:
First 25kg no charge - then 10c for each subsequent 25kg or part thereof. Maximum payable 55c
Toll and ferry Charges:

The hirer must pay all road, bridge, ferry, tunnel and airport tolls that apply to the journey.

Maxi Cabs:
Except in the case of a multiple hiring, where 75% of the authorised fare applies, all the above maximum fares and charges apply only in the case of the maxi-cab hire from a taxi zone or hailed on the street to carry up to 5 passengers. For any other hiring (except a multiple hiring) up to 150% of the above maximum fares and charges may be charged.

Note: A return toll is payable on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. Any electronic toll administration fee is not payable by the hirer.

Taxi Fares in New York

Taxi FaresCabs are cash only. While cabs are relatively expensive for a single person, they can actually be a bargain with 3 or more riders. The rates for taxicabs are as follows (last updated 2007-07):

Initial fare.............$2.50
Each 1/5 mile (4 blocks).$0.40
Each 1 minute idle.......$0.40
Peak surcharge...........$1.00 (after 4pm until 8pm Mon-Fri)
Night surcharge..........$0.50 (after 8pm until 6am)
Additional riders........FREE

Pay only what's on the meter, plus a 15-20 percent gratuity. There are additional charges for crossings outside the metropolitan area and New Jersey. Passengers are required to pay one way. If you are going to airports, there are set fees plus toll and tip.

Easy to get a taxi from Taipei Main Station

On returning from Hualien, my wife and I hailed a taxi at the roadside outside Taipei Main Station. Although this was a busy time of the night, a taxi picked us within 1 minute. Surprising, but it is true.

The journey to our apartment in Taipei was 6 km. It cost NT 180 (about SGD 9). Most of the journey was on the expressway, which was fast flowing (unlike the congested expressways in Singapore).

The traffic system in Taipei is definitely much better than Singapore. It is time for us to learn from Taipei.

Train from Taipeh to Hualien

I took the train from Taipei to Hualien. It was an interesting experience.

My train ticket showed the train number and time of departure from Taipei Main Station. I asked the station staff for the platform and was given clear direction.

At the platorm, a passenger advised me to look at the coach and seat number printed on the ticket and to locate the right section of the platform to board the coach. There is a number in the platorm to indicate the coach number.

There is a digital sign to indicate the departure time of the train that is currently on the platform.

In case the previous train is late, the sign will indicate that the train is the previous train and the passenger can be alerted to avoid boarding the wrong train.

On the return journey from Hualien to Taipei, I have no dificulty in getting the right platform, train and coach. I enjoyed the journey.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Taxi fares in Singapore

Fares and surcharges
Applicable to CityCab, Comfort, Yellow-Top Cab, SMRT Taxis. Different fares apply to other operators

Flagdown fare: S$2.80 (≤ 1 km)
Meter fare
S$0.20 (every 385 m thereafter or less > 1 km and ≤ 10 km)
S$0.20 (every 330 m thereafter or less > 10 km)
Waiting: S$0.20 (every 45 seconds or less)
S$3.50 (0730 - 0930 and 1700 - 2300 hours Monday - Friday)
S$2.50 (all other times including public holidays)
S$5.20 (advance)
Peak hours
35% of metered fare (0700 - 0930 and 1700 - 2000)
Late night
50% of meter fare (0000 - 0559 hours)

Public holidays
S$1.00 (1800 hours eve to 2400 hours of New Year's Day, Hari Raya Puasa, Deepavali, Christmas Day, first and second day of Chinese New Year.
Should public holiday fall on a Sunday, the surchage will be imposed till 2400 hrs on Monday)
S$3.00 (1700 - 0000 hours, Monday - Saturday, except public holidays)
S$5.00 (Singapore Changi Airport: Friday - Sunday from 1700 to 0000 hours)
S$3.00 (Singapore Changi Airport: all other times)
S$3.00 (Seletar Airport)
S$2.00 (Singapore Expo)

Higher flag-down rates for certain models.

All Electronic Road Pricing charges incurred on the trip are to be borne by the customer. An additional 10% administrative charge on the total fare is also incurred when payment is made on credit or charge cards. Higher fares apply for premium taxi services that employ premium vehicles, such as CityCab's Presido and MaxiCab, Yellow-Top Cab's Sovereign limousines, SMRT's Prestige and London Taxi and Airport Transfer service, and so on.

Observation: Singapore must win the award for the most complicated taxi fare structure in the world.

Taxi fares in Hong Kong

Here are the taxi fares in Hong Kong (red taxi)

1. First 2 km, HK 15 (SGD $3)
2. Every 0.2 km or 1 min of idling, HK $1.4 ($0.30)
3. Call a taxi HK 4 ($0.80)

Lower taxi fares apply for travel within New Territories (green taxi) or Launtau (blue taxi).

Average fare for 5 km including telephone calling, HK 40 ($8)

Observation: The fares are simpler and cheaper compared to Singapore. There are cheaper form of public transport.

Taxi fares in Taipei

Taxi fares are charged as follows:

1. Starting fare for first 1250 m, NT 70 (SGD $3.50)
2. Surcharge after midnight, NT20 ($1)
3. Calling a taxi - no charge
4. Distance fare for 250 m or 84 secs of idling, NT5 ($0.25)

Fare for 5.11 km daytime, NT157 ($8)

The new fares, which took effect recently, was decided by the Taipei City Government based on three proposals submitted by interested parties. The decision was accepted by the taxi operators. The revised fare was necessary based to cover higher operating cost, due to higher oil prices.

Observation: The taxi fares in Taipei are much simpler than Singapore. The fares are regulated and produce a satisfactory outcome for commuters and taxi drivers.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

CPF Dependent Protection Scheme

Dear Mr. Tan,

May I know what is the difference between DPS (Dependent Protection Scheme) and ordinary term insurance? Why does CPF board limit the coverage to a maximum of $46,000? It seems that I cannot opt for higher sum assured.


DPS is a yearly renewable Term. The premium rate depends on the age in each year. It is lower when you are young and increases when you grow older.

An ordinary Term fixes the premium rate for the selected term, say 10 or 20 years.

As DPS is a developed as a national scheme, the Government decided to fix the coverage at a certain level that is applicable to everyone.

If you wish to have a higher coverage, you have to buy a Term insurance to supplement it.

Walkway connecting buildings

There is a second level walkway connecting many buildings in the district around the Taipei City Hall. It takes the pedestrians off the street level and brings them to many large stores and offices.

The walkway is broad and can take many people. It is almost like walking on the street, but without cars. As the climate is cool during winter in Taipei, it is quite pleasant to walk along the walkways.

Some people said that it is expensive to build the elevated workway. In my view, it is relative. I believe that the cost is only a small fraction of the money that is spent to build the expensive buildings.

I hope, one day, that many cities and towns will have elevated walkways like this. It encourages people to walk a long distance to the train station or bus terminal.

Property Agent's Commission on Extending a Lease

Hi Mr. Tan,

I like to seek your advice on the commission payable to the property agent for extending a lease.

Two years ago, I leased out my apartment through an agent. The agent charged me 1 month of rental, which was a lot of money.

I am now negotiating with my tenant to extend the lease. I was shocked to find that the property agent had included in the lease agreement (without my knowledge) a clause that requires me to pay commission for extending the lease.

I have never agreed to this condition. Am I required to pay this commission? In my case, the agent provided bad service to me and the tenant during the past two years. Why should I continue to pay commission again?

I hope that you can advise me.


I understand that the standard tenancy agreement does not have this clause. It seems that some property agent inserted the clause to give them additional income, but it is unfair to the owner.

I suggest that you negotiate a new agreement with the tenant. You can agree with the tenant on whether any commission is to be paid to the agent, and which party is required to pay the commission. Quite likely, the tenant will prefer to deal directly with you, and avoid this additional cost.

As you do not have any agreement with the agent on this matter, you are not bound by the terms of the old tenancy agreement, as it has been superceded.

I hope that you find this to be helpful. As this is a legal matter, you may wish to get the opinion of a lawyer as well.

Feeder Bus

There is high demand for taxis in Singapore due to the difficulty of taking public transport in places that are not served by the MRT trains.

There are many bus services in Singapore. Commuters who wish to take a bus for a short journey find the services to be confusing and overwhelming. There are too many buses travelling in different directions.

In my view, we need to introduce feeder bus. These are services that travel within a a town, such as Toa Payoh, Ang Mo Kio or Bedok and take commuters to the town center, MRT station or bus terminal.

It is easy for the commutter to understand this system. Each town needs only two or three feeder services.

I understand that the light buses in Hong Kong acts like a feeder service to take people to the train station. Many people consider the public transport in Hong Kong to be very convenient.

A good time to invest in equities

Hi Mr. Tan,

You advised people to invest in an diversified, low cost equity fund for the long term. What is the best time to make this investment? Is it safe to invest now? Will there be a recession in the USA next year? Will it affect the Asian countries and Singapore?


If you are investing for the long term, i.e. 10 years or longer, it does not matter if there is a recession next year.

At the current level, Singapore equities are about 15% lower than the peak. I think that this is a good level to start investing a lump sum. There is still a risk that it may go down, but it does not matter for a long term investor.

If you are investing a monthly sum, you can start at any time as you will be "averaging" the cost of your investments.

MRT in Taipei

The mass rapid transit system(MRT) in Taipei, together with the metropolitan area's dedicated bus route network, forms a convenient transportation system.

The MRT currently has five lines in operation:

Brown Line (Mucha)
Red Line (Tamshui)
Orange Line (Chungho)
Green Line (Hsintien)
Blue Line (Kunyung to Hsinpu).

The five lines are dotted with a variety of attractions and scenic spots. As a result, visitors can take a leisurely journey through the northern part of Taiwan employing the MRT services.

Helpful cashier

My daughter went to a drug store in Taipei to look for a specific medication. She could not find it on ths shelf. She approached the cashier.

The cashier said that the medication is not sold in the store. Without being asked, she immediately told he customer where she can buy it from another nearby store. That is helpfulness.

Why is it possible for the cashier to be helpful?
1. She is a local person, who knows the customers and their lifestyle
2. She has worked there for a few years and acquired good knowledge of the product.

I shall do some research to find out if the cashier earns an adequate salary. This will encourage her to stay in the same job for a long time.

There are lessons to be applied in Singapore, if we still aim to be a gracious society.

Beware of bad products

Hi Mr. Tan,

Someone described in your blog, that life insurance as "legalised rip-off". Is this a fair statement?


There are many insurance products that give good value to consumers. They serve a need and are priced fairly. Read this FAQ:

There are other products that are bad for consumers, as follows:

1. They are designed to maximise profit for the insurance company
2. They pay high commission to the agent to sell the product
3. The agent are trained to use emotion to sell the product
4. The product has many complicated features that have doubtful value
5. The agent worked hard to push the product
6. The agent and the insurance executive will not buy the product for themselves

You should identify and avoid the bad products (including bad products sold by banks).

Monday, December 24, 2007

Taipei 101

I visited Taipei 101 after dinner in a nearby building. Here is the description of this building from Wikipedia.

Taipei 101 (台北101) is a 101-floor landmark skyscraper located in Taipei, Taiwan. The building, designed by C.Y. Lee & Partners and constructed by KTRT Joint Venture, is the world's tallest completed skyscraper.

Taipei 101 received the Emporis Skyscraper Award in 2004. It has been hailed as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World (Newsweek magazine, 2006) and Seven Wonders of Engineering (Discovery Channel, 2005).

The building serves as an icon of Taipei and Taiwan as a whole. Fireworks launched from the tower feature prominently in international New Year's Eve broadcasts, and the landmark appears frequently in films, television shows, print publications, anime media, games, and other elements of popular culture.

Taipei 101 is managed by the International division of Urban Retail Properties Corporation based in Chicago USA.[1]

The name of the building reflects its location in Taipei's 101 business district along with its floor count. The number is pronounced in English simply as One Oh One.

On 2007-07-21 Taipei 101 was overtaken in height by the Burj Dubai in Dubai, UAE, upon the completion of that building's 141st floor.[2] Taipei 101 retains its title until the Burj Dubai is completed, though, as international architectural standards define a "building" as a structure that can be occupied.

Set limit on commission

Dear Mr. Tan,

I am quite shocked to learn from your blog that up to 21 months of savings can be taken away to pay the agent to sell an investment-linked policy. If the monthly saving is $500, the total deduction is $10,500. Why should the agent earn so much money to sell a policy?

I am sure that the consumer is not aware about the total cost. Which consumer is willing to give away so much of the hard earned savings to pay commission to the agent?

I understand that the consumer is provided with a lot of information about the insurance product, including the charges. Many consumers are overwhelmed by the information, so they blindly trust the agent. When they find out the truth, it is too late.

Surely, the Government should set some reasonable limit to protect the consumer?


I agree that there is a need for consumers to be better protected in Singapore. The commission rates for life insurance policies are too high.

In many countries, the regulators imposed certain limits on the commission rates, to protect the interest of the consumers. I hope that a similar practice can be adopted in Singapore.

Sufficient funds for retirement

According to a recent survey, 80% of Singaporeans want to retire at age 60. Do they have suffiicient funds to retire? How much money do they need to retire?

I carried out a survey with the participants in a class on financial planning. Most of them come from the lower income group. The results surprised me.

To cover food, utilities and other essentials, a couple needs about $1,000 a month. This assumes that they have a home that is fully paid for. It may be possible to get by with $800 a month, but this does not leave any margin for unexpected expenses.

To provide a monthly sum of $1000, with adjustment for inflation, a person retiring at age 65 needs accumulated savings of $200,000 to last an average remaining lifespan of 20 years. If the person wishes to retire at 60, he will need $230,000.

If you wish to have a more comfortable lifestyle, you will need $2,000 a month. Your accumulated savings has to be $400,000 when you retire at 65, or $460,000 when you retire at 60.

If you do not have this sum of accumulated savings (that is needed for the bare minimum or a comfortable lifestyle), you have the following options:

a) Extend your retirement age to 65 to 70 years.

b) Retire from full time work at 60 to 65, and continue to work part time to earn a supplementary income.

To ensure that you have sufficient savings to last a lifetime, in case you live a very long life, you need to buy a life annuity (which provides pooling of longevity risk).

When you are working, it is important for you to make adequate savings for retirement. You must save 10% to 15% of your earnings, and invest in a low cost investment fund that can earn you a good rate of return.

Do not spend too much money on unnecessary insurance that depletes your savings for retirement. Do not buy financial products that give a poor return, due to high expenses.

Read this FAQ:

Christmas is not a public holiday

I arrived in Taipei on December 24. It is a working day. Tomorrow, 25 December is also a working day. Christmas is not a public holiday in Taiwan.

People working in American companies take one or two days of annual leave to celebrate Christmas.

Politeness in Taipei

During her previous visit to Taipeh, my wife observed that the people in Taipei are polite and helpful. Their culture has improved considerably in recent years.

I am now in Taipei. My experience over a few encounters with the local people has been positive.

Save for child's education

Dear Mr. Tan,

I have read comments from many people in your blog. Some people recommended that parents should save for their child's tertiary education. An education is the best gift for your child. Other people said that the priority is for one's own retirement needs. What are your views?


The first priority is to have adequate savings for your own retirement needs. You need $200,000 to $400,000 at age 65 to retire comfortably. Do you have this sum?

If you have more than adequate savings, you can set aside the excess savings for your child's tertiary education. The saving can be made in your own account. You can decide on the amount to be set aside for your child's education when the time comes..

You should do a cost benefit analysis for the education expenses. How much are you spending? What additional income can your child earn from the overseas education? What is the payback period? Are there other options to get a more affordable education?

I usually recommend students to study in university in Singapore, as it is highly subsidised. A student can study in an overseas university, if you are on scholarship. Do not spend half of your retirement savings on your child's education. It is not wise.

High speed train in Taiwan

The distance from Taipeh to Kaoshiung is 340 kilometers. It takes 5 hours by ordinary train and 1.5 hours by fast train. The speed of the fast train is 300 km per hour.

The distance from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur is 300 km and now takes 7 hours. I hope that there will, in the near future, be a fast train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur that can cut down the travel time to 1.5 hour.

We are supposed to be good neighbours. Yet, it is so difficult to have a project that will benefit the people of both countries.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Excellent signage at Vivocity

I visited Vivocity for the first time today. On leaving the train, I could see the signage leading all the way to Vivocity. This is the best signage that I have seen, among all the MRT stations.

I have travelled to other MRT stations and found that the signage to the nearby buildings and shopping malls to be inadequate. This applies to Bishan, Bugis, Tiong Bahru and Raffles Place stations. I got the impression that there was a reluctance at these stations to show the commercial buildings. Why?

Generally, I find the signages at MRT stations and buildings in Singapore to be inadequate and not friendly to commuters. I was quite refreshing to see a change at Vivocity.

Avoid traffic congestion

I attended an community event at Vivocity today. I decided to drive to the MRT station near my home and take the MRT to Vivocity.

The guest of honour came a little late, due to traffic congestion. I told her that I did not have any problem, as I took the train. I was able to read a book on the journey.

The organiser told me that he just returned from Hong Kong. The public transport system there is much better than Singapore. I have received similar comments from other people who are familiar with the system there.

Like a swan

Look at the posture of the ballet dancer in this picture.

She looks like a graceful swan.

This is the magic of dance. The dancer's movements follow the movement of a particular character. This is the art of the chereographer.

Holiday in Taiwan

I will be travelling to Taiwan tomorrow for 12 days. I am staying with my daughter who works there, but may be travelling to various cities in Taiwan. This will be the first time that I am spending Christmas and the New Year outside of Singapore

I shall continue to update my blog, but it will not be as regular as when I am in Singapore. I wish all my visitors, season's greetings all the best for 2008.

Last minute ticket sales for Swan Lake

Ticket sales for Swan Lake picked up considering for the last three nights. Many people buy tickets at the last minute. Tonight is the last chance for you to watch this ballet at the Esplanade.

Term Insurance Rates

Lower price for your motor insurance

What is an easy way to get a lower price for your motor insurance, without having to go through a lot of trouble?

Read the tip in this FAQ:

And this FAQ:

Charges of an Investment Linked Policy (ILP)

Are you aware about the various charges that you have to pay under an Investment Linked policy?

Are they big or small? Will they eat into your savings and investments? Which ILP have the lowest charges?

Read about the charges in:

Improve the taxi situation

I wanted to write my thoughts on how to improve the taxi service in Singapore.

I decided to start with some research. Other people have written about the subject before. I found the following article in the internet.

Yawning Bread: Taxi problem is not a taxi problem

I find the analysis of the problem to be useful. I agree with most of the points.

And here are som exchange of views

I shall be writing more on this topic.

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