Saturday, April 07, 2007

Lower commission rate for life insurance policies in China

I asked a senior manager of a life insurance company in China about the commission rate payable to the agent for selling an endowment or whole life policy.

I was surprised to learn the answer! The commission rate is about half of the level paid in Singapore.

In spite of the rapid expansion of the market, the commission rates in Singapore remained at a high level. The public is paying too much for their life insurance policies.

It appears that competition in China has been more effective in getting insurance companies to provide better value to their customers.

Low life insurance coverage for Singaporeans

There is a report that the average Singaporean has inadequate coverage.

The reason? They were buying an expensive product.

If they buy a whole life policy, and they set aside $100 a month (say 5% of earnings), they can only cover about $50,000. This represents about two years of earnings. If they buy an endowment policy, they have to pay two times of the premium, of 10% of earnings.

Insurance agents recommend a whole life or endowment policy, because they can earn a high rate of commission - between 6 to 12 months of premium.

A better plan to buy is a decreasing term assurance. You can get a coverage for $150,000 (say 6 years of salary), and pay a monthly premium of only $15 a month, or less than 1% of your earnngs.

A term insurance policy does not provide any savings. But, you can invest your savings in a mutual fund or unit trust, with low expense charges, and get a better return.

You can read more in this FAQ

Interesting plan for a parent to give to a child

I like to suggest an interesting plan for a parent to take for each child. It covers the parent's life and provides the following parent in the event of the death of the parent during the term:

* a capital sum of $20,000
* a monthly income of $200 payable to the child for the remainder of the term
* the term is for the period until the child reaches a specified age between 18 to 25 years

As this is a term insurance plan (without any refund of premium), the premium rate should be quite low. It provides adequate protection at an affordable cost. I envisage that the annual premium could be less than $50.

The policy can be taken on the mother's life or the father's life. Two policies can be taken to cover both parents.

GIFT policy

GIFT is the name given by NTUC Income for a special product that provides a "guaranteed income for a fixed term".

You invest a lump sum and received a guaranteed income for 5, 10 or 15 years. The rate of return is about 3% to 4% p.a depending on term. This is guaranteed.

This plan is suitable for you to provide a monthly allowance to a parent, child or a family member. After setting aside the lump sum, the monthly payment is made to the bank account of the beneficiary. It is almost like a "gift".

You can also make a gift for yourself.

This is different from a life annuity in the following aspects:

* it is paid for a fixed term, and not for life
* the capital is exhausted at the end of the term
* in the event of death of the beneficary during the term, the discounted value of the remaining payments will be refunded.

Government employee plans for retirement

1. I am presently 53 years old and plan to retire at 62. Upon retired, if l need money, should l surrender life policies or should I loan from the policies?

Reply: If you need money and you do not require the insurance, it is better to surrender the policies. If you take a loan, interest will be added and you have to repay the loan in the future.

2. I am pensonable and my medical treatment is free, should l or my wife need to buy medical and hospital insurances?

Reply: If your medical insurance is fully covered by the government, there is no need for you to buy medical or hospital insurance.

3. What plan/investment should l have now so that I can have a monthly allowance of $1,500.00 per month when I retired in 9 years time?

Reply: You can buy a guaranteed life annuity. from NTUC Income. It provides good value and has gained a large market share.

You can also read this paper on Financial Planning for Seniors

An income benefit

Most people buy a life or accident policy to provide a lump sum, say $100,000 or $200,000. I think that an income benefit is better, say $2,000 a month for 1 years.

If there is a claim, it is likely that the spouse or children may not be knowledgeable about investing the money. There is the risk that the lump sum may tempt other people to find a way to take the money away.

An income benefit avoids the risk.

An income benefit has another advantage. It is possible to specify that the benefit is payable for the remainder of the defined term.

If the term is 20 years, and a claim occupies at year 5, the benefit is payable for 15 years. If the claim occurs at year 18, the benefit is payable for 2 years.

This structure gives a higher coverage for a claim that occurs earlier (and the need is greater) and a lower coverage for a claim that occurs at the later years (when the cost of insurance is higher). A reducing coverge of this type reduces the cost of insurance considerably.

You can insure for a smaller lump sum benefit and add an income benefit. This seems to be the best arrangement.

Reasons to avoid structured products

If you invest in a large, well diversified, low cost equity fund, you are able to earn an average return of 6% to 8% per annum, over 10 years or longer. There is risk, but this is already reflected in the average return. The risk is also reduced through diversification.

Some investors do not wish to take any risk. They like to have a safe, guaranteed return. In this case, they should just invest in government bonds, which earns about 3% per annum.

But, they like to earn more, without accepting the risk. To meet this unrealistic desire, the financial institutions came out with structured products. It involves investing in a pool of investments, and shifting the risk and return among various classes of investors.

The total return to all the investors is reduced by the cost of designing, marketing and managing the products. Collectively, the participants are worse off, after paying the high fees to the issuers, lawyers and marketeers.

Guess who gets the best deal? It must be the intelligent investors and the issuer of the structured products.

Guess who gets the worst deal? It is the unsavvy investors.

Lesson: If you do not want risk, invest in government bonds. If you want a better return, invest in a large, well diversified, low cost equity fund for 10 years or longer. Do not invest in structured products.

Financial Planning for Seniors

Two seniors read my script for a 2 hour talk on financial planning, targeted at seniors. They told me that the points are very useful.

My script an be found in Financial Planning for Seniors

I will be giving the talk as part of a 2 day program entitled "Senior Employment Guidance". It is organised by the Center for Seniors.

Taxi Service in Shanghai

Taxis are plentiful in Shanghai. It is quite easy to flag down a taxi. The flag down rate is RMB 11 (about SGD 2.20). There are no surcharges.

The taxi driver will always print a receipt for each trip. This is useful, in case you left something in the taxi or wish to complain about poor or rude service.

The taxi drivers are quite polite. They do not complain if the trip is short.

The shortcomings are:

* you have to compete with many other commuters trying to flag down a taxi
* some taxi drivers are not familiar with the destination (as Shanghai is so big and changing so fast)

I am confident that they can find a solution to these shortcomings.

Make a career switch

Dear Mr Tan,

Thanks for your prior comments on future career prospects of financial advisor.

I'm a 35yr old mid career engineer earning 5k per month, looking for a switch to a career that is more meaningful, with a purpose in live.

However, I also think i'm quite introvert, not sure if i'm really suitable to be a financial advisor that requires face-to-face sales....


My reply:

As you are drawing a fairly good salary and you are, as you indicated, an introvert, it may be better for you to stay in your current career, rather than make a career switch at this juncture.

To make a switch involve risk. This is all right, provided that the reward is attractive or the motivation is strong. It does not appear to be the case in this instance.

Center for Seniors

Dear Mr Tan,

What will be your role in Center for Seniors? What do you think will be social entreprises with viable business models that can be pursued for Singapore's Third Age?


My reply:

I am the chairman of the Center for Seniors.

The Center for Seniors will be launchiing a few programmes that are targetted at seniors. More details will be available when the website is ready.

Watch out for more announcements in the near future.

An adventure to reach my hotel in Huangshan

I visited Huangshan with my wife. We did not have any tour guide.

I booked a room in Beihai Hotel. I took a taxi from Huangshan City to Beihai Hotel. I had three luggages and expected to be taken directly to the hotel.

This is not the case.

The hotel took me to the main gate at the foot of the mountain. I was told that I had to take another taxi to the cable car station. I had to change to a crowded cable car to be taken to the station up the mountain. From there, I had to walk 1 kilometer to reach Beihai Hotel.

My luggages weighed 30 kilos.

The stall holder at the foot of the mountain advised us to leave our heavy luggages for their safe keeping, and to carry the light, essential items in a haversack (which they sold to us). We had to pay storage fee for the three days.

This suggestion turned out to be excellent. We enjoyed our stay in the mountain. On our return, our luggages were returned to us, safe and intact.

Commuter train system in Shanghai

I took the commuter train system in Shanghai.

There are five lines, numbered as line 1 to line 5. I took a taxi from my hotel to the nearby station in line 3, and took this elevated line to the Shanghai Railway station. I changed to underground line 1 to the People's Square station.

When the train leaves each station, there is an announcement in Chinese and English on the terminal station and the next station. This announcement is useful, to ensure that the commuters took the right direction.

At each station, the exits are clearly numbered as exit 1, exit 2, etc.

It is quite convenient to take the transit train. I get to know the layout of Shanghai well.

Lesson: It is better to number the lines and the stations, and also all the exits in each station. It is useful to make an announcement about the next stop and the terminal station.

Recover data in my PDA (mobile device)

I use a PDA (mobile device) to store my contact, calendar, notes and other important information.

The internal battery of my PDA died. I lost the data on my PDA.

I was able to retrieve the data from my desktop computer, as I synchronised them regularly.

I just learned, after losing the data, that I could also backup the data on the PDA into the storage card. This would have also allowed me to recover the data. I shall do it regulaly as well.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Attract and retain talent in information technology

1. What can be done to attract and retain IT (information technology) talent in Singapore?

Reply: We need to create opportunities for big IT projects to be done in Singapore, similar to the approach taken for the life sciences, but perhaps not to the same scale.

There are opportunities to develop new applications that can change the way that people live their lives or do their work. This uses the latest innovation in information and communication technology, and the internet.

Perhaps, we need a big, bold budget to create the opportunities and critical mass.

2. What can the local IT professionals do to differentiate themselves from the cheaper competition in the region?

Reply: We have to accept the higher cost of I.T. professionals in Singapore. We need to be more imaginative and productive, to justify our higher cost and compete with lower cost countries.

We need passion and love for our work. This will allow us to gain special knowledge, insight and competence to move ahead. We have to be prepared to work hard, develop our skills and think for the long term. We need to inculcate the fighting spirit.

Developing software is similar to creating a piece of art. Many people can paint a picture, but a skilled painter can create a excellent painting. I hope that our software developers can develop the skill to create a software that can be like a great work of art.

Can an actuary work in financial engineering?

1. Actuarial science and financial engineering appear to be related disciplines. Will taking actuarial science give me an edge, if I were to work in investment banks?

Reply: The actuarial knowledge will make you a good financial engineer. The skills re related.

2. I have an interest in working in banks, but not insurance related industry. Should I still pursue a degree in actuarial sciencem since actuaries work in banks as well? If I don't have an interest in working in insurance related industry, will my prospects be affected?

Reply: Some parts of actuarial knowledge are suitable for banks, but the major parts are better applied in insurance companies, investments, financial engineering and pension funds. If you wish to work in a bank, it is better to pursue another profession that is more direcly related to banking activities.

3. As an actuary, do I have to decide which area I want to specialise in, say property, pension, early in my career?

Reply: The actuary is trained in all of these areas. He is flexible and can do well in any of these areas, by specialising in the specific area. But he can switch to another area, and do well quite quickly.

4. Do actuaries make investments since their job is to calculate risks for insurance firms?

Reply: The training of an actuary is very suitable for the investment field. Many actuaries can do well as investment analysts.

5. In investment banks, do actuary and financial engineers do the same work since both deal with risks.

Reply: Financial actuaries have to analyse risks in investment products. The actuary is trained in analysing all types of risks, ie financial risks, insurance risks and other risks. The analysis of risks require knowledge in these areas:

* probability of its occurrence
* estimated amount of the loss or gain
* timing and impact on the value of money

Is it safe to invest in USD?

Dear Mr Tan,

I have US$ fixed deposit of 50K on a one year term. I kept this FD for a few years ie from the exchange rate of 1.7 till now the exhanged rate is l.52.

I am just concerned if the US go into recession will the US$ exchanged rate grow weaker and what is the likely support range if that should happen?


My reply:

I am sorry that I am not able to predict the future direction of the US currency.

Stop paying pemiums

Dear Mr Tan,

I have 3 policies with NTUC Income and 4 policies with Prudential, taken over the past 10 years.

I am now 47 years old and no longer working, having been retrenched last year. I cannot continue to pay the premiums.

My husband wants me to surrender my policies and invest the sum elsewhere where it will hopefully generate income for us.

Is it wise to surrender the policies? Are there advantages to convert them to paid up status and what are the implications? Are there other options beside converting to paid up?


My reply:

If you are not able to pay the premium, you have the following options:

* convert to a paid up policy
* terminate the policy and get a cash value
* take a loan to pay the premium

You should decide which option is best for you.

If you do not need the insurance protection and you need the money for other purpose, you can terminate the policies. But, this decision has to be taken carefully, as you cannot change your mind later.

Perhaps you should consider to surrender some of the policies and convert the other polices to "paid up". You should ask the insurance companies to give you the various options and get an adviser to help you make the best decision.

Choosing my career

Dear Mr Tan,

When you were a teen still in school or university how did you decide this is something that you wanted to do? Ever regretted or
felt you wanted to do something else?


My reply:

When I was in school, I wanted to be an engineer. Most of the top students in Raffles Institution wanted to be doctors, but I wanted to be different. I was good in mathmathics, which was a good application for engineering.

Later, I learned about the actuarial profession. I required a high level of competency in mathemathics. I thought that it was suitable for me. I decided to leave school (after secondary 4) and work in an insurance company to pursue this profession.

My school principal was surprised. He tried to encourage me to continue my studies and even offered to get a scholarship for me.

Later, he gave an introduction for me to meet the general manager of a large, local insurance company. I joined this company as a clerk.

I never looked back. I never have any regret on my past actions. I take life as it comes. I never consider myself to be so important to feel any self pity.

Waiting for the market to correct

Dear Mr Tan,

Presently, most unit trust and share prices are very high and to invest at this moment may not be worth the while and maybe by next year US will be hit by a recession.

So what is your best suggestion for investment for my retirement? Should I wait for the recession to come by before I invest?

What are other means we can look out for to invest for our future retirement? Presently I am 44 and nearing my retirement in 11 years time or maybe have to work till 62 if financially I can't retire early.

I had pay up my housing loan thru CPF so now left only about $10,000 in my ordinary account. So what is your suggestion to increase my savings and any resources I may look into to increase my wealth?


My reply:

I put most of my savings in the money market fund to earn about 3%. You can read about them in my blog.

You can also read from my website, Ask Mr Tan.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Insurance for people in poor health

Dear Mr Tan,

What is your advise for clients who are already suffering from chronic diseases. I know a friend who has diabetes, high blood and is suffering from kidney failure.

Does this mean these people will not need to buy any insurance now? its too late?


My reply:

Your friend can buy personal accident insurance.

It will be difficult to buy life or medical insurance, if his health is extremely poor. He can find out about how to use the subsidised medical facilities provided by the Government, and keep the medical bills as low as possible.

My insurance and investments

Mr Tan,

What are the types of insurance do you invests in?

My reply:

When my children were young, I took up term and life insurance. The sum assured is 5 times his annual salary. I took up a living policy for his wife, and also for my 3 children. I had comprehensive coverage for accident, medical and education.

I invest in investment-linked products for my retirement. My investments are in large, well-diversified and in low-cost plans. The returns for the past few years, is more than 10 per cent per annum.

For the next 10 to 20 years, I expect the return to be around 5 to 6 per cent. I think it is a suitable investment for everyone.

Why did I join NTUC Income?

Someone asked me, "Why did you choose to join NTUC Income?"

I joined NTUC Income by accident. I was approached.

When the selection committee interviewed me, they had three important conditions for a suitable candidate:

* must be able to run a large organisation
* must be able to lead a sales force
* must be able to manage the trade unions (who are the key shareholders)

I did not have any proven record on all three counts.

I was selected because I was the only qualified actuary who was willing to join NTUC Income, without insisting on a high salary and other conditions.

Later, I learned that other candidates were approached, but they were not willing to join NTUC Income.

How did I overcame by lack of experience?

I adopted the entrepreneurial approach. I learned how to find the right answers. Quickly, 30 years have passed.

Two types of democratic systems

There are two types of democratic systems practiced around the world:

* British system - the members of parliament (elected by the citizens) will choose a prime minister and other ministers from among themselves; usually from the winning party or a coalition

* American system - the citizens choose the members of the Congress (ie Parliament) separately from the President; the President will choose his secretaries (ie ministers) from the entire population, but they have to be approved by Congress

In recent years, I come to favour the American system. The Congress can focus on passing the laws. The elected President can choose capable persons from the entire population to run the government.

The system in Singapore is largely based on the British system. In recent years, we have modified it to have an elected President, but he has certain specified but limited responsibilities.

It is now possible for us to move towards the American system. A future elected President can appoint his ministers from anywhere in the country (including the members of Parliament). This will give a wider base to choose the leaders to run the country.

Just a thought.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Avoid this financial product

Hi Mr. TAN,

I'm curious about the SWISSCASH Investment, which my wife's colleague and family already taken-up. Can you advise in some way if this is genuine, and it's legal in Singapore?


From an email:

This guys claim that it is a very exciting Savings Programme from Swiss Mutual Fund called Swiss cash. It can help you grow your fund with 200% profits in 15 months.

Since I started on the investment in May 2006, I have already gotten 160% interest (10% interest monthly for the period May - July 2006, 15% interest monthly for the months of August - October 2006, 20% for November 2006 - January 2007, and 25% for February 2007).

I will be receiving another 25% interest for this month and next month, and 30% for the final 3. I have already recovered my principal sum in January 2007 and earned an accumulated gross profit (ie. gross amount less principal sum) of 60% up till this month March 2007. By the end of 15 months, my total profits received will be 200%!

(rest of details deleted)


My reply:

Here is the view of a financial analyst:

"I have looked into it a few times. It is a scam -- a pyramid scheme."

Invest CPF money with low risk

Dear Mr Tan,

My wife has just collected her CPF and would like to deposit or invest in a short term low risk instrument- preferably not more than 3 years with capital protection. Could you please advise.


My reply:

I suggest that your wife invest in the money market fund through flexi-cash with NTUC Income. I invest most of my money in this fund. It earns about 3% to 3.5% p.a. and has no lock up period.

Although it is not capital protected, the risk is very, very small.

You can find out more of this product at

You can also visit the business center of NTUC Income at Bras Basah Road.

Good future for an insurance adviser

Dear Mr Tan,

Is being an insurance agent/financial consultant still a viable career option now, as the market is quite saturated right now with many insurance agencies.

What is your view on financial advisor as a career option compared with say property agent?


My reply:

There is a good future for an insurance adviser who is willing to act in the interest of the customers. They can make a good income. There are so many customers who looks for an honest adviser who is willing to do the best for them.

I know of many insurance advisers in NTUC Income who offer good products to their customers, and help their customers to get a good return on their investments and good coverage at a low cost.

The insurance advisers are able to earn a fairly good level of income, say $5,000 or higher, but they work hard and effectively. They sell more insurance, even though they earn a lower rate of commisison on each sales.

Many of them continue to be successful for 10 or 20 years.

Penny stocks

Dear Mr Tan,

Could you give me some opinion on which are some penny stocks I could buy for a long term (1 to 2 yrs) investment.


My reply:

I do not invest in penny stocks. So, I cannot advice you. Sorry.

Proud of our cooperative beliefs

Message from a manager of NTUC Income.


Dear Mr Tan

I will certainly remember you fondly. There are so many memories. Even after you are gone, I hope many of us will continue to do our best for Income.

I am so proud of our co-operative beliefs. I hope we will stay this way and the future Income will be a constant source of delight for you.

You have taught me many many things. Amongst all, to stand up for what one truly believes in.

Low public opinion of financial institutions

Mr Tan

There is a recent newspaper report that show that financial institutions, especially life insurers, have a low level of trust among the public. Why is this the case?


My reply:

Many financial institutions design products with the aim of making profit for their shareholders. In many cases, their products do not offer good value to the customers.

They employ advisers to sell these inferior products to the customers. The advisers do not present the honest facts about the products.

As the products are difficult to sell, they have to pay high commission to the advisers. This makes the product even less attractive to the customers.

The customers learned, many years later, that the products give a poor return. It is too late for them to change. They are also locked into the product, as a high cost have already been incurred upfront.

This makes the customers loss trust in the financial products, the financial institutions and the advisers.

What is the alternative?

The financial institutions should design products that give fair value to the customers. They should also reduce their marketing and other cost. They can still make a fair margin on the products, but they have to serve their customers well.

Business can be runned honestly and ethically. This will win over the trust of the customers.

Better use of manpower

In a socialist economy, everyone is employed, but people do not work too hard. There are more than sufficient people to provide service to customers.

In a free market economy, the business owner try to reduce the manpower to earn more profit. Some people are unemployed. There are insufficient workers to provide good service to customers.

The unemployed people try to make a living to run a small business. There is oversupply of these enterprises. To survive, they have to work long hours. This is not an efficient use of manpower.

I have seen China move from the first situation to the second situation over the past 20 years. In my recent stay in Huangshan, I was surprised that the hotel seem to be short of service workers.

Which economic model is better?

Perhaps there is no clear answer. It probably lies between the two extremes.

Study shows why exercise boosts brainpower

I exercise regularly for more than 10 years. According to the following study, it helps to boost my brain power. From my personal experience, it looks correct.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Exercise boosts brainpower by building new brain cells in a brain region linked with memory and memory loss, U.S. researchers reported Monday.

Tests on mice showed they grew new brain cells in a brain region called the dentate gyrus, a part of the hippocampus that is known to be affected in the age-related memory decline that begins around age 30 for most humans.

The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging scans to help document the process in mice -- and then used MRIs to look at the brains of people before and after exercise.

They found the same patterns, which suggests that people also grow new brain cells when they exercise.

"No previous research has systematically examined the different regions of the hippocampus and identified which region is most affected by exercise," Dr. Scott Small, a neurologist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York who led the study, said in a statement.

Sub-prime mortgages

Dr Money

There is a lot of news about the default of subprime mortgage. What is the definition of this mortgage?


His reply:

Sub-prime mortgages are the risky ones in the US. They include interest only loans. It keeps the interest payments low.

Another type of sub-prime loan is option adjustable rate mortgages, also known as option ARMs.

They work like credit card payments. You make a minimum payment on your mortgage. It doesn't even have to cover the full amount of the interest due.

The interest that is unpaid gets added back to the principal -- which keeps growing like a mushroom cloud.

For some, it is the only way to afford expensive homes.

Of course, the loans are risky. But the interest rates are higher than prime mortgage rates -- so lenders like banks and savings and loan institutions in the US have been attracted to them.


Larry H.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Use Skype to call home

I am in China. I pay for a whole day boardband access to the internet.

I used Skype-Out to call back to family and friends in Singapoe. Skpye-Out uses the internet connection for the international call, and uses the local system to connect to the telephone of the receiver. I pay only the cost of the local Singapore call.

It is convenient. The quality of the call is good.

Unproductive competition

I visited a shopping center in Kuala Lumpur. It had more than 100 stall selling mobilephones.

I visited a seafood market in Shanghai. It had more than 100 stalls selling seafood. The products are quite similar.

In both cases, there are more stall holders than customers.

This is unproductive competition. They need less than half the stall holders to serve the customers. Maybe, they do not have to work long hours.

We need a better way, rather than the "free market" to make better use of our resources. We should avoid unproductive competition that leads to a poorer quality of life for everyone.

In Europe, where business is more regulated (some people consider it to be Over-regulated), there is a better balance between work and leisure. People can afford to have a better standard of living and lead a better quality of life.

Maybe, there is something that we can learn from Europe?

Minimum wage

Mr Tan,

I like to seek your views.

Some countries have a minimum age policy. But there is no such policy in Singapore. The reason, I understand, is that a minimum wage policy will push investors to to other countries. Do you agree?


My reply:

I am in favour of a minimum wage policy. A minimum wage will provide the worker with an income that is sufficient to make a decent living.

If there is no minimum wage, the market forces may push the wage to a low level. Our workers have to compete with foreign workers who are willing to come to work in Singapore at a low salary. The cost of feeding their family in their home country is low.

Foreign investors look at the total cost of operating in a country. The total cost comprise of:

* wages
* land
* other costs (eg inefficiency, tax, levy, corruption)

Our economy is quite efficient and corruption is not a problem. We are quite competitive to foreign investors. If wages go up, it can be compensated by a lower cost of land. The total cost can remain quite competitive.

By keeping the wages low, we are largely benefiting the land owners. This is why the cost of land is so high in Singapore.

In my view, we should raise our wages, especially at the lowest level. This is improve the living standard in Singapore. Our people do not have to work long hours, can have more time to be gracious, and maybe raise a bigger family.

Financial planning for Seniors

A detailed paper is presented in my website


This paper will be used for a course to be conduced by the Center for Seniors. The course is called Senior Employment Guidance.

Financial planning for the young

Dear Mr Tan,

I am a 19 years old girl who is currently earning to do my further education.

I am earning about $1.5k a month which is not fixed. I have a younger sister who is just 8 years old and an elder brother who is handicapped since birth. My father is doing some odd-jobs earning <$1200 a month. My mother is a housewife. Even the home which we are staying is a rented one and not owned.

I just discovered that my entire family are not covered on any plan. Not even Incomeshield.

In this situation, what kind of plan should I take so that my family is covered? Can I take any plan insuring my elder brother? Is there any plan with low premium where I can actually recommend to my parents for my sister's tertiary education?

I did browse through Income's website looking at Life Insurance Protection. There were a few choices but I am unable to decide which one is suitable for my family.

Hope you can advise me on what I can do and which plan is suitable for my family.



It is good for you to be thinking early about your financial plan.

I recommend that you read the FAQs in my website under "Ask Mr Tan". You can get some information there. If not, I suggest that you visit NTUC Income's business center and talk to a salaried consultant.

How to be creative

I have posted three interesting stories from Lee Kum Tatt and his wife, about creativity.

Lee Kum Tatt is a creative person. He and his wife like to share some stories about their adventure, over the past years, in creating the Risis orchid and in approaching creative situations.

Read about them in his blog

This will make up for the fewer postings in my blog during the period that I am in China.

Visiting Huangshan, China

I spent the last four days in Huangshan in Anhui Province. It is reputed to be the best mountain to visit in China.

I was not able to access blogspot in Huangshan. So, my posting was interrupted. I could access other websites.

I am now in Shanghai. I can access and post to blogspot.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Book for hotel rooms through the internet

My friend booked a hotel room for me in Philaphedia, United states. The room rate was USD 309 a night. I found this to be too expensive.

I checked the internet and found a room at the same hotel to be USD 160 a night.

I checked with my friend. Apparently, the hotel quoted a higher rate to his company, but offered a lower rate in the internet, on a non-cancellable basis.

Lesson: If you are willing to be committed to a non-cancelleable booking, it is better to book through the internet and enjoy a lower hotel rate.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

China - changes in 20 years

My first visit to China was in 1987. I recall my impressions of that visit:

* foreigners are required to use the "foreign exchange certificate", which has a higher exchange rate compared to the local currency.
* tourists pay a higher admission ticket to the tourist spots, compared to locals
* the toilets were unclean
* there are many people to provide service

I am now in China again, nearly 20 years later. I saw the big changes to the lifestyle and the standard of living.

* the cities are now similar to other cities around the world
* there is only one currency
* prices are now the same for locals and tourists
* there is inadequate workers to provide service

Somehow, I miss the old China.

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