Saturday, March 10, 2007

Photo of Dr Money

Do you want to see how Dr Money looks? Go to Larry Haverkamp's blog. A nice photo has now been added.



I have just registered for an account under the Wireless@SG. It allows me to have access to WiFi from many hotspots in Singapore to use the Internet through my notebook computer (with wireless access) or from a personal digital assistant (PDA).

There is no charge for this service for the first 3 years. This is sponsored by the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA), and aims to encourage more people to use the internet for their daily work.

Here is the link to register for an account:


Why does MAS allow the banks to sell structured products?

Dear Mr Tan

I was wondering why MAS allowed banks in Singapore to sell Structure products to customers if this product does not creat profit for customers but only to banks benefit. Especially if customers already using their CPF Funds to buy it.


My reply:

MAS adopt a "buyer beware" approach. They ask the consumer to know more about the product before buying it. They require the product provider to make the necessary disclosure about the product.

They prefer to take a "hands off" approach and do not wish to decide whether the product is or is not suitable for consumers.

I disagree with the approach taken by MAS. In my view, they have the duty to make sure that the product is reasonably fairly designed and represents fair value to the consumer. It is difficult for the consumer, who is not knowledgeable about complicated products, to know whether the product represents a fair deal.

I also expect the Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) to be more active in protecting the interest of the consumers. However, they are not adequately funded and do not have enough resources and clout.

The Central Providet Fund (CPF) has recently decided that they should be more active in setting a limit on the expense charges of investment products sold under the CPF Investment Scheme. Previously, they did not want to prescribe the limits, as they wish to leave it to "market forces".

I hope that the MAS will take a more active approach in the future. Let us give them so more time to learn about the experience.

Thomas Phua

Thomas Phua is a practical person.

* He writes a blog (about insurance)
* He rides a motorcycle (which is convenient to move around).
* He provides excellent advice and service to his large base of policyholders

I asked Thomas about the risk of using a motorcycle. He said that he rides carefully, and has been doing it for many years.

Thomas just posted a story about an accident. A pedestrian (boy) runs into his motorcycle (and not the other way round). He had to make a report to the Police about this accident.


Is it time to re-invest in the market?

The market rebound is stronger than I expected.

Is it time to re-invest in the market?

For my personal investments, I have decided to wait for another week or two. I still feel that the stock prices are too high. It is better to invest at a lower price. In the meantime, I am happy to keep my new money in the money market fund and earn 3% to 3.5%.

Earlier, I missed the chance to sell my existing portfolio. I may take this opportunity to sell some of the portfolio now (as the prices have partially recovered).

There is a risk that I may miss this buying opportunity. But, I have decided that it does not matter.

However, for young people investing a small sum each month, it is all right to continue to make the regular investment as you are applying the averaging principle. The average cost of your investment will depend on the prices over a period of time.

Islands named after Tan family

There are two islands named after the Tan family.

* Bintan, in Indonesia (ie son of Tan in the Indonesian langauge)
* Mactan, off Cebu Philippines (ie son of Tan in the Scottish language).

Just joking.

I just stayed at the Plantation Bay resort in Mactan, Philippines. It is off-season and is a wonderful experience.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Excellent service from the call center

I called NTUC Income' hotline (6346 2663) to ask for referral to an eye doctor.

The call center personnel addressed me by name, as the call center system was able to retrieve my particulars using my mobilephone number. He also gave birthday greetings to me, as it was my birthday.

He advised me to visit the emergency department of a nearby hospital, as it was already evening, and all the private doctors had stopped work for the day.

This was excellent service. It was done within 5 minutes.

Government initiated Insurance Plans

The government initiate the following insuance plans:

Medishield (can opt to private Shield
Dependent Protection Scheme

What is the difference between these plans?

Read the posting in:

Thomas Phua's blog

Best Call Center in Technology and Innovation

NTUC Income received the award for being the best call center in the world, in the use of technology and innovation. This is a hotly contest competition among call centers in all types of businesses (and not just in insurance).

I will share the secret of how NTUC Income achieve this global award.

Policyholder Enquiry (POLE)

NTUC Income has an excellent service in its website. It is called POLE (policyholder enquiry).

I have just logged into POLE to check my various insurance policies. It gives me a total picture. I have decided to consolidate some of my investment linked policies.

Consolidate my Investment Linked policies

I have many investment linked policies with NTUC Income, taken at different times and invested in different funds.

I have just given instruction for these policies to be consolidated into a few policies, one for each fund. This allows me to keep track of the investments better. It also avoid paying the annual policy fee on the small investments.

My investments through SRS have to be kept separately. My CPFIS investments are now merged with my cash investments, as I have passed the CPF withdrawal age.

Contact the business manager directly

I received complaints concerning businesses under the NTUC group which do not directly come under me. I referred the complainant to the relevent manager in charge of the business.

Sometimes, the business manager did not respond to the complainant. The complainant came to me again. This is not fair to me.

The complainant should contact the business manager directly, and not continue to trouble me on a matter that I am not responsible for.

As I have now left NTUC Income, the complainant should contact directly on any matter involving NTUC Income.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Find a locksmith

I needed a locksmith to open the door to my study room (which was locked accidentally).

I checked the Yellow Pages. Several of the locksmiths did not answer the telephone. One finally did, and quoted a price of $85 for this service.

I called NTUC Income. It was answered immediately. They called a locksmith to contact me. The locksmith returned by call and quoted $50 (the normal charge). He came within half an hour.

If you need a locksmith or a contractor to fix your home, you can call the hotline of NTUC Income, ie 63INCOME (63462663).

Few comments on my postings

Here is a comment left by a visitor called Cheekiss ...

Congrats on the high traffic on your site. However, I noticed that very few comments was left on your postings. Queer, isn't it?

Visit to Davao and Cebu

I visited Davao and Cebu in the Philippines. They are the next two largest cities after Manila.

Davao is in Mindanao Island. Cebu is in the Visayas. Both are charming cities, not so crowded and not so well developed. Life is quite leisurely (ie not hectic). The cost of living is quite low.

Population grows by 2.5% yearly in Philippines

Philippines has a population of 80 million. This is much higher than I expected.

My friend told me that growth rate is 2.5% per annum. Over the past 20 years, the population grew from 50 to 80 million.

By contrast, the local population of Singapore is not increasing. Our growth comes from immigration.

Is higher GST a good idea?

Read about Larry Haverkamp's views in


Story of the Risis Orchid (part 1)

Dr. Lee Kum Tatt is the Creator of the RISIS Gold Orchid – “Singapore’s Gift to the World”. Stories have been written on how the RISIS orchid came about by academics, journalists, and local T.V. programs over the last 30 years. Questions are still being asked on how did the RISIS orchid became such a hit? Here is Part I from the horse’s mouth on how a fantasy is turned into a reality.


Tan Kin Lian

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Simplify our life

Life is too complicated in Singapore.

It is complicated to figure out the bus services and the concession for senior citizens (as they differ between the operators). It is complicated to figure out the charges for taxis. It is complicated to figure out the entitlement to the workfare bonus.

We need to simplify the rules governing our daily life.

30 years of experience in 3 points

Someone asked me to summarise the key features of my 30 years of experience in developing the business of NTUC Income.

I like to cover them in 3 key points:

* Business strategy
* Entrepreneurial approach
* Efficient management

I adopt a business strategy that recognises the realities and strengths of NTUC Income. We are a cooperative society that aims to give better value to our policyholders. We act accordingly and communicate this distinctive feature to our policyholders. Over the years, we build a base of loyal customers.

I adopt an entrepreneurial approach. I act promptly and have a nimble behaviour. I learn and adapt from the results. By trying many times, I am able to find a better way. I am also able to learn how to do things better for the future.

I focus on efficient management - how to improve efficiency, reduce wastage, and keep the cost low. I learn how to make the best use of the available resources. I adopt technology to improve efficiency and reduce the cost. I find a way to reduce the cost of technology, and increase the cost savings.

Some top managers are detached from the business. They tend to manage on theory, rather than have a good feel of the business.

If we look at many large businesses, you will find that those businesses with a CEO that is in touch, tend to perform much better.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sharp fall in the stockmarket

Why did the global stockmarkets fall so much, so fast?

The answer is simple. When the market falls, the buyers stay away. Some of the weak holders (on margins) are forced to liquidate. The hedge funds come in to sell in large quantities.

This result in a sharp and steep fall in the market. And it can continue for several days.

When will the market rebound?

When all the selling has been done. The buyers decide that it is time to re-enter the market and buy the stocks at cheap prices. You can expect a sharp rebound.

What is a good timing? I don't know. The professionals, who are in the market everyday, may be in a better position to get the market reading and make the right judgement. The small timers will always lose out.

The Best Financial Plan

Here is my view of the best financial plan, which is suitable for every person.

* Have adequate savings, representing 10 to 20% of your regular earnings
* Invest in a large, well diversified, low cost fund
* Choose a flexible plan that gives you the freedom to change, at minimal cost
* Buy low cost term insurance to provide protection against death and disability

Do not be locked into a high cost plan that locks you up for many years, so that the agent and the financial institution can make a lot of profit from you. Do not fall for the "guarantees" which ends up in denying you the freedom to change your mind.

Two large families

My wife came from two large extended families. Her father had 6 brothers and sisters. Her mother had 10 brothers and sisters. Both families have many children and grandchildren.

At the wake of my wife's father (who passed away last week), I met many members of the extended families. I knew them many years ago, when I married my wife. 30 years have passed. We have all grown much older.

I get to know many of them more closely during the last few nights of the wake.

Important Motivating Factors

Lee Kum Tatt has often been asked what made him do many of the things he did in life when it was not his duty nor career requirement and there was no remuneration or material reward. His standard answer has been that if we have gone through what he has been through we would probably not have done differently.

I encouraged Dr. Lee to share with us some of his personal experiences which made him what he is.

Lee Kum Tatt's blog

Tan Kin Lian

Keep track of my stocks with Business Times

I keep track of my stocks in the Business Times website,

I created a portfolio to show the stocks that I owned, the number of stocks held and the cost price.

I can view the portfolio at any time, and see the value of my holdings, compared to my cost. I can also view the performance of the stocks for the same day.

I can store my profile in the PC. This allows me to access the information without having to "log in".

Well done to Business Times!

The CDP (Central Depository) also has a similar service. However, I have some problem in remembering the account number and the password. I used it quite rarely.

My blog is read in Vietnam

My friend worked in Vietnam. He sent this message to me:

I enjoying reading your blog in Vietnam. This is the way to keep me updated and it is not too heavy. Cheers to you being promoted as grandfather.

Successful aging

Someone sent to me an article about successful aging.

The authors (Rowe and Khan, 1998) said that successful aging is determined by individual lifestyle choices in diet, exercise, pursuit of mental challenges, self sufficiency and involvement with other people.

They define it as:

* ability to maintain a low rate of disease and disease related disability
* high mental and physical functions
* active engagement with life

Another author (Novak, 1985) define it as "a good old age ... comes about when, given a basic income, reasonable health, good self-esteem and a little energy, a person sets out to discover a meaningful life."

Another author (Wong, 1998) said, "Successful aging is about positive attitudes towards life and death, about the spiritual and existential quests, and about personal growth in wisdom and spirituality". Successful aging is 80% attitude and 20% everyting else.

My uncle Larry Koh, who passed away two weeks ago, displayed a positive attitude towards life. Although he had been in poor health for a few years, he "enjoyed life to the fullest" (his quote).

He engaged in activies that occupy his mind, and enjoyed interacting with other people. He made it a point to go out on the MRT train to visit places, in a wheelchair.

Here is my tip: If you like a mental challenge, try this puzzle at Logic9

Find the right people

Every manager knows that it is important to attract the right people to join your business, and that people make the difference.

The challenge is:

* how to identify the right people?
* how to attract them (when they have other opportunities)?
* how to motivated them to stay with you and to perform well?

I adopt the following approach:

* be transparent: share the vision and strategies
* discuss how the new employee can contribute to the plan
* help the new employee to learn how his or her skills can be put to productive use

I recruit for attitude, and train for skill (the RATS formula). This allows the employee to perform best in my business (and not elsewhere). It will be a compelling reason for the employee to stay with me.

I am willing to change the specification of the job to fit the skill and preference of the employee, so long as the value of the contribution can justify the pay.

I find this approach to be more sustainable than recruiting talented people (who have other opportunities). I like to recruit some talented people, that they must be able to "fit" into my business.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Part time work for a home maker

Hello Mr Tan,

My wife is a home-maker because of circumstances. My almost 2-year-old son has a feeding problem (i.e. difficult to make him drink milk or ea solid foods). My wife decided to take personal care of him.

She increasingly feels being out of touch with the working world. I hope you have some part-time work for her to occupy her mind.


My reply:

I hope that your wife is able to access the internet. Ask her to read my blog regularly. If there are part time work opportunities, I shall put them in my blog.
She can also e-mail to me, to give her views.

Perhaps, she can learn how to play Logic9 (Sudoku). She can buy them from the bookstore or any of NTUC Income branches. It is a great way to occupy her time and be mentally active.

Is it time to invest in the stockmarket?

The stockmarket has corrected by about 5%.

Someone asked me, "Is it time to invest in the stockmarket?"

My view:

* better to wait for one or two more weeks
* there is the possibility that the correction may continue for another 5% to 10%
* I prefer to wait until the ST Index comes down closer to 2,700

All the best.

Do not use your CPF to pay down your loan

Larry Haverkamp advised that it is better to take a loan at 3.5% interest, instead of using your CPF savings to pay down the loan.

Read about his reason in his blog, Blog

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