Saturday, February 12, 2011

FISCA Talk on Financial Planning

FISCA is organizing a talk on financial planning on 28 February 2011.  Register at
Attendees can buy the following books at up to 50% discount. Orders have to be submitted in advance to

FISCA Evaluation of Products

FISCA will be launching a new website from 1 April 2011 (perhaps earlier). An important section of this website is the "Evaluation of Financial Products" and will be kept strictly for members.

With a more active website, retail investors will find it more attractive to be a member of FISCA. Please wait for the new website to be launched before you apply as a member, because are quite busy now getting the new website to be ready.

Tan Kin Lian

Friday, February 11, 2011

How to secure our future

Ngiam Tong Dow shares his views and concerns about Singapore. SGEP

Hard facts on Singapore - Dr. Foo

LKY has written a book on "Hard Facts on Singapore". Dr. Foo has presented his perspective of the hard facts. I agree with Dr. Foo's perspective. Read SGEP

Family Life 1.1 - more players

Over 20 people played the Family Life game yesterday. The number has been increasing daily since its soft launch last week. This game teaches the participants about making the decisions in life that affect their work, health and family life. It can be accessed at (Family Life).  Read the Guide on how to play the game. 120 prizes will be given to the players who achieve the top 5 positions in each of 24 games daily.

Direct link:

Better benefits on a new life insurance policy

Be careful when a life insurance agent recommends a new life insurance policy with better benefits, to replace an existing policy.
Find out from Ask Mr. Tan

Impact of reduction in yield

Many life insurance products reduced the yield by 3% to 4%. this is a large reduction and can take away 50% of your accumulated savings. It can amount to several hundred thousand dollars!
Find out from Ask Mr. Tan

FISCA - Financial Services Consumer Association

Learn about the activities of FISCA and why you should join as a member and attend the educational talks
Ask Mr. Tan

Thursday, February 10, 2011

SingTel - we charge what we like

After a week and a reminder, the customer care manager of SingTel finally called me regarding my complaint on the high charges to relocate my telephone and broadband line. She explained the reason for the delay (i.e due to missing e-mail - it happens all the time!) and the need for the charges. It was nice of her to call - which is quite unusual based on the service standard in Singapore.

She followed up with a detailed written explanation on the work that has to be done to make the change (i.e. the re-allocation of resources - just to sound technical and complicated. I know that it is quite a simple matter of making an entry into the computer system.

I wrote a reply, "Can Singtel confirm that the charges reflect the actual cost that is being incurred to make the change?"

Here is the reply, "I wish to reassure you that the charges for both number retention and ADSL relocation fees had been carefully assessed; taken all the resources/ costs into consideration prior to setting the fees."  In simple English, it means "We look at our cost and charge what we like.  Wish you a great year ahead"

Tan Kin Lian

Free market and choice

The coffee stall in the canteen of my office raised the price of a cup of coffee from $0.80 to $1 (25% increase). The stall holder said that this is a permanent increase and is not only for the festive season.

I did not complain about the price increase because I have the following choices:

  • Buy package drink
  • Drink coffee (3 in 1) in my office
  • Drink water
It is different from the exorbitant charge levied by a telephone company to relocate a telephone line or the broadband line. I do not have any choice as I am tied into a contract. 

I hope that our regulators know the difference between a free market (such as the cup of coffee) and the exorbitant changes levied by telephone companies and banks - where the customer is locked into a long term contract or relationship.

Tan Kin Lian

Top 5 avatar in Family Life

Can you reach the top 5 positions in a Family Life game and win a prize? See this screenshot of the final results:

Watch the cartoons of the activities and events. These cartoons will appear in the mobile device that access the Family Life game:

Reduction in yield

You can use this approach to calculate the reduction in yield on your life insurance policy and see if it exceeds the acceptable benchmark of 1.5% per annum. See Ask Mr. Tan

Term insurance to age 99 years

Some insurance companies are marketing a term insurance policy to age 99 years. It looks attractive, but consumers should be aware about the risks involved in this type of policy. Find out from  Ask Mr. Tan

Family Life 1.1 - More winners

Hi Mr. Tan,
Thank you for making such a great simulation game filled with many life twisting events, which could influence the success in the outcome. I learnt a lot from the game such as balancing out resources in improving all areas, especially work and social in early stages. This leads to higher probability in promotions and early marriage! With some luck, I manage to get 3rd in one of the game in the screenshot.

Dear Mr Tan,
It is my first time playing and I managed to come in 5 in the final year! I found the game interesting but perhaps some modifications can be made to the game to make it more realistic and meaningful, however i am certain you would already have thought of it.

Just out of curiosity and wanted to try how different it would be if i had fine-tuned my approach and am surprized by the results. Would you consider signing your autograph on the book for the top 10 highest score for the month? That would be much appreciated although i am assuming the score i have received is high enough.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Family Life - Fast Game

I have created a fast game starting every hour. Each avatar year takes 1 min. The game can be completed in 40 mins.

Family Life Cartoonos

Here are some interesting things that you can do or can happen to your avatar in Family Life

Family Life 1.1 - Two winners

There are 24 games each day, one starting every hour. Each game comprises of 40 avatar years and can completed in 2 hours (3 mins per year). You can play the game at (Family Life).

If you are new to the game, you can read the Guide at the home page of Family Life. There is also a guide on how to win the 120 prizes that can be won each day. Each person is entitled to win only one prize for the entire contest, but you can teach a family member or friend to win the prize also.

A new version of the game, with better artificial intelligence, will be introduced later this month. So, if you know the technique of this game, you should try to win the prize before the new version is introduced !!!

Here are the comments of the two winners:
1) I would like to say this web game is pretty interesting and I believe has a lot of possibilities to expand into. Perhaps the players can have a selection of various areas of career paths/education. Looking forward for an update. 
2) Thanks for the great game!

Join the fun now: (Family Life)

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Family Life 1.1

About 10 to 15 people play Family Life each day. It is getting popular. A few have played the game several times. They will surely reach the top 5 positions (and win the Tangram book prize) soon. They should be able to catch the technique of making the right "family life" decisions.

Try now at (Family Life). A new version with better artificial intelligence will be introduced later this month. Over the next two games, the game can be played on the mobile devices with better graphics, animation and sound. This will be more interesting at that time.

SGEP - In search of young voters

Read this editorial in SGEP.

Pedestrian scam - is this real or fabricated?

Received this e-mail.
With so much foreign workers in Singapore (some from the villages - having spent a fortune to come and work here), many will try to make money from unsuspecting Singaporeans and the insurance companies.

Is this real or fabricated?

Hi my dear friends,
I am very much still in shock by an unscrupulous SCAM I encountered earlier today. Yes, I have seen similar cases on TV drama but having experience it first hand personally was horrifying.

This morning, on the way to Tiong Bahru Market along Seng Poh Road, as I was preparing to turn into the carpark, I heard a loud bang coming from the back of my car. I quickly pulled my car along the side and saw a young man, early thirties sitting on the side of the road. He was wearing a red polo tee, I believe bearing a constructing company name.

I was puzzled how the back of my car could hit anyone when I was driving not at a quick speed preparing to turn into the car park. Nevertheless, I asked the man if he was hurt, I saw a few scratches on his knee. He started screaming, rang his work reported he was in an accident and could not go to work. Fortunately, I saw a GP clinic behind us, I offered him to see the GP together, he refused and said he preferred to see a government clinic. I said to him, let’s see the GP first, if need to the GP will refer us to the hospital, he refused fiercely, I offered to call for an ambulance instead, I offered to ring his boss to explain what happened and said to him we should ring the police to make a report. He started screaming and asking me to compensate him with money instead. I was at wit’s end, I asked if he could let me have his identification so that I could ring the police. I am pretty sure he is from the mainland, with his heavily accented mandarin, he insisted he is a local but said he misplaced his IC. I told him, even more so we should report to the police that he lost his identification?

At that time, I was very much in shock, I felt bad and was tempted to give him money but was afraid he might go to the cop and reported that I gave him money to pacify him. In no time I went to the coffee shop behind us and begged anyone what I should do if he refused to see a doctor or refused help?

One elderly couple came up to me and said they witnessed everything, they saw him, hit my car and fell to the ground, they insisted that I should call the police to protect myself. Another man said to me it’s a scam and told me to leave him alone.

At that time, the man was still on the ground asking for money, I told him I can’t give him money and I have decided to call the cops, I told him it’s better we have everything documented in a report. He left very quickly and shouted I was heartless after hitting someone and said he was in the worst of luck to have met me.
Seriously I felt very bad, during a situation like this, I was totally embarrassed with a crowd around us! In any case I rang the police to make a report and was asked to go to the police station later to make a statement. (BTW, I’m using this as my report to the police later.)

I wrote this just so to let everyone know and beware of such a SCAM. In such a terrorizing event, keep calm and best to report immediately to alert the police. What is becoming of Singapore?


Family Life - (game restarted)

The Family Life game has restarted, after rectifying a problem with the server program. Please try the game and win one of 120 book prizes in the day.

Is life insurance good or bad?

Life insurance is inherently good. It allows people to pool the risk of premature death and to save for their future needs.

It becomes bad when insurance companies and agents takes away too much of the accumulated savings (i.e. as much as 50%) to pay for expenses and the cost of insurance and gives a poor deal to the consumer. The actual cost of insurance in most cases is less than 10%. It becomes worse, when the insurance agent tells lies and half truths to mislead the consumer into investing their hard earned savings in a poor yielding product.

In the old days (i.e. prior to this century), most life insurance companies and agents acted honorably and deliver fair value to the consumers. Today, the situation is quite bad, and it seemed that many products are designed to rip off the unsuspecting consumers.

I wish to educate consumers and the practitioners, so that the practitioners realize that they are not doing the right thing, and will change their practice and make life insurance a good product for the consumers.

Tan Kin Lian

Track intrusions and suicides

Dear Mr. Tan,
I searched on other cases of wastage of public funds by the government. Here is what i found from the internet. I think the government should have spent the money building the half-height platform screen doors in a better manner.

It seems 'about 20 to 30 cases of track intrusions' are 'occurring for each of the past few years'. I wonder if anyone has statistics about how many track intrusions happened before the past few years?

Maybe the opposition parties can have an inquiry on the true number of suicides in Singapore, interview the coroners in Singapore. It seems there are so many so-called 'track intrusions' which are actually suicides or suicide attempts which have gone unnoticed by the average Singaporean.

Spa Victim

Date of Reply : 27/10/2010
Reply : Dear Sir/Madam,

Installing Half-Height Platform Screen Doors (HHPSD) at elevated stations eliminate system downtimes caused by accidental track intrusions. HHPSD are found to be the most reliable, proactive and cost effective way to reduce the overall levels of track intrusion and 
thus significantly increase passenger safety at the station platform.

Although there are warning signs to discourage track intrusions and there are also in-station announcements to remind passengers to stand behind the yellow line, there are still about 20 to 30 cases of track intrusions occurring for each of the past few years. These have caused train service disruptions and affected the travelling of other commuters. The provision of HHPSD will reduce significantly train service disruption caused by unintended track intrusion.

Land Transport Authority

High cost of motor repair

Dear Kin Lian,
I got involved recently in a minor accident with an SMRT taxi. It was my fault as I followed too closely from behind and bumped into the back light of the old taxi. The resulting damage was a hole in the plastic of a back light. I agreed to pay for the repair. I repaired my own car for $230.

SMRT wanted to charge me $1,635 for the damages to be repaired at their own workshop. I asked them to fix the repair at my nominated workshop but they refused. I felt that it was an extortion. I did not want to make an insurance claim as it would affect the NCD.

I called the Traffic Police, General Insurance Association of Singapore and CASE. None was willing to help. I called the Police as it was a case of blatant extortion and cheating. They advised me to engage a lawyer. Are there any other avenues that I can get help?

It is a shame that a big company like SMRT can resort to this type of bad practice. It is also a shame that CASE does not wish to take up this case, as they do get a lot of funding from the government to do their work. I suggest that you offer a fair sum, say $500, to SMRT.

I also suggest that you write to the newspaper about your case.

Growth fund vs STI ETF

Dear Mr Tan KL,
I would like to ask your advise on a good investment strategy for my CPF special account, since the money is for the long term. Is there a safer product that gives a better return than the 4-5%) offered by CPF? Would you consider NTUC Income's Gowth Fund as a good investment?

The Growth Fund has an annual fee of about 1% p.a. and an upfront cost of about 3%. The STI ETF has an upfront fee of 0.3% and an annual fee of 0.3%. The risks of both funds are similar. Over a 20 year period, the STI ETF should be able to get a yield that is about 15% higher than the Growth Fund, based on similar risk profiles. It is better to choose the STI ETF than the growth fund.

If you do not wish to take the risk and uncertainty, it is better to leave your money in the special account as the interest rate is quite attractive.

Lessons from Cairo

There is an interesting article in SGEP about the lessons that Singapore can learn from the events in Egypt.

Trading in Forex

Many people trade in foreign exchange. They buy or sell US dollar, Euro or Japanese yen. Many talks are being conducted, with high fees, to teach people how to trade in these currencies. But these novice traders are not aware about the risks, and the likelihood of losing in the long run, against the big institutions that trade against them and have the potential to manipulate the market. Read an article in SGEP called Forex Folly.

Monday, February 07, 2011

FISCA Talk on Structured Products

Many investors have lost a lot of money by investing in risky structured products. They did not know the risks and have been burnt.  Others had the money stuck for several years at a miserable rate of return,.  While they did not lose the principal. they have lost 10% to 20% in potential return that they could be earned from other investments of similar nature.

Financial institutions have started to launch new structured products. Do you know the good from the bad products? Do you want to be caught in the next round of bad products?

To avoid a risky or poor deal, you have to understand what are structured products, what to look out for and the risks to avoid. 

FISCA has invited an expert on structured products, Paula Tan, to give a talk on 19 February 2011. An outline of the talk and register for the talk can be found at You can also register for the talk at this website.

Do attend this talk and be wiser, and avoid a big potential loss in the future.

Tan Kin Lian

Difficulty in contacting M of Manpower

I login to the MOM website (WP Online) to check for my firm's quota to employ work permit holders. It was quite difficult to understand the mess of information. I had to call the call center. I searched the website of MOM and even tried the "search" field. I could not find it. I know that there is a call center - as I called them before, but I don't understand why MOM made it difficult for the public to reach their call center.

Tan Kin Lian

A chat with Dr. Shetty

Dr. Shetty is a world renown heart surgeon. Read this article, sent to me by Robby Tulus.

Prize for Family Life Game

Read this Guide on how you can win any of 120 prizes for Family Life each day. The prize is Practical Guide on Financial Planning $12. 

Prize for Family Life

I am giving away the book, "Practical Guide on Financial Planning" ($12) to any player who has achieved any of the top 5 positions in any game of Family Life. A game is created each hour, so you have the chance to win any of the 120 books in a day.

Each player is entitled to win the prize only once. To claim your prize, you have to take a screen shot of the final year, showing the results of your avatar and its place within the top 5 positions for the year. This is to be sent to An example of the screen shot is found here.  In this example, the avatar #1 (current player) has achieved the 3rd position and is entitled to a prize.

This prize will be awarded until further notice.

Electronic Queuing

I read in the newspapers that a grandparent queued for several days for a place in the kindergarten for a grandchild. They felt that it was worth putting in the sacrifice for the grandchild. We also read about several day queues for places in primary school and for new property launches.

The several day queues have become ridiculous but is a feature of Singapore life - the outcome of our kiasu syndrome. There is a more sensible way to handle the queue. It is the electronic queue.  It is possible to develop a portal to allow a queue to be formed for any type of high preference activity and for electronic balloting to be conducted to find the priority in the queue among all the applicants who submitted their application by a closing date.

Tan Kin Lian

Here is my letter printed in the Straits Times Online Forum.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

SGEP Editorial on Election Year

SGEP has an editorial on Election Year 2011. We also welcome contribution from readers. Go to

Family Life - compete with your friends

You can play the Family Life game here:

Read the guide for instructions on how to play the game. You can invite a few friends to play the same game, so you can compete against each other. It is fun. This game can be accessed on the mobile platform in a month's time, so you can play on it while in the train or during a break.

Overcharging for replacement parts

The remote controller for my Carrier air conditioner failed. The price for a replacement is more than $150. Fortunately, I was able to find a universal remote controller from Korea that worked with the Carrier air conditioner for $10.

It is quite unfair for a company to levy an excessively high charge for a spare part that they designed specifically for their product. The motor car manufacturers also charge a high price for their keys.

As the manufacturer chose to have a special design for the remote controller or their key, they spare parts should be considered as a monopoly item and should be subject to anti-monopoly laws. The law should dictate what is a fair price and what is an excessive price.

CPFTA now applies to financial services

The Consumer Protection and Fair Trading Act now applies to financial services. I urge consumers, who have been misled into bad investment products, to prepare your case to lodge a complaint under the CPFTA. The fact that you have signed a form does not absolve the financial adviser or the financial institution from their culpability under the CPFTA of misleading the consumer.

Read this FAQ carefully to see which category of wrongdoing the act or negligence may fall under:

I also wish to ask lawyers to come forward and help to take some of these cases on behalf of consumers. Please charge modest fees as the consumer is not able to pay high fees. You may get a chance to make a name for your firm as doing good for consumers and for society. If you are interested, send an email to

Tan Kin Lian

Dishonest financial advisers and culpable insurance companies

I encountered the following two cases recently.

Case One. A consumer was advised by the adviser to invest a single premium of $50,000 as an investment in a life insurance policy, on the promise that it could give a better return than interest rate on CPF. She was not well educated or savvy. She was sold a annual premium policy with an annual premium of $50,000. When the second premium became due, she asked the adviser to explain why she had to pay another $50,000. He told her to ignore the request for the payment. The consumer learned later that there was a large deduction from the accumulated savings, which became clear only after one year. She complained to the insurance company. She had to go for interviews and encountered a lot of delays. I understand that the case has still not been solved.

Case Two. A foreigner, working in Singapore, was sold a life insurance policy on the misrepresentation that it was an investment product. The monthly premium was $3,500. She discovered to her horror, that 5% of the premium was deducted every month from the savings after 18 months. The financial adviser deliberately lied to her that the deduction was only 0.7% (which must be the fund management fee). The other deduction, to pay the distribution cost, was hidden from the consumer, who had asked about it.  The consumer asked for my advice on what she can do now to recover her loss. I asked her to write to the newspapers.

In both cases, I have used "she" to refer to the consumer and "he" to refer to the adviser. This may not be the real genders in the actual cases.

The culpability does not lie with the financial advisers alone. They also extend to the insurance companies that designed the products to levy a high upfront charge and hide the charge from the consumers. This allowed the dishonest agents to mislead the unwary consumers.

Tan Kin Lian

Are all financial advisers bad?

Are all financial advisers bad? The truth is - they belong to different categories.

Some financial advisers are honest, and do take care of the best interest of their clients. Some are crooks who knowingly tell outright lies and half lies to con their consumers. The majority fall in between, i.e they think that, having put in the effort to achieve the insurance qualifications,  it is only right that they should make a living by doing what they are trained to do. Many are not aware that the products give a poor deal to the consumers - some know but do not really care - they have to make a living.

There are quite a few financial advisers who are outright crooks. Some consumers who were conned by them have sought my assistance. These crooks are able to carry out their misdeeds with impunity. When the consumer complained to the insurance company, they received excuses and encountered delays. Some consumers give up trying to lodge the complaint.

It is this bad situation that prompted me to advice consumers to avoid all financial advisers. It is difficult for an unwary consumer to tell an honest financial adviser from a crook. They are likely to be give a bad product anyway, even from the advisers who may not be acting dishonestly.

Singapore had been following the practice of UK and Australia in the regulation of life insurance sales. The regulators adopted the approach of requiring the financial advisers to act honorably and professionally - whatever that means. UK and Australis have decided to abandon the professionalism approach and have taken the drastic step of banning the payment of commission on life insurance products. They found that it is impossible to manage the conflict of interest.

Some financial advisers do not like my message and have resorted to making personal attack against me in other blogs. They claimed that, when I was in NTUC Income, I had been using agents to sell life insurance products. These people are either ignorant or malicious in distorting the truth. They should know that the commissions paid to the insurance agents in NTUC income during my time were much lower than the market rates and the insurance products offered fair value to consumers. This is how despicable the crooked financial advisers can be.

Tan Kin Lian

Family Life 1.1

A new game is automatically created every hour. You can ask your friend to join and compete with you in the same game. You can watch the progress of the human players under the tab "human avatars". It is quite fun and additive. (Family Life).

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