Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cheques to be phased out by 2018 in UK

I am encouraged by the decision of the Payment Council in the UK to phase out cheque payments by 2018.

The number of cheques processed in the UK declined from 800 million to 350 million over a period of 10 years for a population of 60 million. On average, each person uses 6 cheques a year.

Singapore still process 80 million cheques a year, for a population of 5 million. On average, each person uses
16 cheques a year, or almost 3 times of the UK. Singapore has become quite inefficient over the years.

A more challenging job for PM Lee

When Mr. Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister of Singapore in 1959, he managed a country with a population of 1.6 million people and a relatively small economy. He and his team did an impressive job in developing the country over the next 25 years.

When Mr. Lee Hsien Loong became Prime Minister in 2006, the population had grown 2.5 times and the economy is 8 times bigger (my estimate).

Many people did not like the direction of Singapore since 2006, with rising cost of living, high cost of housing over-crowding and many social problems. But we have to realize that the problems faced by PM Lee is more complex and challenging.

Do you agree?

If you are interested to buy the book, you can indicate your interest here.

DISCOVER the hidden letters

I have now uploaded a new sample book containing 24 puzzles, based on the Master Mind format. Try the new book here.

The new puzzles contain more clues to remove the duplicate solutions (hopefully).

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dispense with immigration card

10 December 2012 (not published in Today)

Editor, Voices
Today Paper

A few countries had discontinued the need by visitors to submit an immigration 
or disembarkation card to enter their country. This is unnecessary as most of 
the information on visitors could be obtained from the passport that is scanned
into their computer system. 

Malaysia introduced this new system a few months ago.

Singapore is still using the disembarkation card. I do not know what use is
being made of this card, which must be quite a hassle for visitors. It did ask
for some tourist statistics, which could probably have been better collected
through some other means.

I hope that Singapore can discontinue the need for this outmoded requirement, and
gain the moral authority to urge other countries in ASEAN to dispense with it. This 
will make it easy for Singaporeans to travel to these nearby countries and avoid
the hassle of writing the cards.

Tan Kin Lian

Thursday, December 13, 2012

You can download a free sample copy of the book at

A heavy price for a private affair

When Domiinic Strauss-Khan gave up his job as head of IMF, he was accused of molesting and raping the maid in the hotel room.

Michael Palmer, ex-Speaker of Parliament, had a private, relationship with the then staff of the People's Association. It was consensual on both parties.

I wish to point out the difference in both situations.

I know that many people in Singapore have high expectations of their political leaders. I think that this expectation is unrealistic.

I share the views of a few other people that private matters should be private, and should not be confused with public duties.

I know that in many countries, this type of private relationship do not affect the career of public figures or political leaders.

It is likely that this type of private affairs is fairly common in Singapore, so we should not be hypocrites in expecting our political leaders to be angels.

I am sad that Michael Palmer and his family had to suffer such a heavy price.  I would have preferred that this matter be dealt with by his family as their private matter.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A sample of the book is available free at

Government can help to improve productivity

My letter has been printed in the Straits Times

The Editor
Forum Page
Straits Times

DEPUTY Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has asked small businesses to improve productivity and reduce the reliance on foreign workers ("Tackle labour crunch with productivity push: Tharman"; last Saturday).
Having managed a small business for the past four years, I have found that my staff are needlessly diverted to handling transactions that could have been done more efficiently under a better working environment.
I have to make most payments by manual cheque. Just imagine the time taken to write, sign and mail a cheque; and for the other party to receive it and bank it in; and for the bank to clear it.
I was staggered to learn that about 78 million cheques were processed in 2009.
Most of these were payments made by small businesses.
I must also expend significant time submitting regular returns to the websites of the Central Provident Fund, the Manpower Ministry, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, the Singapore Armed Forces and other government or government-related agencies.
These online processes were created to reduce work for the government agencies but, unfortunately, cause the public to waste time on online submissions as a result of complicated and poorly designed websites.
Retrieving replies from the websites is also quite troublesome.
I have to read a page of instructions just to retrieve a reply from a website, when it could have been sent to me directly by e-mail.
The Infocomm Development Authority had announced the OneInbox project to allow members of the public to receive their replies from government agencies via a centralised website.
Why is this project taking such a long time to be implemented?
Several of my suggestions to the Pro-Enterprise Panel under the Ministry of Trade and Industry were attended to, but did not address the underlying problems.
The Government should look into these issues and improve the working environment for small businesses to operate more efficiently.
Tan Kin Lian

Cover design for my book

I wish to look for someone to design the front and back covers
for my book

Submit your proposal to

Discover the Hidden Letters

Free copy of this book is now available at

Monday, December 10, 2012

Master Mind (1-20)

Here are 20 puzzles modeled on the popular game, Master Mind.

Here are the answers to the above puzzles.

My financial education journey - Part I (Isabel)

Dear Mr. Tan

After my youngest son goes to army, I suddenly find I have some free time on hand.   All these years of working for the children, setting aside funds for the rainy days, building a home (not exactly in that order), it is a relief to be able to sit back and see how I can improve my financial position.

For years, my husband and I blindly bought into properties and stocks and every time there was nagging fear if it was a good buy.   We are good for falling in love with whatever we buy, good or bad.  So the market goes up and it comes down and we go with the flow.   So you can guess our financial situation.  We have enough to get by but not what you will term as affluent.

Last few months, I decided to start my financial education journey.

First, I bought a few books by Robert Kiyosaki/Kim (his wife)/Donald Trump.  The teaching is quite different from Warren Buffett.  Some of what Robert writes are obviously not suitable for Singapore especially pertaining the tax laws.   I am still puzzled how he can leverage so much and the banks are not calling for top up when the property prices drop.   Know of anyone who was so confident that he sold his house and use the money to buy into many properties just before the recent market crush?

Warren is usually buy and hold or until he thinks the business no longer suits him.  Robert is buy and sell and move on.   I believe both techniques can be applied to maximize the gain.  I do know of someone who do this.   

I went to a preview by a company that teaches value investing.  The cost for the course is >3K.   The course also teaches options (what Robert K and Warren B are good at).   This options trading is available for US stocks not Singapore.   The lecturer is energetic and fun.  But I think this is too much to pay.

I also attended the SGX course preview on “creating a secondary income stream – through long term shares investing & investing in real estate sector (property stokcs/RETIS).   It was a good course and the cost for 12x3 hrs is affordable.  With FA/TA course thrown in.  The course basically teaches fundamentals like time value of money/economic/financial statement/business/industry analysis and investment principles.  I signed up for my husband, my daughter and myself.   I believe opportunities are aplenty but we must be armed and shielded with knowledge in order to grasp these opportunities.   I hope I will be confident the next time opportunities come knocking at the door.

The SGX course on “making trading your source of income” preview is an eye opener.   This is really a short term investing for cash flow.   The lecturer delivered a good clarity in the concept.   However, I do not think this is the right tool for me.   This is too fast paced for my heart. 

I then went for a talk by Philip Capital “How to Profit CONSISTENTLY in Stock Market” where a CK Ee from Asia Charts delivered his speech.  Ee was fun and he got the whole room (must be more than 100+ attendees on a Saturday morning) laughing with glee.  He is very knowledgeable and obviously he walks the talk.  He is realistic and warned the audience that there will be bad and good days.  But important to learn from it all and keep a journal.   He teaches discipline and urges investors to have good understanding of market behavior (the interpretation of news), a good plan (to accurately analyse the market) and when to enter and exit.  He trades for cash flow and capital gain.  If I have a chance, I will like to join his course.

I went to a preview on swiftlet farming.  The trainer showed the swiftlet migration path, Malaysia, Indonesia etc.  The business idea is quite interesting.  Basically they work with locals and hopefully some research institutions and wholesaler.  The swiflet farm is in Sandakan, Sabah. The investors buy the wooden huts and the local will help to maintain and harvest the bird nests.  It will take a few years to have returns which is not guaranteed.   The consortium will buy the bird nests and pay the investors based on market price.   The consortium is hoping to link up with some research institution to give some credibility to the bird nest  harvested from Sabah due to the recent clam down by China due to contamination.   I find this venture a bit expansive and not certain.  The wooden huts are sold at a premium to the investors.   One is never sure if the birds will really nest in your huts.  As the areas are not really easily accessible, one has to depend on the consortium management to ensure no thefts.  At the end of the day, the price of the nest is a question mark.  The plus points are that the consortium delivers the huts and management the scheme and buy the nest from you.  Unless of course, you prefer to consume yourself, but will be hours of back breaking tasks to pick all the down feathers.

I went to two property courses preview.  One is “how to invest in property with little risks” by Azea Property Investment.   The trainer was fun and knowledgeable.  Basically the concept is similar to Robert Kiyosaki/Donald Trump - investing for cash flow.  Some of the properties showcased are impressive.  The lady boss Tan Yang Po is well known.  She is featured in 938 live.  From what I know listening to her via 938 live, she basically has the muscles (together with the students who turned investors) to negotiate for good deals.  I do believe the model works.  She gives much better value than some of the investments brought to Singapore – “3 properties in USA for 200K!” shouted the advertisement in the Straits Times some months ago.   The course is attractive from networking and the opportunity to buy into some of the below the water properties.  There are aplenty such properties in US and EU.  But the skill is to sniff out the good buy and rental generating properties.   I am impressed by two buys – one in London and the other in US near the university.   However, one has to consider that these are oversea properties.   My preference is still to be able to see my investments whenever I want to.

The other property course preview is none other than ERC – Andy Ong.  I went to one of Andy’s course in 2007.   I find him genuine and willing to teach and help.   He is astute in property investment.   Around 2007, he  bought into River Valley property to be used as class rooms.  Recent years, see him investing into commercial.  His portfolio is impressive to people who know his background.  I first heard of him when I took up financial planning course years ago.  At the time, one of the text books specified by FPAS is by him.   I like to reconnect with him and I believe there is much to learn from him.

Then the latest course I went to is by Sam Goh “ A - Z of Investing - Gold & Silver”.  The reason I went is that Robert K has been talking a lot on gold and silver.  With the delink of currency from gold, and the QE infinite, who will not be worried? USD is on the slippery slope to don’t know where and every government is printing money.   There is only one way for commodity to go – up.   I cannot buy and take delivery on oil/coffee/tea/nuts etc.  The only commodity is then gold/silver.  At 25 and be financially free is impressive.  There must be something I can learn from Sam.   The talk content is what I expected.   I learnt something new.  I can actually buy and silver and gold from UOB and I do not have to take delivery but just use the passbook.   I joined his  club membership. 


Different pay of workers

Dear Mr. Tan

There are a lot of commentaries in the media on the China SMRT drivers.

The usual practice in the industry is that the pay is normally different for employees from different countries.  The employers look at the gross expenses and the gross should be more or less the same across.  Take for example, Indian technician with an “S” pass is paid minimum S$2K as per the law (they should have diploma in technology and some years of working in the similar industry).  Work permit holder from Malaysia of “O” level and above is paid $1.6-1.7K as levy is part of the expenses to hire Malaysian.  Same goes for Chinese.

Chinese workers are more vocal and demonstrative/assertive.   While Indian and Bangladeshi are more compliance and submittal. 

The employees have signed to the contract terms.   It is always good HR policy to tell employees that they should not disclose their pay.   This is to prevent the employees from becoming unsatisfied.   It is also true that most executive will not share this info especially if the merit is built into the pay.   For rank and file, they do compare.  So expectation should be set. 

This is just my personal view.


Blog Archive