Saturday, June 26, 2010

Separation from Malaysia

Here are some views about the historic occasion 45 years ago, and some speculation about the future.

Cost of insurance

Singapore has low mortality rate (death rate) among young people. The rate for most working people below 50 years is less than 0.5 per 1,000. At this death rate, the cost of insurance to provide $300,000 should be less than $300 (after allowing for expenses and profit of the insurance company). You can get this type of coverage at this low rate from group insurance scheme offered to memebrs of SAF, SAFRA, trade unions and public officers.

Many people, however, are now paying 10 to 20 times of this premium to get a similar coverage. The only reason for paying so much is that the part of the premium is being invested to get a return. If this is the argument, then it is important that the yield on the premium that is invested should be attractive, compared to other types of investments. But this is not the case, as most life insurance policies give a return of less than 2% per annum over a long period. A fair return should be 4%, but this is being taken away from the high expenses of the insurance company.

The advice given by many insurance agents are not helpful. On the one hand, they argue that the life insurance policy gives a return on the premium, and argue against term insurance (which does not provide any return). But, when they are confronted with the fact that the return is too low, they changed their tune to argue about the importance of having insurance cover to protect the family. Sadly, the cost of the insurance products that they offer for protection is too high.

Insurance agents face a dilemma. If they offer the products that are good for consumers, they are not able to earn a high income. They can only earn more by selling products that "rip off" the unsavvy consumers.

Some insurance agents are honest and ethical and genuinuely wish to give the right advice to their customers. However, customers are not willing to pay an adequate fee for the time that is spent. And these insurance agents are not able to get sufficient business to make give an adequate income.

What is the solution? The growth on online portals that offer insurance directly is one useful step. Another important step is for consumers to be educated about financial matter. They can join FISCA ( and attend the talk on financial planning offered by FISCA.

Consumers can also get useful tips from my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning.

Tan Kin Lian

Rechargeable torchlight with locator lamp

Watch this video on the special features of this torchlight. The torchlight ($6.50) can be ordered here.

Local Transport

A good form of local transport is car sharing and bicycle sharing. It should be operated on a licence given by the town council and should operate for short distance within a town. The purpose is to bring people from their home to the town center, MRT station or bus interchange and to bring them back. By using shared bicycles and electric cars, the vehicle are used for several trips each day and reduce the space required for parking.

There is a maintenance cost, due to the high usage of the vehicles, but the cost to the consumer should be much lower than the cost of a privately owned bicycle or electric car. There is less hassle in looking for a parking space.

This type of sharing arrangements need to be initiated by the authority, as they have the power to set aside space for parking, right of way on the roads and overcome other obstacles. Several cities in Europe have taken the step to make these operations available.

In many residential areas in Singapore, the car parking lots and side roads are congested with parked cars. It is quite a hassle to drive through these roads or to find a parking space. The situation has become quite bad. The situation can be remedied by introducing the sharing schemes.

To make it work, we need the authoruty to the town councils to initiate this scheme and to overcome the regulatory overlap between the various ministries and agencies.

Tan Kin Lian


My friend wanted to organise a trip to a fruit farm in Sik, Kedah, Malaysia. I went the RED Map, type in the location in the box, and found the map immediately. I had to zoom the map to get its location, relative to Penang.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wisdom on How to Live Life Vol 2

Volume 2 of this book by Dr. Tommy Wong is now available at ($25).

Car sharing scheme in Paris

My friend from Paris gave me an update of the city's proposed car sharing scheme. It will involve 3,000 electric-operated vehicles. The city is inviting proposals from private sector operators to run the car sharing scheme, which is expected to operate from 2012.

This is an interesting approach. The city government is able to find the parking spaces and clears the regulatory hurdles. The private sector will operate the schemes under some regulated pricing.

The advantage of the proposed car sharing scheme are:
- use of electric vehicles, which is friendly for the environment
- each vehicle can be shared by many users in a day (save parking space) and reduced number of vehicles

I hope that a similar scheme can be set up in each of the towns in Singapore to provide local transport from residential areas to MRT stations and bus terminus.

Tan Kin Lian

Late submission of critical illness claim

Dear Mr. Tan,
My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer stage three in 2007. At that time, we did not realised she had a ILP with X and critical illness cover was attached to the plan. We shifted house in the process and only realised the policy existence when we went back to collect our mails. The fact is the policy is still in force because the cash value is being taken to finance the policy, including of its critical illness cover.

Now X is asking us to furnish a memo explaining why we made the claims so late. I'm concerned whether X will make good the claim because its a genuine oversight on our part.

Can you advise me on how we should revert to X and honestly in your opinion, do you think the chances of us getting the claim is good?
You can state your facts honestly, that you were not aware about the insurance policy previously. You made the claim as soon as you realised that there was a cover. I think that X should accept your claim. If they reject it, you can consult a lawyer.

Cash back policy

Comment posted in my blog (edited)
The whole idea of cash back is to confuse the consumers. Imagine the executive financial consultants cannot calculate and know little about this product, how do you expect the consumers to understand.

One social enterprise launched another product recently. These consumers will be in for a good ride when they find out that the projected return will not be delivered after 10 years. These consumers deserve it for trusting their agents. Don't know whether to pity the consumers or not.Consumers may think the cashbacks are interest earned. They are actually your own money returned to you as cash back. The agents are silent on this. The agents were trained not to mention anything until you ask. They tell the customers the points that 'sound' good and suppress the risk to the consumer.

My comment
The insurance agent compares the yield of these cash back product (around 1% per annum) with the low rate of interest on bank deposits. This comparison is wrong. Consumers should not lock their savings for 10 years or longer at the low yield. A fairer comparision is the yield on government bonds of the same duration, which should be more than 2% per annum. Furthermore, the government bonds are liquid and can be sold at a fair market price, without the heavy penalty that is found in a life insurance policy.

Learn about the "effect of deduction" from Practical Guide on Financial Planning

The Awakening

Read this inspiring article.

Some key points:
- stop judging and pointing fingers
- honesty and integrity are the foundations to build a life
- stop trying to control situations, people an doutcome

Shield claim

Dear Mr Tan,

A few months back my father went to hospital to do a post-hostpitalisation treatment of immunotherapy for bladder cancer. He is insured under Enhanced IncomeShield Policy and NTUC said that as the date of treatment exceeds 90 days from the date of hospitalisation (it was 93 days) they are not liable to pay.In fact, we got the doctor to write a letter of appeal but it was rejected. Would you know how we can appeal for this?

Please ask the insurance company to give you a written reply for their rejection, i.e. to quote the clause from the policy about the coverage and their reason for rejection.

I believe that the policy does cover outpatient treatment for cancer. Can you see if your father's condition fits into this outpatient treatment? It is not related to the 90 day period from post-hospitalisation. I am not familiar with the exact coverage, so my remarks needs to be checked against clarification from the insurance company.

2 million visitors

Congratulations to the following winners for being the 2,000,000th visitor to

Clarence Goh
Vincent Choy
Chua Wei Lin
Eddy Lim
Aik Theng Chong
Kelvin Chin
Teo Aik Kiat

Please get your friends to visit my blog,

Open market create jobs

I saw an ad on CNN from the International Chamber of Commerce. It said, "Open Markets Create Jobs". I reflected on this message. It is a strong, appealling message, but is it true?

It is certainly true in some respects. The jobs are created in developing countries. But it came at a big price for these countries.

Look at what is happening in China. Many workers found that the wages could not keep up with the cost of living. They are taking industrial action and go on strike. This would be unthinkable in a communist country where the trade unions are under the control of the Government. But, it is happening, and the Government seemed to find it difficult to maintain the industrial harmony.

The jobs that went to the developing countries were at the expense of the same jobs that were lost in their home countries. Looking at the global picture, the number of jobs may not have increased. Instead the wage cost has come down, and that allows more profit for the capital owners.

These jobs were also made at the expense of public sector jobs that could improve the quality of life for the people, i.e. teachers, health care, community services, etc. With globalisation, more people are now working in jobs that product material goods, at the expense of public service jobs that help to make a balanced, better life for the people.

We need a new way of looking at jobs in its totality. If the trend continues as it had for the past two decades, we will have a less stable a less happy environment.

Tan Kin Lian

Thursday, June 24, 2010

FISCA talk on Financial Planning - 26 June, 3 to 6 pm

FISCA is organising a talk on financial planning as follows:

Title: Financial Planning - A Practical Guide
Time: 3 to 6 pm
Venue: SMU School of Business
Date: 26 June 2010
Speaker: Tan Kin Lian

This is a repeat of the same talk that wsa held in May and was attended by a full house.
Register for the talk:  register.


New life insurance products

Many new life insurance products introduced in the Singapore market recently provide a poor deal for customers. It is difficult for the customer to calculate the yield on their savings, as the new products offer cash payback at certain intervals.

The products offer a poorer yield compared to the traditional products (which already provided a low yield). To get the cash payback, the policyholder has to pay an additional premium that is at least 10% more than the payback. For example, if the cash payback is $2,000 a year, the policyholder has to pay an additional premium of at least $2,200 and get the cash payback only the second year only (i.e. no payback in the first year).

Does it make sense for you to save an additional $2,200 a year to get back $2,000? It does not, but the insurance agent is trained to tell you that this is a policy that gives you cash back!

There are other products that require you to pay premium for a certain number of years and pay back the benefit over a few years later. It is quite complicated to calculate the yield, but the yield is quite low (from the few examples that I have seen).

The only way to know if you are getting a fair deal is to look at the "effect of deduction" and the "distribution cost" shown in the benefit illustration. Although it come is many pages and is hidden among a lot of other distracting information, you can ask for these figures to be shown to you, as they are mandatory. You should also read my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning to learn how to interpret these figures and to get the benchmark on what are the fair figures.

Tan Kin Lian

Buying stocks

Buying stocks is like buying a used car. You have to spend time and attention to make sure that you buy the right stock and pay the right price. Read this article. Do not listen to tips from friends or ask for their advice.

My observation
If you are not sure which stock to buy, buy the STI ETF. It is invested in the shares of the 30 largest companies listed in the SGX. It has low transaction and annual management fee. You can mitigate the risks of investing in this ETF by following the principles explained in Practical Guide on Financial Planning.

Another alternative is to invest in a life insurance policy, provided that you are able to find a product that offers a low "effect of deduction" as explained in that book.

Filial piety

Here are some letters from readers about the TV ad created by the Government agency to promote filial piety in Singapore.

Lesson on tolerance

Ad does not convey correct values

TV ad on filial piety was effective

Favour elderly parents whom we owe so much

Filial piety not a simple matter

Lifestyle in Dubai

Dubai has an attractive residential development called the Dubai Marina. It must have more than 100 high class apartment blocks, with excellent restaurants, shopping, recreational, sports and other facilities. It now has a Metro station which can bring the residents to the places of work in the financial and business districts along Sheik Zayed Road.  There are many large shopping malls along the Metro line. This locality is quite attractive for expatriates.

There are also many new, top end residential apartment blocks located near the offices, for people who prefer to live close to the office.

The modern lifestyle in Dubai can be quite attractive. Most people are put off by the hot climate, but I found that the hot summer was quite bearable for short stays outside. Most of the time, the people are in air conditioned office, homes and cars. The other seasons are pleasant. The Metro trains and shopping malls in Dubai are not as crowded as Singapore.

Tan Kin Lian

Transport in Dubai

I spoke to several taxi drivers during my trip around Dubai yesterday to try out the Dubai Metro and visit Dubai Mall. They came from overseas, but have been living in Dubai for many years.

It is quite easy to get a taxi in Dubai as there is adequate supply. The fare is slightly more expensive than Singapore but is fixed for all taxis and is based on distance. There is no surcharge for time and location. It fare system is easy for commuters and taxi drivers.

The taxis provide a useful link for the first and last legs of the journey, with the main part of the journey being the Metro trains.

There are bus services that provide this connection for the local people who are familiar with the bus systems. However, the bus systems is still not well developed in Dubai.

Tan Kin Lian

Replace a NRIC

Someone complained that $100 is too much to pay for a replacement of NRIC. Apart from this fee, they have to go through a lot of trouble, including visiting the crowded SIR office near Lavendar station.

The NRIC office said that $100 is the cost of replacing a NRIC. Is this so? There are many organisations that issue membership card with photograph. They do not charge $100 for a replacement card.

Most people take care of their NRIC and do not lose it due to carelessness. Many organisations ask for NRIC to record visitors. For it to be used often, it is quite easy for it to be misplaced.

I hope that the NRIC office should consider that $100 is a lot of money for students and low income earners. They should avoid levying excessively high charges.

Tan Kin Lian

Easy Tangram

Vera, 3 year old, tries the Easy Tangram on iPhone. She is making the shape of a camel.

Marina Bay Sands

When will it reach full capacity? Read two forecasts here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dubai in summer

I am now in Dubai. The outside temperature at noon is 40 degree C. I left the Dubai Metro to take a taxi back to my hotel in this temperature. Although it was hot, it was bearable. As the air is dry, it was not uncomfortable, unlike the humid climate in Singapore. Dubai is in a temperate region. It is hot in summer, but quite pleasant in the other seasons.

Weekend Car

Dear Mr Tan,

In March, my husband drove his weekend car on a weekday to run our errants. In the evening, my pet dog passed away. We forgot to apply for a e-day licence due to arrangement for cremention of my pet. The next day, my husband remembered and went down personally to LTA to seek their assistance for the oversight. To our surprise, we received a fine of $500 for this omission 3 months later !
I tried to appeal to LTA, as this was not an "intentional cheating" and had reported it the following day. However, they refused to waive the fine of $500!
This "e-system" was implemented in January to convenient people with weekend cars. However, it is also a "TRAP" if we forgot to apply for the e-day licence. Just imagine a fine of $500 for a first time offence, imposed on an honest owner who reported the oversight!

SCMP: UK will scrap its Financial Services Authority

22 Jun 2010

With Britain deciding to scrap its super-regulator - the Financial Services Authority (FSA) - after 12 years, it is a perfect opportunity for our officials to use the British reform plan as a reference for Hong Kong's way forward.

The FSA, which covers everything from banks, brokers, listed companies and asset management firms, was said to be too big to handle the financial crisis effectively. It is to be replaced by a Prudential Regulatory Authority under the central bank to govern the financial strength of all institutions, while also setting up a consumer protection and markets agency.

Hong Kong's problem is the exact opposite of Britain's. While Britain has one regulator that has become too big to move, we have too many regulators for different sectors.

Our banks are regulated by the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, brokers by the Securities and Futures Commission, insurance companies by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and pension funds by the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority. Oh yes, and don't forget the SFC and the Hong Kong stock exchange share responsibility for the regulation of listed companies.

The British reform plan, to be implemented in two years, is similar to Australia's model, which has one watchdog for the financial strength of institutions and another to regulate the conduct of individual salespersons. This "twin-peak" model is favoured by the SFC but not by the HKMA.

White Collar has always said the main problem with a fragmented regulatory structure is inconsistency. In the Lehman Brothers minibonds fiasco, customers who bought the products from banks got 60 per cent to 70 per cent of their money back, while those who bought them from brokers got 100 per cent.

When customers buy investment products from banks, the transactions are recorded on audio tapes. This does not happen when buying from insurance agents.

From January next year, customers over 65 years of age will have to wait two days before banks execute orders to buy structured products for them. Meanwhile, this HKMA regulation does not apply to people buying the same products from brokers.

Some of the smallest independent financial advisers who have been told by the SFC to stop selling fund products are likely to switch to offering insurance- or fund-based investment-linked products, taking them off the securities watchdog's radar screens.

The current Hong Kong regulatory model is very outdated because the boundaries between the various arms of the finance sector have become blurred.

The banks are selling everything from securities and funds to insurance policies while insurance agents are also selling investment-linked products. On top of that, neither the bank nor the insurance sales people are subject to SFC regulations. Investors can easily become victims of such a fragmented model.

In the United States and Britain, customer protection has been a priority of their reform plans. In Hong Kong, however, we may have many regulators but we do not have a customer protection agency.

When the FSA was set up in 1998, the Hong Kong government was asked if it would be following suit, only to be told to "wait and see".

We have waited for 12 years and now the FSA is going to be scrapped. In the meantime our government has done nothing. How much longer should we wait for reform?

ILP fund

Dear Mr Tan,
I am currently reading up on Unit Trusts and ILPs. Are all ILPs invested in Unit Trusts?

An ILP operates like a unit trust. The insurance company put the ILP premium into a fund and invest the fund in shares, bonds, unit trusts and other assts. The ILP fund is divided into units. The price of each unit of the ILP fund is calculated daily based on the underlying value of the assets, divided by the number of units. Hence, the ILP fund is managed like a unit trust. Usually, the insurance company managed the investments of the ILP fund using their inhouse fund managers, but they may also outsource the investing to external fund managers.

Quiz 6-1

Latest: Two more days remaining before the close of this quiz on 26 June.
Take part in this Quiz and win a prize (to be selected among correct entries by a draw).
Here is your last chance.
A new Quiz 6-2 will start on 27 June.

2 millionth visitor - 7 winners

7 readers sent to me their screen shots showing that they are the 2 milionth visitors. They sent their replies within 5 minutes. I am acknowledging all 7 as the winners. They are asked to send to me their mailing address and their choice of books. Congratulations to all 7 winners.

Tan Kin Lian

2 million visitors

Will the person who is recorded as the 2 millionth visitor to my blog take a screen shot  (or print out the webpage) of this achievement and send it to I will give you a prize (i.e tangram book or financial planning book..

Tan Kin Lian

Occupants of a property

Read this letter.

It seems that a person who did not update his address can still borrow money using a NRIC showing the old address. The new occupant at that address faces the harrassment by the loan shark. It seems that nothing can be done about this matter by the authority (i.e. NRIC office).

I suggest that the name of the occupant of an address should be available for checking by the public (and it is already public as shown in the telephone directory), unless the occupant wish it to be kept private. This will allow, for example, a party to a transaction (e.g. loan) to search that a correct address has been given. It will also allow the legal occupant to identify people who are using the address without authority, and for the name to be removed from that address.

I wonder if the NRIC office is still keeping to the old mindset that the address is "confidential". This mindset is causing difficulty to the new occupant at the address.

Tan Kin Lian

Impartial financial advice

Dear Mr. Tan,
Is there any independent financial firm that provides:
a. product neutrality
b. financial planner measured NOT by financial product sales revenue

I would like to be a true financial planner where I can advice my clients base on what I think is right for them rather than being influenced by:
a. product commissions
b. management pushing for sales numbers for a certain product
c. management pushing for overall sales numbers

Thank you for much! I am a newbie in financial sector and trying to break into it.

There are a few independent financial firms. You have to meet and talk to them. I do not know whether they are target driven or focused on giving impartial advice.  You can try to talk to (names removed).

China - success story

Dear Mr. Tan
Here is an interesting article.

US President Obama visited China recently, primarily to find out what exactly & how exactly China is doing things that makes it such a success story, surpassing all the so-called "expert economic planners" of the US & Europe. His team found these 5 basic lessons behind China 's success.

The Chinese believe in Setting Goals, Making Plans, & Focusing on Moving Ahead - there is always the sense of foward motion. As an example, a huge 6-lane highway in Shanghai took only 2 years from planning to ready for traffic. In the US, 2 years will only get you the environment and local authority permit if you are lucky.

The Chinese are obsessed with ensuring kids get the right education - English, Maths & Science. They made sure that their education system reached even the most remote rural areas - today the literacy rate in China is OVER 90%, surpassing even the USA 's 86%. According to American Educationists, the Chinese kids are way ahead of the kids in the USA .

The Chinese DO NOT send their elderly to nursing care centres - they personally look after & care for their parents. In the US , nursing care of the elderly is now costing each resident USD 85,000 annually, & this is rising. The Chinese also believe that the grandparents at home make the best tutors for their children. It also provides a sense of cultural continuity - this helps bind society.

Here its a growing trend to have children brought up by maids, of the lowest educational & moral quality - so our children (the future leaders) grow up with similar language & outlook capability.

In the USA , savings dropped to zero in 2005, and is only now slowly rising to 4%. In China , the savings rate for every household has exceeded 20%. The Chinese believe that fugality & a healthy savings rate are a sure indicator of a country's financial health. High savings lead to increased investments - results in increased productivity, innovation & job growth.

In China , eveyone is foward looking - never backwards. New graduates make a vow - never ever will their children & grandchildren ever work in the fields again. With this kind of foward mentality, people are always thinking & planning how, not just to succeed, BUT how to be the best in the world in everything they do.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Customer Service

Customer Service is neglected by most businesses. Some think that their customers are just B2B.
Everyone is a customer to anyone, including our children and our parents and friends. We are trying to sell ourselves everytime there is an interaction.

Some key points about customer service:
A) There must be passion about the work
B) There must be empowerment
C) There must be rewards and recognition
D) There must be involvement from management ( from CEO to toilet cleaner)
E) There must be feedback.

Employment of mature workers can be effective only with redesign of the job or that the product warrants a mature employee. Grooming, tone of voice and service language is sadly lacking. These qualities can be infused quickly only if managers devote more time in ensuring all employees go through a short course in appreciation of customer behaviour and trends.

Much money is spent on market research, buying franchises and renting of retail space.However, the best investment is in employee training in customer care. It does not matter if the business product is fibre optics to oil rigs and trendy handbags. There is a customer within and without, internally & externally.

The moment of truth turns magical when an employee establishes rapport and is fully aware of the customer's needs, aspiration or fears. We can achieve this magic. Managers are responsible to induct these skills from the top right down to every segment of their business. Its called passion and belief.

The obstacles are usually: what is the ROI? Well, imagine the ROI when you lose 15% of sales to your competitor who gains 15% recurring sales.. all from your base just because it is not important that your employee smiles and says hello with energy and passion.

All products do almost the same function: notebooks,air travel,telephony, spaghetti , pizza. What makes them different? and what tempts and beckons the customer to return?

Front end sales and image... pure allure of brand may not bring in the sales anymore.. but imagine if you combine great branding with great customer care!... pure magic!

AIA? Prudential? great brands.. but what about their customer service from the agents?.. yeah.. right!
Ronnie Eng

Get a better return on your savings

Many people still rely on life insurance policies as an important form of personal savings for the future, either for their own retirement or for their children. They may save 10 to 15% of their monthly incomes. The accumulated savings over a working life could amount to $500,000 or more.

It is important that they avoid insurance policies that take away a large part of their accumulated savings. This is stated in the column "effect of deduction" in the benefit illustration. I have seen many benefit illustrations where the deduction is 40% or higher. This is excessive. If the accumulated savings is $500,000 and 40% is taken away, you are left with only $300,000. Surely $200,000 is too much money to give away?

This will make the insurance agent and insurance company rich, but the policyholders poor. In many cases, the maturity benefit may not even keep up with inflation!

The "effect of deduction" is explained in my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning. It also contains tips on the types of investment to avoid, such as structured products and unrelated investment products. It also advice you to invest in low cost investment funds.

If you wish to invest in a life insurance policy, as you are not familiar with other types of investments, you must make sure that the effect of deduction does not exceed the benchmark shown in my book. The benchmark depends on the period of investment.

 Spend $12 and 12 hours to be educated. Buy and read the book.

Pay insurance premium directly

A few decades ago, it was quite common and convenient for policyholders to pay insurance premiums to the agents. At that time, there was the risk that the insurance agent might pocket the money, so the policyholder have to rely on an agent that they can trust.

Nowadays, with GIRO and internet banking, there is no need to pay insurance premium to an agent. It is better to pay the premium directly to the insurance company, especially through GIRO.

Survey of Political Parties

What are your views of the political parties in Singapore? The survey is now closed.

Here is the final report based on 97 replies

Websites of Government Agencies

Many people told me that they had a difficult time in applying for passes at the website of the Ministry of Manpower. I recently encountered a lot of difficulty in making a submission. The website was designed from the perspective of MOM but was not friendly to the general public.

The difficulties include the following:
- hassle of getting the PIN
- a lot of detail to be entered into one form (from the employee and from the employer).

Some common sense solution include the following:
- allow the applicant (i.e. person to be employed) and employer to enter their details separately
- simplify the process of getting a PIN
- allow one PIN to be used for all services in MOM, instead of separate PINs for different types of applications.

I encountered similar difficulties in using the website of IRAS. They seem to be advised by the same consultants who approach the design from the perspective of the agency and not the general public.

I like other readers to share their experience in using the websites of government agencies.

Tan Kin Lian

Display panels in MRT trains

The display panels in MRT trains on the North South lines are not showing the right information. The lighted maps have been not working. The display panels are now showing the wrong information about the next arriving station and the doors that will be opened.

I observed that the trains have been showing the wrong signals for nearly a month. Nobody seemed to be bothered to fix them. At least, the displays should be switched off.

Is this any sign of apathy in Singapore?

Trading in Futures

Hi Mr Tan

Recently I read about "STI Futures". As currently I have set aside 5K for investment( Spare cash ). I want to find an investment vehicle to earn quick money ( also aware that I might lost quick $ if not careful )

I noticed this "STI futures" recently, Initial we need to place an initial margin of about $1625 for one contract.
Per index point is $10 ( either earn or lost ), there is margin call also etc.

We can get in and out( trading ) within a few mins , hour, or a day to even months. As I understand that the RISK factor is there also. But I find that this STI Futures can let me earn $ fast as I don't like to wait long. I also prepare to lost this 5K if my decision is not right.

As this STI Futures might be one of my investment vehicle, it "attract me" is because if my decision is right, I might earn $ fast within a few hours or a day. I also understand that there might be risk also. Anyway this 5K is my spare cash (but doesn't mean I am prepare to loose the $ ).

I wondering any advises you can share with me or where I can find more detils to have a better understanding. As I am your regular reader to your blog, wondering you can post my enquiry to your blog so that your readers might share with me the risk factors etc or where to look for?

There are many futures contracts that you can trade in, i.e. stock index futures and currency futures. You need to be familiar with trading in futures before you plunge in. You have to understand the risk, liquidity and other factors. Please attend training courses on trading in this type of contracts.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Admission to local universities

Dear Mr Tan,

My son passed GCE "A" level with many As, 1 B, and 2 Es. He was not accepted into a local university. He applied to NUS, NTU, SMU and SUDT and appealed twice, but was rejected. 

Local universities are funded by taxpayers and our fourth generation citizen cannot have the opportunity to enter a local university. How do we compete with other nation when, as a global city, our own citizen are deprived the opportunity to go for tertiary education?

When I visited the local universities, we saw many foreign students which took away the opportunity for our own citizens to be admitted. These foreign students are given a scholarship by our Government to take the university place from our own citizens. Many of them did not opt to become Singapore citizens.

If my son were to study in an overseas university, there is the tendency that he would not come back to Singapore. I hold this fear based on the experience of my relatives. If we were to lose a fourth generation citizen, how can Singapore be able to sustain as a nation without a deep root of its own citizens. If a significant crisis or disaster were to hit singapore, who will defend this country? Why can't the local universities accept our own local students?


My observation
Alan has asked me to post this letter to invite the views of other readers. He also asked me to carry out a survey. I will think about how to organise this survey.

Pinnacle Notes 6 & 7

Hi Mr Tan,

Morgan Stanley has just informed investors that another two of Pinnacle Notes, Series 6 & 7 have failed due to mandatory redemption (see attached).

For those who still hold hope they can hang on till maturity dates and they may still get back their principle if nothing else fails, this is a wake-up call and they should just join the legal action organized by the US lawyer. Please help to post this in you Blog.

The Town Council who invested in this “created-to-fail” product is also looking at $3 million dollar loss as reported in this 2008 News report. Who is accountable?

My comment
Investors who wish to join the legal action to be held in US courts by a reputable US legal firm working on a contigency fee basis can send an e-mail to  The lawyer will take the fee and expenses only on successful outcome.  If the lawyer is unsuccessful, they will bear the expenses and the investors will not need to pay any fee or expenses.

Security on MRT trains

Read this article by Yoong Siew Wah.

My observations
It is a Singaporean habit to point fingers at other people and to avoid responsibility. We learn from our leaders.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Town Councils and MPs

Read this article.

Working from home

Here are some tips of working from home, and setting up a home office.

My observation
An alternative is to work in a low cost office near your home. I rented a low cost office at an industrial park near my home. I employ a few persons who live nearby to work for me in I.T. development and administrative work. Working near home has most of the covenience of working from home.

Employment of older workers

Can we identify organisations that are willing to spend money to employ older workers to provide customer service?

I saw some customer guides at MRT stations. They are employed by SMRT to guide commuters. I appreciate the work by SMRT in creating employment and to provide good customer service.

Let us identify other organisations that make this positive effort.

Tan Kin Lian

Customer Service

I have written several postings about the standard of customer service in Singapore. I have examples of good and bad customer service. Sadly, the examples of bad service are overwhelming.

It is quite easy to improve the customer service by simple changes to their operating procedures. But this require attention by decision makers.

Sadly, the culture in Singapore is for too many people, including service quality managers and customer service managers of large organisations, to follow instructions and preserve the status quo, rather than to innovate and change for the better. It seems that only the few people at the time can decide.

I like to ask my readers to help share the experience. Can you identify examples of good and bad service provided by the large organisations in Singapore, i.e. where it has a large impact on customers? Examples are bad call centers and websites that make life difficult for thousands of customers daily.

Tan Kin Lian

Comment moderation

When I moderate the comment, I can read the first line of all the comments that have been posted. From the first line, I am usually able to detect the znonymous comments of the two vile persons who keeps making personal attacks against me.  I know these two persons as being a top manager of an insurance company (or an insurance agent working for him) and a cranky unemployed person.

I delete their comments without reading the rest of the comments.

I write this blog to educate the public about investment and insurance, to select the fair products and to avoid the over-priced products. Insurance and land banking agents who dislike my views are not welcomed in this blog. They can promote their views in their own blogs or facebooks.

Tan Kin Lian

Blog Archive