Saturday, September 18, 2010

Getting permanent residents to be become citizens

The suggestion by SM Goh to encourage permanent residents, especially those from Malaysia, to become citizens did not go down well. Read this article in

My view
I have always advocated a positive approach - make it attractive for people to be citizens. Over the past decades, the government had made adopted the wrong policy of making it a burden to be a Singapore citizen, especially for males who have to serve national service and be placed at a big disadvantage in the workplace. This key issue has never been resolved. The small measures, such as the $9,000 for current NS men, did not go far enough.

Treating cancer at a late stage

If you know of anybody with late stage cancer, do ask the family to read this article and make the right choice. Go to

Easy Ads portal

A new portal (Easy Ads) will be launched on 1 October 2010. It will provide free advertising for the public for a period of 3 months. A useful feature of this portal is the easy way to search for an advertisement based on location, price range and other factors. This can replace the flyers that are now littering the letterboxes of HDB flats.

This will be of special interest to owners who wish to rent out a room or their apartments to tenants (and to avoid paying the agent fees). Tenants can also use this protal to look for available premises, based on distance to their workplace. Parents can also look for suitable tutors based on location. Owners can look for household repair services.

More details can be seen at

Friday, September 17, 2010

Case study - rejected claim under private Shield

It is best for a retiree to be insured under Medishield and be treated in a subsidised ward. This case study shows the risk and the stress of having an expensive hospital bill being rejected under a private Shield plan. Read:

Mio TV

Two thirds of customers give a poor rating to the Mio TV service. Read

Poverty trap?

Are we following America into a poverty trap? Read

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pre-election rally

There is an interesting pre-election rally to be held on Saturday at Speaker's Corner. Go to to find out more details.

Direct link:

Junk mail

Is SingPost making a lot of money by delivering junk mail? According to this reader, it makes up 50% of the mail received daily.

Difficult experience with website of Singapore Airlines

I had a difficult time in making a redemption of my frequent flyer miles at the Singapore Airlines website. This is the first time in 30 years of flying that I try to claim this privilege - as I allowed the redemption miles to expire in the past.

I could not remember my PIN, as the account was created long ago. The previous PIN that I used had since expired and had been changed. I finally managed to find the right PIN to login.

The website was confusing and difficult to use. The webpages behaved in an unexpected manner and keep  changing due to some "context". This was developed to be a sophisticated website, but it was a nightmare to me. I finally managed to find a tab called "Online Redemption". It seemed to be what I needed. When I clicked on the tab, I got a blank page. I tried it many times and keep getting a blank page.

I finally decided to call their helpline. There was a long wait to get through to a staff. While waiting, I hear many irrelevant messages and frequent warning that any booking through the call center will incur an administration fee. What a way to treat a customer!

After a long wait, the call was answered by a human voice. I told the staff about the difficulty that I faced in making an online redemption, and in understanding their complicated website. She finally helped me to make the booking of my flight, using my frequent flyer points, and waived the administrative charge. She explained that I got a blank page most probably because the login had expired after a few minutes. How would I, as a customer, know?

If great organisations continue to develop complicated websites with sessions that expire after a short time (for whatever security reasons), they are giving a difficult time for their customers. They must realize that their customers do not visit the website daily to learn about their sophisticated features and complicated behavior.

Tan Kin Lian

PS: The call center staff was helpful, but she had to spend a lot of time giving me warning about the charges that will be incurred and the penalty that will happen, if I were to change the flight. Why spend so much time on these negative matters? It leaves a bad taste with the customer who has to worry about booking of hotels and other matters relating to travel. Why not change the slogan to: a stressful way to fly!

Case study - learning from a talk

This consumer learned how to compute the distribution cost and the effect of deduction from a talk conducted under FISCA. He was shocked to learn that his friend had sold him several policies that gave a poor deal to him.

Contests in the general election

The National Solidarity Party and the Reform Party have announced their intention to contest in the general election, including the constituencies that they will be fielding their candidates.

Reform Party

National Solidary Party

Rechargeable torchlight with locator lamp

The rechargeable torchlight has been designed to have a locator lamp that lights up at night and uses low energy. It is easy to look for the torchlight at night. It uses rechargeable battery, to reduce the cost of battery. This is now available at a special discount (for a  bundle of 4 torchlights) in i-shop.

Compensation for injury

How much should a consumer claim for compensation for a fall caused by unsafe conditions in a supermarket premise? How should the consumer make the claim? Is it necessary to use a lawyer? This FAQ set down some of the principles that are used to determine the compensation.

Shuttle service to Integrated Resorts

What does the public think about the decision by the Casino Regulatory Authority to stop the shuttle service from the HDB heartlands to the resorts? 99 people responded to the survey. The results are available at the Singapore General Election Portal,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Workfare Income Supplement

Dear Mr. Tan
Can you tell me about the Workfare Income Supplement? How much can I get and what is the criteria?

You can find the information in this FAQ. It is applicable to an employee who earn less than $1,700 a month and live in a property with an annual value less than $11,000. The amount of the supplement  is calculated on a complicated formula and is subject to a maximum of $1,050 for a person age 35 to a maximum of $2,800 for person at age 60. This is the maximum, so that actual amount paid to you may be much lower. Self-employed people at low incomes are also eligible for the supplement.

Like many schemes in Singapore, you have to read a complicated table and apply many criteria to arrive at an amount - that is really quite small.

Tan Kin Lian

Voting at General Election

97 people responded to the survey to indicate how they will vote at the next general election. The results of the survey can be found at

Risky to invest in gold bars

An investor found that it was risky to invest in a gold bar under this investment scheme and decided to skip the investment.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Criteria to assess world leaders

If you are interested to find out a “better” criterion in assessing the performance of world leaders, you are invited to read the chapter “Conversation with Guru Harry (Part 2)” in Tommy Wong’s book “Wisdom on How to Live Life”.
The book can be ordered here.

Getting medical treatment

Here are some tips to consumers on whether to buy basic Medishield or a private Shield policy to meet the high cost of medical treatment and why a more expensive Shield plan will usually require the consumer to incur a higher co-payment for the medical bill. Read:

A few senior moments

As we grow older, it is time to celebrate the occasion - even though we may lose some of our hearing and memory. Here are some humorous situations to laugh at. Go to

Whole Life vs Term Insurance

Watch this youtube video to explain why you should buy term insurance and invest the difference.

Asking for Advice

Here is a guide for you to seek advice from an adviser on a financial, medical or legal matter. Be prepared to pay a fee for the time spent. You can reduce the time that is spent by doing your homework and presenting the facts in an organised format to the adviser. 

You should also follow this guide if you wish to seek free assistance from me under "Ask Mr. Tan". Read

The Notebook Mall

I wanted to have a flat screen monitor for my old PC. I searched and found someone willing to sell it at half of the price of a new monitor. He bought the monitor at a PC show and did not use it. The owner was glad to find a buyer. I was glad to have a flat screen monitor at a good price.

Portable mini-projector

I am looking for a portable mini-projector (new or used). It is to be used to project from a notebook to a wall for a small meeting. Any suggestion? Send to

Buy or rent a property?

This article gives the advantages and disadvantages of owning a property. Many people have the option to rent a property when the prices are too high.

Need to stabilize property prices

A country can be prosperous when the property prices increase, reflecting confidence of the citizens and foreigners in the country. However, this situation can get out of hand, resulting in an asset bubble and property that became priced out of reach of the citizens. This harmful impact is recognized in China, and steps are being taken to address this problem.  Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said, "It is the key responsibility of all levels of governments to stabilize housing prices and to guarantee availability of housing”. He did not say that this matter is beyond the control of the government and can be left to the market forces.

A property bubble can also be caused by excessive speculation as the speculators made big profits at the expense of the desperate home owners.

Singapore's prosperity is also largely built on an asset bubble. We have to be prepared for the economic consequences when the bubble burst.

Monday, September 13, 2010

FISCA Talk - Invest for the Long Term

This talk attracted many participants last month. It will now be repeated.

Invest for the long term SMU - School of Business (Seminar Room 3.1 - Level 3) 
Date: 25 September 2010, Saturday 03:00 PM 

This event is available to all FiSCA members at a special members price of $20. The public can participate at a price of $30 per person. We encourage the public to join as FiSCA members as the annual fee for members is only $36.

An outline of the talk:

  • Principles of long term investing, compounding and dollar cost averaging
  • Earn a better yield by investing in equities
  • Reduce risk by investing for the long term in a low cost, diversified fund
  • How to access information from the SGX website
  • How to get information about ETFs, REITS and  blue chip shares (with high dividend yield)
  • How to open an account with a stockbroker (using a remisier or an online account)
  • Expenses of investing
There will be practical exercises and a question & answer session. Register at

Non-disclosure of existing medical condition

A consumer took a private Shield policy. His claim for medical treatment was rejected due to "non-disclosure" of medical condition. However, he did honestly declare all that he knew. There were conditions that were not explained to him by the doctor, but was not used to reject the medical claim. One condition was diabetes mellitus.

When he went for a health checkup in the polyclinic, he was not told that his diabetes had reached a serious stage that require medical treatment. In fact, he was not placed on medication. His non-disclosure of this condition was used to reject a subsequent claim for a condition that is not related to his condition. I am now helping the consumer to gather evidence that he was not concealing any information.

But it is quite stressful for him to be saddled with a hospital bill of $7,000 that was not paid. If this was not covered, he would have gone for treatment in B2 ward and pay a much lower bill. Sometimes, the existence of an expensive medical insurance policy creates more problem to the consumer.

Survey: Shuttle service to integrated resorts

Do you support the sudden decision of the Casino Regulatory Authority to stop the shuttle service? Take part in the survey in

Case Study - Medishield for the elderly

Look at this case study of how Medishield can save 80% of the premium that is charged by a private Shield insurance. The elderly person needs to pay only $534 a year, instead of $3,000. Go to

Twisting of existing life insurance policies

Dear Mr Tan, 
I read your blog ( with much interest. Two days ago, an insurance agent was trying to convince me to take on a new limited (20 yrs) whole life insurance for $200k coverage, and to terminate my existing 2 life policies (which are the normal type payable till 60 yrs old) which covers me for about $150k in total. 

I listened to the agent's explanation how the new policy is more economically beneficial. In summary, the total premium i have to pay under this new policy is $25k less, yet the coverage is $50k more than what I have for my 2 existing policies added up together. Also the guaranteed surrender value of the new policy at e.g. age of 65 yrs is $20k more than my 2 existing policies added up, which means this new policy break even much earlier than my existing policies. Prima facie, the economic analysis seems to make alot of sense to switch to this new policy. 

However, to terminate my 2 existing policies, i will lose $6k in total because both are less than 5 years. It is a dilemma now, whether to take the short term hit losing $6k vs the longer term benefit which are in tens of thousands. 

I hence spoke to a friend who was an ex insurance agent for an independent advice. This is what he told me:
1) When I terminate policies, some items will lose coverage for a period eg cancer which kicks in only a few months after a new policy is bought. So I will have an 'exposure' period.
2) Insurance products are always improving, so I am never gonna be getting the best
3) Returns from insurance policies are just nominal, so the returns doesnt matter that much. I should focus my attention on seeking returns from investments, rather than 'optimising' the returns from my insurance policy.

I hope to seek your expert advice on this topic, whether switching to the new product is indeed beneficial for me. 

You can send the benefit illustration for the three policies to me. 

Generally, it is bad idea to terminate an existing policy to take up a new policy, as you will be incurring the upfront cost (1 to 2 years of your premium) all over again. When an agent advise you to take up a new policy to replace an existing policy, the agent is "twisting" the policy. This is almost always at the expense of the consumer. Some agents can make a good living by adopting this type of predatory practice. It is easy to mislead the consumer by pointing out some half truths. It is considered to be illegal in some countries, but not the case in Singapore, due to our lax regulations. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Holes in medical coverage

Read this article.

My view
Consumers in Singapore may face the same type of difficulty when the insurance company suspects that they have not declared pre-existing illness.

Twisting a Life Insurance Policy

A life insurance agent will get a consumer to stop an existing policy and take up a new policy for its "better benefits". This is an unethical practice called "twisting". The consumer is usually fooled by the agent and suffers a large loss in taking this bad decision. Read this FAQ to learn how to avoid being fooled.

Voting in the general election [3]

Do you wish to find out how other people will be voting in the next general election? Give your views in this survey, so that the results can be shown to all. Go to

Essential reading for young people [2]

I have a list of essential FAQs that must be read by young people, before they buy a life insurance policy. It helps them to make the right choice and avoid losing a large part of their life saving in a bad life insurance policy that takes away 40% of their future savings. Read "essential reading: in

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