Saturday, May 01, 2010

Microsoft .NET Developer

I am looking for a Microsoft .NET developer to work full time in my office in Ang Mo Kio. I prefer someone who has recently graduated from polytechnic and is living in or near Ang Mo Kio. If you are interested, send an email, with your resume, to

I have two experienced developers who responded to my previous postings. They have excellent background and good experience. I have already engaged them to work on projects. I am willing to consider additional people. send an e-mail to

Town Councils and Pinnacle Notes

I need volunteers for the following. Read the annual report of the Town Councils to identify those which invested in the Pinnacle Notes. Find out the series and amounts. Give me the name and e-mail address of the chairman and general manager of the Town Councils. Send them to

TABS - Taxi Automated Booking System

Subscribers of M1 and Singtel can call a taxi by sending a SMS with TAXI (6 digit postal code) to 79797. For example, if your home is at postal code 809744, you can send TAXI 809744.

Subscribers of Starhub do not need to send the postal code, as their location can be picked up automatically. But, they can also send the postal code if they wish.

The taxi booking fee is $1.50 (off-peak hours) and $2.50 (peak hours). This system is on trial for the next few weeks.

More details in

Tan Kin Lian

Societal harmony

Here is a view from a person who became a citizen.

Cost of living

Read this article by Seah Cheang Nee.

My comment
The big swings in the economic performance is bad for most people who watch on the sidelines and see prices move beyond their comprehensive, let alone control. However, they do benefit the wealthy, who can afford to make more profit.

Investors of Pinnacle Notes

I am told that several series of Pinnacle Notes have gone burst and the remaining series are nearly burst, i.e. market value less than 1%. Regardless of the series that you hold, you can join the legal action to sue Morgan Stanley in US Courts. This is done on a contingency fee basis, i.e. the US lawyer will only charge their fees and expenses, if the case is successful. You do not need to pay any fees, if it is unsuccessful.

Send an e-mail to giving your name, e-mail address, mobile phone, series and amount invsted.

CPF Life Annuity

Dear Mr. Tan
I read an article (link from your blg) about the pros and cons of annuities. It seems that the cons are overwhelming. What is your opinion about CPF Life annuity?

The cons apply mostly to annuities sold by comercial insurance companies, where the charges are high and the consumer does not get a fair return on the annuity. These negative points do NOT apply to CPF Life, as it is runned on a mutual basis (i.e. the CPF does not run it to make a profit), and any surplus is distributed fairly among the annuitants.

This is explained in my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning. You will also find other tips that are benefiicial to people approaching retirement.

Compensation for Pinnacle Notes

Hi Mr Tan,

I have purchased $10k of Pinnacle Notes Series 7. The current value is 0.01% I was offered 30% compensation. Should I accept or reject the compensation? Can I join the legal action after accepting compensation?

You should accept a flat 30% compensation, WITHOUT handing over your notes, and WITHOUT deduction of interest. If interest is deducted, then the net compensation is quite small, so there is no point in getting this compensation.  If you get compensation, you can still join the class action, but you must still hold the notes. Don't hand it over to the distributor.

Renewal of motor insurance

Hi Mr Tan,

I have 2 cars under my name. The first car was borrowed to a friend who then disappeared together with the car. I filed a claim for total loss. The second car was involved in an accident while going straight. Another car beat the red light and crash onto my car. This case is still being pending investigation. According to a witness on site, the other car is at fault.
Due to the claim for total loss, I am not able to renew the insurance from any insurer as the road tax is overdue. Can you advice me on what to do?

You can buy third party insurance, which covers only claims by third party. It will not cover damages or loss of your vehicle. You can take the risk on your own. Your insurance compnay should be prepared to insure you on third party insurance. If not, you can try a few other insurance companies. If they all refuse, you can seek assistance from the Land Transport Aurhority and MAS.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Good government advocacy

Read this article.

Singapore has also endorsed the principles of governance based on an accountable and transparent government, long-term orientation and social justice.

Election into Parliament

Read this article by Yoong Siew Wah.

My comment
I prefer a system where every constituency elects its own member of Parliament. I do not like the changes to the Constitution that were made during the last 20 years, especially the concept of GRC. It makes our system quite complicated and reduces the accountability of the elected person to the voters.

Loss of NRIC

Many office buildings require the visitors to hand over the NRIC in exchange for a visitor pass. This is troublesome for the visitor. There is the risk that the visitor may forget to collect back the NRIC or may misplace it after receiving it back. This has happened to me before and has occurred again recently. I have now lost my NRIC. I spent a lot of time looking for it, without success. Now, I have to apply for a new NRIC.

I do not know how keeping a person's NRIC helps to improve security in a building. It is also unfair to ask the visitor to hand over the NRIC in exchange for a visitor's pass.

Tan Kin Lian

Calling taxi by SMS

This new service will be on public trial from Friday 30 April (earlier trial on 26 April was shelved due to technical problem).

It will involve customers who hold a Starhub mobile phone. To get a taxi, use your Starhub mobile phone and send TAXI to 79797.  The taxi booking fee is $1.50 (off peak hours) and $2.50 (peak hours). It is $1 cheaper than the normal type of booking.

If a taxi is available, you will get a SMS. The taxi driver will call you by mobile phone to ask for the pick up point. If no taxi is available for 10 minutes, you will be removed from the Queue, and a SMS will be sent to you.

Watch this video for an explanation of how the system operates. You can also visit this website. (About 100 taxis have registered for this service)

Tan Kin Lian

Pros and Cons of Annuities

Read this article for the pros and cons of annuities. You can read about annuities, in the context of Singapore, from my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning. My book also gives you an alternative on how to manage your lifestime savings, by investing in a low cost investment fund and making regular withdrawals.

May Day Message

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Order Tangram book online now

The tangram book is now available. This video shows tips on solving the tangram puzzle. You can order the tangram book ($6) here.

Town councils and Pinnacle Notes

I need to know which town councils invested in the Pinnacle Notes. If you have the details, please send email to indicating:
  • Name of town council
  • Pinnacle Notes - series and amount invested
Tan Kin Lian

New fare structure for public transport

Here is a perspective of the distrance based fares.

World Cup Matches

Here are some suggestions on how to watch the games for free.

Miscellaneous Offences Act

I met Ms Jaslyn Go. She told me that she was charged for distributing flyers on a National Day. Other people distributing flyers were not charged. On my request, she gave me more details of this event.

I wonder what type of campaign or cause is subject to an offence under the Act. What about a campaign against ill treatment of animals? Or to promote a Green Earth?

2010 World Expo in Shanghai

Some photos of the World Expo, opening in Shanghai soon.

My comment
My first vist to Shanghai was 20 years ago. It was under-developed, poor and dirty. There were few cars on the road. How much has Shanghai changed in 20 years. It is a marvel!

Al Jazeera

Read this article about the coverage of Al Jazeera on the homeless in Singapore and the rebuttal by the Minister for Community Development.


Our National pledge emphases the principle of equality. A person is entitled to equal treatment in our society and should not be discriminated based on race, religion, gender or age. They are entitled to equal opportunity under a system based on meritocracy.

However, the concept of equality is subdued in a capitalist, free market system where people with the power and the money enjoy "more than equal" treatment. They can take advantage of the weak and the poor who do not have the financial resources to challenge injustice through the law courts.

Well-off parents can afford private tuition to their children to perform well in their studies and earn a scholarship and a good career in business or government. It is difficult for children from poor families to meet this competition, although some of them  are able to overcome the obstalces and have done well.

To reduce the disadvantages faced by the poor, we need national policies to achieve the following goals:
  • provide decent income through a minimum wage system
  • provide social security for old age
  • provide affordable health care
  • provide quality education to all, and not dependent on private tuition
  • strong regulation and enforcement to prevent cheating and exploitation of consumers
These policies need to be based on the principles of social justice. They will not lead to an equal society, but will reduce the vast disparities in income and opportunity that are part of the capitalist system.

Tan Kin Lian

Consumer Financial Education Body, UK

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Social democracy

Read this explanation of social democracy.

My comments
According to this defination, the social democrats are more towards the center compared to democratic socialists.

Read the benefit illustration

I get requests from the public for my views on whether a certain insurance product is suitable for them. I advise them on the following:

a) Ask the agent to provide the benefit illustration to you
b) Ask the agent to explain the full contents of the benefit illustration
c) Insist on a clear explanation on every item in the benefit illustration
d) No not buy the policy until you are convinced that it clearly meets your needs and provide good value for money.
e) Look at the distribution cost and effect of deduction (as explained in my book on financial planning)

I find that most life insurance policies provide poor value as an investment product and should be avoided. I have looked at many benefit illustrations and they tend to confirm my general impression that these products are:

a) high cost
b) give poor value to consumers
c) have a lot of vague and unreliable projections

The only ife insurance policy that you should buy are term insurance for a duration of up to 25 years. These points are explained in my book. I urge you to read my book, rather than ask me to give my views peculiar to the products that is being sold to you.

You can buy my books online at

Tan Kin Lian

Valuation of a property

This writer said that the bank officer indicated that the valuer will value the property at a higher price to get a bigger loan.

My comment
The buyer should avoid paying a high price for the property as this means a higher monthly repayment over many years. Pay a price that is within your earning capacity (i.e. not more than 5 years of your family income). This is explained in my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning.

Experience with Property Agent

Dear Mr Tan,
The property market here is so sh.... lately. I relate to you of my latest experience with one of the agents from a well known real estate company.

I called one of their agents to ask for a particular new condo in a hot area which my son is interested in.This  agent called me and lied to me that he has a unit and quoted me a unit price which I feel was quite attractive. We then arrange for an appointment to meet at the site, but this is all bxxxx, as he does not have the unit but want to test the demand for this place. They want to escalate the market.

Very nicely, he fixed an appointment with me, but when the day comes he called me to say that the demand is overwhelming, the price he quoted earlier is no longer valid and he cannot deliver, his colleagues have sold the units in this locality at a much higher price. Please help everybody not to fall into this kind of trap by the housing estate agents.


US Congress - Goldman Sachs

Mr. Tan Kin Lian,

There is another more interesting news on the Goldman investigation. The e-mail record of Fabrice Tourre is quite telling. He is the 31-year old nicknamed "Fabulous Fab" who brokered the deal. You may read the link (

In an even more blunt description, Tourre calls the CDOs he produced "intellectual masturbation" and likens himself to Dr. Frankenstein. "When I think that I had some input into the creation of this product (which by the way is a product of pure intellectual masturbation, the type of thing which you invent telling yourself: 'well, what if we created a 'thing', which has no purpose, which is absolutely conceptual and highly theoretical and which nobody knows how to price?") it sickens the heart to see it shot down in mid-flight...It's a little like Frankenstein turning against his own inventor ;)"

A social democracy

Some commenters in my blog described Mr. Lee Kuan Yew as a "communist". This description is not appropriate. Mr. Lee has fought against the communist after becoming prime minister of Singapore. His policy has always been anti-communist. He has put many alleged communists under detention without trial for as up to three decades.

One of the detainee is Dr. Lim Hock Siew. I first recognised this name on the signboard of a clinic in Balestier Road, near where I lived. At that time, I knew that Dr. Lim was detained because he was a member of the Barisan Socialis. I did not know of his background then.

Recently, I read an article about Dr. Lim after he was released from detention. He explained that his philosophy was for social justice. He advocated giving the people better wages, living conditions and a better life. They are the same type of values that I am advocating now. If this is what the communists advocate, it is not that bad after all.

Many people associate communism with oppressive regimes that are found in some countries around the world. But oppressive regimes can also be found in so-called democratic countries where the leaders abuse the state and military powers to retain their political dominance. The types of abuse vary in degree - in some cases they are subtle and in other cases, they are blatant.

We can also see countries that allow democracy adn free expression to get out of hand, leading to a breakdown of law, order and authority. This is also to be avoided.

My preference is a "social democracy". It is a truly democratic society where the will of the people is respected and the government is elected freely. The government promotes social justice through the regulation of the economy to promote a fairer distribution of wealth and opportunity and to prevent excessive accumulation of wealth by a small segment of the people, often by immoral means.

There are many examples of social democracies that have succeeded to give a good life to the people and have a high ranking in the quality of life indicators. They include several countries in Scandanivia and Europe, Canada and Australia. They become the top choice for migrants.

Tan Kin Lian

Quote from Lim Hock Siew's video
The future of socialism

After 50 years when the club was formed, the socialist movement all over the world has suffered a lot of setbacks and even defeats and some wonder whether we are still relevant. The recent economic crisis, the recent financial crisis, has once again exploded the corruption and immorality of the capitalist system and feel that human beings should deserve something better than a aystem that is generated by greed and by corruption,.

Market in panic

Read this article.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Legal case against land banking company

Read this story.

Be an Interim Manager

A friend told me that he has registered to be available to work as an interim manager for a company that needs someone to work for the short term, while they look for a permanent manager. You can download this brochure and contact this company if you are keen to join their pool of interim managers to work in your area of expertise.

Where's my car

Here is a gadget that can help to locate your car quite far away.

Foreign Currency Fixed Deposits

Dear Mr Tan,

I have just started a Foreign Currency FD blog: . This allows Singaporeans to access information about FCFD at a glance, rather than searching the websites of individual banks. Would you like to add a link from your blog?
The URL is also shown on the right panel of this blog.

Your may find it not worthwhile to invest in foreign currency fixed deposit for the short term. You  have to incur a spread of 1% (or more) to convert from SGD to foreign currency and to convert back to SGD, reducing the yield on the fixed deposit. If you invest for a longer term, it may be all right.

Improve transport system

Three years ago, I wrote an article on our transport system in Singapore. It was publised in the features pages of the Straits Times. It contained several recommendations to improve our transport system, including the hub-and-spoke system. The article is published here.

Bus stop numbers

Publised in the Straits Times Forum page, 27 April 2010

Fifty years ago, there were a few main roads leading to different parts of Singapore. The milestones on these roads were used to identify the destinations for travellers.

Singapore has grown many times over the years and now has many roads. Now, it is not practical to use the milestones to identify locations. Some people use buildings or block numbers but it is not easy to locate these signs.

We need to find another way to make it easy for people to find their destination. I suggest that the bus stops be used as markers. As each bus stop has already been given a unique 5 digit number, the number could be displayed in a large sign above the bus stop, to be visible from far away.

This large sign will make it easy for commuters to identify the bus stop to alight and also be aware when they have missed their bus stop, as the numbers are likely to be in sequential order.

These markers can also be used to give directions to taxi and car drivers, for example, “drive along Yio Chu Kang road until you pass bus stop 55079 and take the first turn to the left”.
Tan Kin Lian


One key pillar of Singapore society is the principle of justice. There are written laws in Singapore and legal cases to determine what is legally right and wrong and what are crimes (which has to be prosecuted by the state) and what are civil wrongs (which has to be taken up by the plaintiff in a civil suit).

For example, murder, robbery and violent assault are crimes that has to be investigated and prosecuted by the state. It is not possible for a small citizen to find the money to carry out the investigation and to prosecute the offender. Even if the citizen has the money, they do not have the state power to carry out the investigation and gather evidence. These matters have to be handled by the state.

Cheating cames in a grey area. If one person claims that another person has cheated him, it could be considered as a civil offence that has to be prosecuted individually.

However, if several people complained that they have been cheated under a common mode of operation, it warrants investigation by the authority. This is more urgent when the target of the complaint had advertised their product in the mass media to reach out to a large number of people and continues their mode of operation after complaint has been received.

If the authority carried out an investigation, this mere act would probably put the party under alert and prevent them from continuing their activity blatantly. At the least, it would prevent other ignorant parties from being harmed.

Another option for the police is to carry out the investigation secretly and gather evidence. In some cases, they may carry out what is called a "sting" opertion, i.e. to simulate a case and gather the evidence.

The attorney general in a country is not only the lawyer of the government. This office is also the lawyer of the people. It has the duty to ask for potential wrong doings to be investigated by the police and to prosecute the offender, if sufficient evidence is gathered.

This would strenthen the rule of law and uphold the principle of justice in a country. It is important that all citizens should have access to justice and fairness, regardless of their financial wealth and ability to pay for a civil suit. If you look at the scale of justice, it has to be balanced and not weighted in favor of the rich and powerful.

Tan Kin Lian

Monday, April 26, 2010

Financial services in Australia

Here are the changes to the legislation on financial services in Australia. Payment of commisison to financial advisers will be banned, to ensure that they put the interest of their clients at the forefront.

Developer familiar with C++

I am looking for a developer who is familiar with C++ to be trained to work on the Qt language that can be used for many mobile platforms. If you are interested to work full time, send a resume to

Public Opinion on the Mainstream Media

Bryan Ti said that my article on "An Accountable Parliament" contained a hidden suggestion that the mainstream media is biased against the "opposition" candidates. He asked me to provide evidence to substantiate my point.

I am voicing an opinion tht is shared by many people. The public see what is going on and form their opinion. If you want the public to form a different opinion, you have to give them the reason to change that opinion. After all, this is what public opinion is all about.

I want to share a story. Twenty five years ago, I invited a retired Englishman, and a good friend, to stay in my house for three months. After a week, he told me, "Kin Lian, what kind of rubbish is the ST producing". I was taken aback. He said that the ST presented only the favorable aspect of government policies. It is not possible for any policy to have only one side; there is always another side. In the UK, the papers will write both sides and let the public make their judgement.

Many Singaporeans may not be aware about the hidden bias in the reporting of the mainstream media. I hope that Bryan Ti is right that the mainstream media is now more balanced in their reporting. However, this has to be an opinion that is made by the general public on their own volition.

Tan Kin Lian

A corrupt system

Long distance bus routes

Here is the reply from the Government about the change to the long distance bus routes.

My comments
I prefer a system of express buses that operate from one interchange to another. It can travel a long distance and have a few stops. Commuters can take the feeder bus to catch the express bus at the interchanges and the limited express stops. The travelling time will be reduced. Although the commuter has to make some transfer, it is good exercise and is similar to transfers to catch the train.

General election - TV debate

This writer suggest that a debate on TV for the political parties contesting in the general election.

My comment
It is a good suggestion.

Key priorities for Singapore

It is important for the next Parliament to have elected leaders who can reflect the wishes of the people. The key priorities, as expressed through various channels, are:

1. Job opportunity for young and mature workers
2. Lower cost of living
3. Affordable housing
4. Better wages and job security
5. Higher interest rate on savings
6. Better work-life balance
7. Lower transport cost, more comfort and convenience
8. Affordable health care
9. A less crowded environment

I hope that the candidates will campaign hard to provide solutions to these key priorities.

Tan Kin Lian

Buyback of Yield 15 Policy

A policyholder was sold the Yield 15 which provided a payout of 3% per annum. During a volatile period a few months ago, the insurance company offered a 100% payback of the investment, less all the interest coupons that were paid. The policyholder, on the advice of her children, decided to accept the payback offer and to lose the interest. At that time, the market price of the investment was around 90. She was afraid that the investment could drop further and in the worst case, be worth nothing.

In the subsequent months, she found that the price of the investment had improved and there is a good chance that it would safely reach the maturity period with a 100% payback. She regretted her decision to accept the payback offer and losing the 15% interest (i.e. 3% for 5 years).

I told her that she made the right decision at that time. Some investors of certain series of Pinnacle Notes had lost the entire investment due to the failure of a certain number of entities. This could have happened to her Yield 15. It is better to be safe than sorry.

She should not think about the 15% that she had lost. Her actual loss is only 5% (i.e the fixed deposit rate of interest for 5 years). She should not count the higher rate of 3% which is for a more risky product.

My same comment will apply to policyholders who accepted the payback offer from Great Easter Life on the GreatLink Choice (which is a similar product).

Tan Kin Lian

For the benefit of the future generation

A retired couple told me that they invested more than $500,000 in mini-bonds, yield 15 and equity-linked notes. There financial products were recommended to them by their bank relationship manager as being better than fixed deposits and paying a yield of 3% or 5%. The risks were not explained to them at that time.

The money came from a lifetime of hard work and prudent savings. They lost more than 30% of the total invested amount. Their complaint to FIDREC was dismissed, although they felt that they had a strong case of mis-selling. The wife felt the sense of injustice to be so strong that she wanted her family to emigrate from Singapore.

I told them that the chance of being accepted into another coutnry is small, as they are already in their 60s. Most countries accept immigrants who are younger, as they do not want retirees to benefit from their health care and pension systems. I also advised them to think about the 70% that they had recovered, rather than the 30% that they lost.

Furthermore, it is better to stay in Singpaore and speak against injustice, so that the system can be changed for the benefit of the future generation.

Tan Kin Lian

Sunday, April 25, 2010

General election

Read this article by Lucky Tan.

My comments
This is an excellent article. It is written in a style that is far superior to what I am able to write.

Circle Line (MRT)

I took my first ride on the extended Circle Line yesterday from Dhoby Ghaut to Bras Basah. It was an enjoyable ride. The walking distance between the platforms from the NE Line and Circle Line was quite acceptable.

On my return journey, I took the Circle Line from Bras Basah to Bishan to change to the NE Line. Although the distance and travelling time is longer, I could get a seat, as the train is not crowded.
This new line has expanded the capacity of the train system and should be able to give the commuters a more comfortable ride.

The Circle Line allows commuters from the North to get to Tampines or Changi by changing at Bishan to Paya Lebar. It took 6 stops, compared to 13 stops from Bishan to Raffles City and to Paya Lebar on the NE Line and the EW Line.

If I travel light, I will go to airport from my home by train and return by train.

Tan Kin Lian

An accountable Parliament

General election may be held in Singapore during the next six to 12 months. It is important for Singaporeans to vote wisely for a candidate who can best represent their views in Parliament. It is preferable for the elected MP to be able to be a full time MP, as much time is needed to understand the views of the people and to initiate and  debate legislation in Parliament.

The candidate should be quite well educated but need not be a corporate leader. It is more important that the candidate should be sincere, competent (as an elected leader) and be willing to serve the people. There are at least two members of the current parliament that meets this description. We need to have more elected leaders of this type.

At election time, the mainstream media will focus on the negative aspects of some candidates. The voters should be aware of the bias of the media and understand that it takes a lot of personal sacrifice and courage for some candidates to stand for election to be a voice of the people in parliament. We should look at their positive aspects and be ready to give them a chance.

The above views are shared by the majority of the people who participated in a survey held a few motnhs ago. The results of this survey are shown here.

The aim is to have a Parliament that reflects the views of the people and to approve legislation and government policies that are good for the country and the people.

Tan Kin Lian

Payment of commission

Some financial advisers have complained about not receiving the commission on policies that they have sold based on the unfair practice of their advisory firm or the insurance company. An insurance adviser approached me to air this problem. While the advisers are being bashed (sometimes unfairly), they also face problems of their own.

Here is a letter of complaint to the papers (but not relating to the insurance industry).

Vista product

Hi Mr Tan,
I bought a investment product named Vista for nearly a year now. I just re-read the policy document and felt that the financial planner had not clearly explained to me the product. The product is an ILP and not what I understood as a normal mutual fund. I realised the costs are high and the surrender value can be significantly lower than total premiums paid in early years of the policy.

Can you advise where I can get help to surrender the policy at no or minimum loss, on grounds of mis-selling?

Please approach FISCA at they charge an admin fee of $50 and will help you to write a complaint to FIDREC. The chance of getting redress is uncertain, but is worth a try.

Subsidy for public transport

Many people may not realise that public transport is subsidised in Singapore. The government pays for the huge cost of the infrastructure for the MRT system. The public is free from this high cost and has to pay for the operating cost plus the operator's profit margin. I was told that the bus opeators received quite significant subsidy (but details are not available to me). This is why train and bus fares are much cheaper than in some cities, such as London.

I feel that taxis should also be considered as public transport and should receive some subsidy, although not to the same extent as for buses and trains. This will make taxi fares less costly and encourage more people to take taxis, rather than to drive private cars.

A taxi can be used several times a day, and can replace 5 to 10 private cars. It create employment for taxi drivers and allows the commuter to relax, read or communicate on the mobile phone. This improves the productivity. There is less need to build more parking spaces for the private cars.

There may be a fear that lower taxi fares will entice people to use taxis instead of buses and trains. The impact is likely to be small, as taxis will still cost 3 to 5 times of the other modes of transport. The real impact wil be to reduce the demand for private cars. 

I hope that the policy makers will review their thinking and consider taxis as another form of public transport and be eligible for some subsidy or be relieved from some taxes or levies, such as ERP.

Tan Kin Lian

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