Saturday, July 10, 2010

Internet browser

I used Google Chrome previously as my internet browser to access G Mail and other Google applications. It gave problem in downloading a PDF attachment. I tried ways to get around this problem, but it failed. I waited for Google to fix this problem. It was reported in Google website, but there was no fix.

After some time, I decided to switch to Internet Explorer, even for the Google applications. It worked fine. So, I have stayed with Internet Explorer since. If Google fixed the problem with the Chrome, I may try it again.  My colleague tried Firefox and it worked well.

Can you share your experience on using the various internet browsers?

Tan Kin Lian

Prototype website

I have developed this prototype website for a government agency or business organisation. It allows the public to access the information and forms of the organisation. This prototype website allows the information to be stored in separate PDF documents that can be retrieved easily and saved on the user's computer or printed. This will be easier to use than the spiderweb that is now used by most large organisations.

Please give your views about this prototype and suggestions for improvements. If you like this style, please help to encourage more organisations to move to this style.

Tan Kin Lian

FIFA World Cup - Predict the Winners

Note: the correct number should be 8202 8866. As this is not a 1900 number, there is no charge for sending this SMS).

Are you better than Paul the Octopus or Mani the parrot? Try this game.

1. Predict the ranking of the top four countries in the World Cup 2010 - Spain, Holland, Germany, Uruguay.

2. Send a SMS to 8202 8866 as follows SMS FIFA {NRIC} {ABCD} where A, B, C and D are the winner, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place. For example: SMS FIFA S1234567A SHUG (i.e. Spain, Holland, Uruguay, Germany).

3. Closing date: midnight 10 July 2010.

3. Three prizes (Tangram Book) will be awarded to the 3 winners, picked at random, from the all-correct entries.

4. Each participant can submit only 1 entry. If more than 1 entry is submitted on the same mobile phone, the earlier entry is replaced automatically by the contest software.

A fair investment product

Here is a typical example.
A young consumer is advised by an agent to buy a life insurance policy.
The benefit illustration shows the premium over 25 years to be $250,000
The policy gives a projected return of $300,000, which looks attractive compared to the total premium
The value of the accumulated premium, at a projected yield of 5%, is $500,000
The effect of deduction is $300,000 (40% of $500,000)

The consumer is not aware of the following:
a) the above figures in the benefit illustration - as they are hidden among less important information
b)  a fair amount to be deducted to cover expenses, profit and insurance, should be 20%

A fair investment product will give $100,000 more to the consumer.
Generally, the consumer should avoid life insurance products that are sold by an insurance agent, as the outcome is likely to be quite close to the figures shown above.
To look for a better investment choice, read Practical Guide on Financial Planning  or attend a talk on financail planning organised by FISCA.

Motor insurance and claims

This letter is written by a financial adviser who faces difficulty in getting renewal for her client after two accidents.

My view
The current insurer refuses to renew the policy. The association representing the insurance companies asked her to try a list of over 27 insurance companies but all of them declined.

If a financial adviser finds this process to be difficult, you can imagine the trouble that will be faced by a consumer who has to get renewal on his or her own. The consumer may not be a bad driver. It may be just bad luck to have two accidents.

This is another example of the failure of the "free market" system. What can MAS do? In many states in America, there is the concept of the "residual market". If the consumer cannot get insurance, they can place the risk with a specified insurer (managing the residual market) who must accept the risk and share it with all the insurance companies. In some jurisdictions, the motor insurance market is run by the state, to overcome this difficulty.

Tan Kin Lian

FAQ - Shield insurance

This article contains some tips on how to decide on Medishield or a private Shield plan.

Youth Olympic Games

Here are two views:

My views
It is important for Singapore that the YOG be a success. It is better for the success to be spontaneous and spark the enthusiasm of the youths, but if this is not the case, we should still make it a success through other means, including buying the tickets for the schools.

Anyway, the activities of the YOG will flow back into the economy and benefit the local businesses in many ways, as a large portion of the money spent (I believe) is kept within the domestic economy.

Consultants and failed projects

Why are organisations paying a lot of money to consultants who delivered failed projects? Read this article for the answer.

My observation
I hear of government agencies and business organisations spending several tens of millions of dollars by engaging consultants, especially on IT mega-projects. Often, the projects do not produce the payback. But, it seems to be quite fashionable for these organisations to spend big bucks. They are able to get their money back by raising fees and charges on the consumers. This results in the high cost of living in Singapore.

Private tuition and unemployed professionals

Read this article.

My observation
It contain good news that the unemployed professionals are able to earn an income through private tuition.

Wall Street Journal: 1937 vs 2010

Read this article.

My observation
The chart suggest that the stockmarket may be headed for a steep fall, if 2010 follows 1937. The extent of the fall is another 35%. Is this likely to happen?

I belong to the pessimistic group - and believe that a second dip is likely to happen. The government debts ins Europe, USA, Japan and other countries is serious and needs to be corrected. We can muddle along with government stimulus and low interest rate, but it will create problems, i.e. asset bubbles,

Read this article by Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman. I agree with his view on most matters, including this assessment. He speaks plainly and honestly. Listen to him.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Views of young people

Here are some views of your young people, in response to the survey

1. Leaders should engage their people more. PMETs may have good ideas which may be implemented to benefit everyone, such as education, transport and work-life balance. Show us believable statistics instead of numbers made from thin air. 
2. Life looks bleak for me, so I won't marry or have children. I don't even know I can survive in five years time, most probably would get retrenched or replaced by foreigners. 

3. Politicians tend to avoid recessions to remain in power. We should have gone into a healthier recession instead of opening the floodgates to foreigners to boost GDP numbers. I feel betrayed by the government and I am suffering from overcrowding and higher costs of living.

4. Nurses still can get a job, not much of a problem here. 

5. No bonding left with Singapore. The PAP and system has shown me the truth -- You die your business. Whatever emotional ties I had with S'pore had been mercilessly cut during 2 years of slogging NS being tekaned while my foreigner classmates happily enjoy their 3-month holidays after A-levels and then straightaway go into NUS / NTU / SMU on subsidised school fees or even free scholarships. Plus seeing my 40+ and 50+ year-old relatives getting retrenched and having to take on $1K or $1.2K jobs even though they have polytechnic diplomas or many years of practical experience and know-how.

The Singapore system has only succeeded in turning all of us into self-centred bastards. Those who enjoy the privileges of the elite-class will want to stay on and lord it over the masses, squeezing them for more GDP growth. Those who are not elites just end-up fighting each other for scraps of garbage in order to survive. Those who can get off this god-forsaken mudhole will do so without remorse or hesitation. It is truly You Die Your Business!! 

6. This country disadvantages it citizens in the mindless pursuit of ever increasing GDP. How that GDP benefits locals is any one's guess, as the GINI coefficient seems to be ever widening.

7. Please provide more options.
My job pays quite well - Strongly DISAGREE
My pay is adequate for the cost of living - Strongly DISAGREE
I find the HDB flat to be affordable - Strongly DISAGREE

8. It is one thing to be proud of our country and be disgusted at your government.

Temasek Investment Results

Mr. Tan,
Did you read the article about Temasek's investment returns in the Straits Times? A similar article appeared in the Asian Wall Street Journal - same information but completing different view - a more neutral view. Would be good to have our comments in your blog.

I read the Straits Times report with some a pinch of salt. A large part of the investment gains came from the recovery of the global stockmarkets, and more specifically, the Singapore market, where Temasek held a large stake. I do recall that is fact was mentioned, but it was hidden amidst the overwhelming praises of good performance.

My personal investments also recovered significantly, and I did precisely NOTHING.

Paul the Octopus

Paul the Octupus is famous for predicting correctly the results of the World Cup matches between Germany and other countries. Here is his next prediction.

Poor Paul. Now, he cannot get asylum in Singapore!

But, we have Mani, the parrot.

How does believing we are souls help us in our daily lives?

Extract from book, Wisdom on how to live life - Dr. Tommy Wong

Tom: So by believing that we are souls, how will that help us in our daily lives?
Guru: We can see everyone as souls rather than bodies.
Tom: Okay, then?
Guru: We don’t differentiate ourselves with others by the differences in our bodies.
Tom: You mean we don’t differentiate ourselves by different races.
Guru: Right, there’s only one race and that’s the human race.
Tom: No more “us and them”.
Guru: We see everyone as souls, and we’re all the same.
Tom: We look for sameness rather than differences.
Guru: Yes, it’s like we’re all air and there is only one air covering the entire Earth.
Tom: We are all one.
Guru: We’re all connected so we look for cooperation rather than competition.
Tom: Your gain is my gain, and your loss is my loss.
Guru: We look for win-win solutions rather than “I win and you lose” scenarios.
Tom: So we’re all winners.
Guru: Wouldn’t life be better this way?
Tom: Better? It’ll be heaven on Earth.

The book, Wisdom on How to Live Life can be bought here.

Survey - distance based fares

36 people responded to the survey. Here are the results, comparing the new fare (distance based fares) with the previous fare:
  • Lower by more than 10%   ................. 3.0%
  • Lower by 5% to 10% ......................... 6.1%
  • Higher by 5% to 10% ......................... 45.5%
  • Higher by more than 10% ................... 45.5%
I omitted to have an option to show difference by less than 5%. So, some participants are not able to take part. Sorry.

This may not give a representative result, as the survey is likely to attract a higher proportion of people who have to pay higher fares.

Tan Kin Lian

Medical insurance for Parents

Dear Mr Tan,
Both my parents mum 62 and dad 68 are not insured by any hospital cover. Do you think it is still worthwhile for them at this elderly age to buy hospital cover? my dad is healthy and has some monies in the cpf medisave while my mum has been a housewife and has history of high blood pressure and high cholesteral level.

And if in the event it is worthwhile to consider buying, which type of hospital cover do u think wil suffice? eg most basic cpf medishield or buy from private insurers?

Try to enrol them for Medishield (from CPF). It covers most of the cost of hospital care in subsidised wards, i.e. B2 and C. It is suitable for elderly people and the premium is much lower than private Shield. If they cannot be accepted, it is all right to be self-insured. If they need medical attention, go to a subsidised wards.

This is covered in Practical Guide on Financial Planning.

Young people in Singapore

Are young people happy with the situation in Singapore?

Here are the positive sides:
  • they are well educated
  • they are able to get jobs quite easily
  • they get special attention from the leaders - who make the effort to engage the young, e.g. Youth Olympic Games
The key negative factor is the high cost of housing, i.e. HDB flats, by most young people probably accept it as a fact of life in Singapore and are not aware about the alternative choices.

Do you agree with this assessment?

Business simulation game

Practice your skill in running a business. Develop the skill through practice, practice and practice. Read here.

FAQ - Personal Accident Insurance

In this article, I explain the coverage under a personal accident policy and why it is better than buying an accident rider to a life policy.

If you find it difficult to buy a term insruance policy, you can start with a personal accident policy (for $300,000 or $500,000) and switch to a term insurance policy at a convenient time in the future.


Read this article.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Look before you leap

Hi Mr.Tan,

When doing any investments, look before you leap!
Good example to try this Frog Leap Test....Educational too!

Lend money to a friend

Dear Mr Tan,

One of my very close friend has seek to me on lending him $5000. I have agreed to help him on this. but i have not pass him the money yet. even though he is a very close friend of mine, i still do have a concern on if i can get back my money as i have experience lending someone money and unable to collect it back.

Is IOU a proper documentation to ensure if i can get back my money if anything goes wrong ? If IOU can be used, what kind of format would I have to draft out ? Is there any other proper documentation that I can use to ensure i can take back my money ?

Here are my views:
1. If possible, avoid lending money to a friend.
2. If you have to lend money, be prepared that it will not be returned
3. Have a document (e.g. IOU) to acknowledge that the money has been passed. Write down details of the repayment.
4. Ask for monthly payment of interets or interest plus principal. This ensures the discipline of repaying back the money.
5. Here is another alternative. Ask your friend to borrow the money from a cooperative society, with you acting as guarantor. If the borrower does not pay, you will have to pay as guarantor. But the lender will try to collect from the borrower first. This is still risky to you, but you do not have the hassle of chasing for repayment.

SingTel Website

I was given a mobile number in Malaysia with the number 60 107 xxx xxxx. I could not get through. I checked the Singtel website to find a number that I could call for assistance.

The "Contact Us" page in the website was not helpful. I searched the home page and clicked on a few other pages but got lost. Finally, I decided to call 100. The staff told me that I had to called 104 for assistance on International Call.

I had to pay $0.60 to get help. Singtel seemed to be keen to charge customers and earn revenue, rather than to help their customer. The staff told me how to call the number by dialing 02 and dropping the 0. Wow!!

I told her that I spent 15 minutes browsing the website, but could not get this type of information. She said that I had to go the website ( and clicked on "large enterprise", "business", "voice and telephony", and so on. It seemed to require at least 6 page access. I gave up.

It would have been easier if the Singtel website provides their help pages that can be accessed by searching for the title, such as "Telephone call to Malaysia" or "International Telephone Call". This search is similar to the Google search, except that it is restricted to inforamtion from the corporate website. All the relevant information can be placed in one or a few pages in PDF.

The complicated website (or what someone called the "spiderweb") is not unique to Singtel. It is common with most large organisations, including government agencies. They must be designed by consultants, who make it their business to give complicated, rather than simple solutoins. This makes life stressful and a hassle for the public.

Please share your experience on using the website of large corporations here.

Tan Kin Lian

Promotion on my books

Nine titles of my book are available on promotion now. For a limited period only. Visit

A different view

I have given my views  on insurance and investments in a series of FAQs. You can assess them by clicking the FAQ label on the right frame of this blog.

The FAQs reflect my view. If you disagree with my view and wish to present an alternative view, you can send an e-mail to me. You have to state your name, contact e-mail and your view. I will put your your view, if it is balanced, fair and does not contain insult or personal attack.

If you wish to point out any mistakes in my FAQ or to suggest points to be clarified or to contribute additional points, you can also send an e-mail to me.

Tan Kin Lian

Decentralising of risks

The massive 7 hour failure of the ATM system of DBS on 5 July 2010 highlight the danger of concentration of risk and "too big to fail".

Is there an alternative approach? Do we need to have fewer and larger banks to compete internationally? Is it beneficial for banks to get bigger?

Here are the negative impacts of the consolidation of banks in recent years:
  • concentration of risks
  • overcharging of fees for banking services, i.e abuse of pricing power
  • selling of bad structured products to earn commission
  • impact of massive IT failure on cash withdrawals, i.e. the DBS event
The growth of large banks lead to less competition, not more competiton. It has allowed the banks to make super profits at the expense of consumers. The large salaries paid by banks have also distorted the employment market as most talents preferred to work in the banks, instead of manufacturing and services.

Is there an alternative? America had a system of community banks that are connected by national banks. Perhaps, this is the answer. We should encourage a large number of community banks to serve the retail customers on basic banking services. They can be linked a few national banks who handle the commercial banking, foreign exchange, international trade and other services.

If there is a serious computer hiccup in a community bank, it will only affect their customers, and not a large segment of the population. This is an example of decentralising the risks.

Tan Kin Lian

FAQ - Financial planning for a retiree

I wish to give some tips on financial planning and insurance for a retiree, or a person approaching retirement. Read this article.

Effect of deduction

Hi Mr Tan,
I started to read your blog recently and realised that I might be ripped off. Please see attached policy I brought 3 years ago. Am I right to say the effects of deduction is 51%? What your advice? Terminate after I can break even say after 4-5 years?

The effect of deduction at the end of 30 years is 35% compuated as follows:

  • Total cash value (including non guaranteed): $53935     65%
  • Effect of deduction                                      $29132     35%
  • Accumulated premium                                 $83067   100%
Your policy will reach the breakeven point after 14 years (i.e. find the year where the cash value exceeds the total premium), and not 4-5 years.

To decide whether to continue or cancel the policy is a difficult question. Read my FAQ on "existing insurance policy" in my blog. Or read my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning, available at

Critical Illness claim

Dear Mr Tan,

I'm a middle age man who had a heart bypass operation more than 3 months ago and had incurred quite a large medical bill. Fortunately, I have always believed in the importance of insurance and had bought numerous policies for critical illness over the past 18 years.

Is it a normal practice for insurance companies to assess claims of hospitalisation and various critical illness policies jointly, withholding all payments until they have done the necessary checks with my numerous doctors. Moreover, it's more than 3 months and I haven't had any indication from the company on how I could be compensated.

It is really frustrating because they seemed to be taking their "own sweet time" in assessing my claims. First, by sending various medical questionnaires to doctors who had attended to me during my surgery/ hospitalisation, followed by my GP and now to my other specialists. What is more frustrating is that the company continues to bill me promptly for my monthly payments, including for the critical illness policies that I'm claiming against.

Would appreciate your kind advice on whether the time frame and procedure used by the company are norms when claims are involved. Thank you in advance.

It is wrong for them to keep you in the dark for three months. They should communicate with you more actively. You can write a letter of complaint to the service quality manager and insist that they should give you a reply soon. If they do not, you can lodge a complaint with MAS for the poor quality of service and bad response.
Many policyholders have encountered difficulty and delay in submitting claims for critical illness. It is better to take only a modest amount of critical illness insurance and have personal savings, rather than pay a high premium for critical illness cover where you may face difficulty and uncertaintly in getting approval of the claim (for borderline cases).
This is explained in my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning.

World Cup - the octopus

The octopus was correct in predicting that Spain would beat Germany in the Semi-Finals. REad this article.

Article by Lucky Tan.

My earlier prediction of a repeat of the 1974 Finals (i.e between Germany and Holland) failed to materialise. The octopus is smarter than me.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Video - Wisdom on how to live life [2]

In this video, Dr. Tommy Wong introduces and explains the concepts in his two books on "Wisdom on how to live life".

The two books can be purchased here. There is a promotion for Book 2. Book 1 has been nearly sold out.

Leaders of the Free World

Read this article.

My observation
The leaders of five countries are paid more than 10 times of the average GDP per person (i.e Kenya, Singapore, Indonesia, South Africa, Hongkong). The other countries show a ratio of less than 10 times.

Transparency and accountability

Read this article.

Major I.T. Failure

Read this article.

Marriage Humor


Booking a taxi during rainy days

In the simulation, the sms response would definitely be fast. Getting a cab would be the hardest during the peak hours rush or when rainy spells - in those time, calls to taxi centres or via this system would still not be able to get a cab easily.

It is difficult to get a taxi during peak hours and rainy season.
If you book through TABS, you will get a reply that you are placed on the queue. If a taxi is available you will be notified. If you do not wish to wait, you can send a SMS to be removed from the queue. Booking through TABS is easier and less hassle, even for rainy days.

At busy time, most people are willing to wait longer for a taxi to be available. It is better to wait in the TABS virtual queue, than in a real taxi queue!

Try the simulation now.

Tips on buying life insurance

1. Decide what you want, e.g. term insurance for $300,000 for 25 years
2. Get 3 quotes from the insurance companies, specifically on what you need, and make your choice
3. Compare with the benchmark for this product given in Practical Guide on Financial Planning
4. Read the FAQs in this blog
5. Do not listen to an agent who recommends another product, as the agent is likely to sell you a high cost, low yield product.
6. Never buy a product recommended by an agent where you are not able to compare with similar products

FAQ - Insurance for a child

I wish to give some tips to parents on how to save for a child's education and the type of insurance suitable for a child. Read this article.

FISCA Educational Talks

FISCA plan to organise the following educational talks:

a) Financial Planning - A Practical Guide
b) Investing in ETF, REITS and blue chip stocks
c) Consumers and the law

Each talk will be for 3 hours to be held at SMU on a Saturday. The talk will be held every 1 or 2 nonths, depending on demand. Fee is $30 (non-members) and $10 (FISCA members).

Details (including registration) will be announced at

Redeeming feature

Read this article.

Limited Pay Policy

Hi Sir,
I am a 25 years old individual contemplating on purchasing an insurance policy.
Limited pay life policy sounds attractive, in a sense, one is able to choose 5, 10, 20 or 25 years in premium payment and subsequently cover till age 65.
My financial consultant recommended me to opt for 20 years in premium payment.
However, I figured that 5 years in premium payment would make the life policy more cost effective
I was introduced to TM Legacy plus. Basic sum assured of $100,000.

Appreciate if you could advise on the
1. pros and cons of the policy
2. the no. of years i should choose for premium payment 
3. whether i should take up the policy.


Please read my book, Practical Guide on Financial planning (available at It tells you what to look out for. Most life insurance policies, including limited payment policies, give a poor return. It is better to buy Term Insurance.

You can read my FAQ on Benefit Illustration,

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Bank interest rate

Check the interest rate on bank savings account posted in the FISCA website (

Talks on Financial Planning at Community Centers and Comapnies

I am able to give a talk on financial planning at community centers and companies. There will be a fee of $600 to provide revenue to FISCA. Details can be found here:

Alternatively, adults can attend the financial planning talk that will be held by FISCA monthly (see $30 for non-members, $10 for members.

Global Navigation Satellite System

Hi Mr.Tan,

The Global Navigation Satellite System is talk of the town. If implemented, can be effective but will ultimately put more pressure on public transpo,t should drivers give up driving or leave their cars at home.


TABS Simulation - Tangram book prize

The following three persons have been picked as winners for the tangram book prize, given to the participations of the TABS (taxi automated booking system) simulation. Please send your name, address to

Mobile: xx230083
Mobile: xx826130
Mobile: xx591102


The best thing about the system is that I need not be put on hold! The most frustrating thing about being put on hold is that after x mins of listening to their music, you hear the operator's voice again telling you there's no available taxis. With sms, you get instant notification. It's ok if there aren't any cabs - I just need to know that instead of being told to wait, or waiting in vain. Having the taxi driver's contact number also helps, especially if the pick-up location is obscure, or if it suddenly rains and you need to change the pick-up point to a sheltered place. Overall, I can't wait for the system to kick off and become a real one that we all can use. Thanks for kick-starting this, KL.

Excellent, very innovative and will definitely speed up processes.
My worry is can system take the load, SMS cost?

Reply:  We have to find out in practice, if it can take the load and SMS cost. Hope to launch it in August.

At a mental hospital


FAQ - Benefit Illustration

This document explains what you have to look out for in a benefit illustration before you buy a life insurance policy.

Satellite based ERP

Read this letter.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Beyond public transport

Read this article.

FAQ - Term Insurance

Here is an updated guide on how to buy Term Insurance in Singapore.

Quiz 6-3

Try this Quiz and win a prize. Please send your answer by SMS to the number indicated. Do not post the answer here. Allow other readers to try their solution.

Congratulations to the winner, Ong Kok Hien (Sxxxx120J, Mobile: xxxx4151). Please send an e-mail to with your address for the Tangram book prize to be mailed to you. The correct answer is "Albert".

Taxi Automated Booking System (TABS) - Simulation [2]

I have developed a taxi automated booking system (TABS). It is now being runned in simulation mode. A taxi company is likely to use this system with a fleet of 600 taxis. The simulation will reflect the real life situation quite closely. The booking fee is cheaper than the normal booking service.

A customer who wish to book a taxi will send a SMS to the server. You can try this service by sending a SMS as follows:

- Starhub mobile: Send "CAB " to 82028866
- M1 and Singtel Mobile: Send "CAB pppppp " to 82028866

Note: pppppp is the postal code of your location (not required for Starhub customers).

If a taxi is available within 2 km of your location, you will receive a SMS to call the mobile phone of the taxi driver. If no taxi is available, a SMS will be sent to you, saying that you have been placed in the taxi queue.

Please join this trial. During the simulation run, you will get a simulated mobile phone number (i.e. not a real number) of the taxi.

Hi Mr Tan
If the passenger accidentaly left his/her valuables in the taxi, who do we call?

Reply: You can call the taxi driver as you already have his mobile phone number! You can also call the taxi compnay but it is likely to take a much longer time.

Reply: This is great! No more figuring out who is the driver of the taxi which you left the valuables in. If you lost something you can contact the taxi driver immediately.. unless you lost your handphone.

I tried it. It is quite fast. When will this service start? I like to try it for real!

Reply: Tentatively, it will start from 1 August with 300 real taxis (i.e. not a simulation).

Mr Tan,
Its a great system. I have one concern though.
I may not know the postal code of the location that I am in.
If I am at Lim Chu Kang near the Police Academy, I would not know the postal code.
I am along River valley road near Delta Sports Complex.. I do not know the postal code.
Hope there is a solution to this.
Otherwise I have to ask people or remember postal codes.. other people may not give reliable information. How about bus stop numbers?

Reply: You can ask someone to tell you the postal code of the place that you are at. If they live or work there, they can tell you. It is also on their businss card.
If you have a Starhub mobilephone, you do not need to send the postal code. I am now working with M1 to offer this same facility to their customers. I am also willing to work with Singtel, if they are interseted.
Later, I will work with the apps provider to allow a request to be sent by a smart phone with GPS factility. There is no need to send the postal code.
Your suggestion of bus stop number is Excellent. I will build it into the TABS system.

Just tried it a while ago. The SMS reply is very fast, within 30 seconds. Impressive ! It will definitely save us a lots of time comparing present way of booking via telephone. Why can't the rest of us think of this cheap, better and faster way ....

Great idea! If the taxi drivers can register directly with your company, it will bypass the booking systems of the various taxi companies, thereby lower booking fees, it has a potential good business model.

Jimmy Ng said...
Nice idea and hopefully that we don't have to face those rediculous taxi surcharges for using this sytem.
In HK, were it is a lot more crowded and has a lower taxis per capita, I get a 15-20% for calling taxi. Only thing to this is that the fare has to be above HK$50 / S$8.

I have tried it, its fantastic.

Pays of CEOs

Hi Mr. Tan,

Here's an article from BusinessWeek that you might be interested in:
It speaks about the salary disparity between CEOs in Japan vs. other developed countries.

Hi Mr. Tan,

What is weird about this statistic is that Japan is known to have relatively high entry and mid-level salaries. If they have a much lower high-end salaries, it means that the ratio of lowest-to-highest salary will be very low. Of course, there are many other factors to consider (low supply of manpower, high cost of living, etc.) but they apply both ways.

Cloud computing and entrepreneurs

Read this article.

Are Singaporeans paying for monkeys?

Read this article.

Distance based fare

How is the new distance based fare affecting you? Join this survey.

The legacy of reputation

Read this article.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Space in MRT trains

Hi Mr. Tan
Recently there is a debate going on whether the SMRT trains in Singapore are overly crowded or not. The SMRT doesn't think very much of it as evidenced in their CEO's untactful remarks, whilst practically everyone blogging on the internet curse and swear at how bad the situation had become.

Looking at the case again, I just discovered that everything hinges on a statistic which is provided by SMRT Quote:...This averages 3.8 passengers per sq m, lower than that of major cities like London..... Unquote.

So 3.8 passengere per sq m is the agreed benchmark. I have no problem with that.  But look at the word AVERAGE. Therein lies the solution to the puzzle. It's not about the number 3.8 neither is it about the techie word  crushload. It's about AVERAGE.

AVERAGE is a very dangerous concept if not properly managed. If the annual salary of the PM is $3 million and the annual salary of the rest of the 9 ordinary workers in the PMO (PrimeMinister's Office) is $50,000 then mathematically the average annual salary of the people in the PMO is $305,000 per person? In statistical theory there are median, and mode, standard deviation, etc to refine the imperfect concept of averaging. In the real world, we also need to know more about the model used for "averaging".

How does SMRT calculate its AVERAGE crush load? Is it over time average between peak period and non peak period per station basis? How many stations are selected? Which are the stations selected for the averaging?  Are newer stations which have lower load factor bundled together for averaging?

Statistics is a powerful tool which can often lead to wrong conclusions. Sometimes it is so powerful that it can be used as a tool to make one feel complacent and look good. And those who ignore the possibly distorted conclusions might be told to make other choices because the sysem is just doing fine - on "average". 


Taxi Automated Booking System (TABS) - Simulation

I have developed a taxi automated booking system (TABS). It is now being runned in simulation mode. A taxi company is likely to use this system with a fleet of 600 taxis. The simulation will reflect the real life situation quite closely. The booking fee is cheaper than the normal booking service.

A customer who wish to book a taxi will send a SMS to the server. You can try this service by sending a SMS as follows:
- Starhub mobile: Send "CAB " to 82028866
- M1 and Singtel Mobile: Send "CAB pppppp " to 82028866
Note: pppppp is the postal code of your location (not required for Starhub customers).

If a taxi is available within 2 km of your location, you will receive a SMS to call the mobile phone of the taxi driver. If no taxi is available,  a SMS will be sent to you, saying that you have been placed in the taxi queue.
Please join this trial. During the simulation run, you will get a simulated mobile phone number (i.e. not a real number) of the taxi.

PRIZE: I will be giving a Tangram book to one person, picked at random, from those who participated in the trial for each of the next three days. Good luck.

Tan Kin Lian

Invest in STI ETF

Dear Mr Tan,
I have read through some of the articles on your blog and am very impressed by your investment knowledge. I heard from my Income agent that you are very experienced with investment and gives excellent advice.

I have a savings account with Standard Chartered and would like to start investing in unit trust. From your experience, what is the difference between investing through the bank or through those brokerage firm like Phillips Securities?

Many people told me to invest in STI ETF, is it unit trust and is it a good time to invest now? How about REITS? Are these unit trusts?


STI ETF is for long term investment. If you invest your monthly savings, anytime is a good time. Do not try to time the market. If it better to buy through a stockbroker, rather than a bank. Philips Securities is okay. It is also all right to invest in unit trust, provided that the expense ratio is less than 1%.

Do not invest in an insurance policy as the "effect of deduction" is too high, giving you a poor return. Read my book, Practical Guide on Financial Plannng, available at

Talks on Financial Planning to Students

Calling teachers or student leaders. If you wish to organise a talk on financial planning for the students, read this brochure. It can make a lot of difference to the future financial well-being of the students.

Better, betterer, betterest

Holland vs Germany

I watched my first live World Cup match over television in 1974. It was the Finals between Holland and Germany. The star on the Holland team was Johan Cruff. Holland scored the first goal within 2 minutes. Germany was led by the legendary Franz Beckenbauer and won the Finals on 2-1.

Here is an exciting recount of this historic final.

I expect to see these two teams play at the Finals of the World Cup 2010. If anyone takes and win this bet, make a donation to FISCA (

Tan Kin Lian

Developing our own talents

In 1998, France won the World Cup. The team comprised of many players from the former French colonies in Africa.

This event prompted Singapore's Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong to raise the possibility of Singapore entering the World Cup using "foreign talents". The Football Association of Singapore took up the challenge and set the target of Goal 2010 for Singapore to win the World Cup (but thge goal was later clarified as participation in the Finals). This goal was subsequently dropped as the task was deemed to be impossible.

During this period, Germany went about in its own way to develop its youth squad and soccer training program. The result can be seen in the spectacular performance of the Germany team, the product of its youth development program,  in World Cup 2010.

We can contrast the approach taken by the two countries. One decided to rely on "foreign talents". The other decided to train and develop its own people.

This is a lesson for Singapore.

Tan Kin Lian

World Cup and Management Science

Mr Tan Kin Lian.

It was an amazing game that Germany managed to beat Argentina 4 to 0. World Cup is really fascinating. However, World Cup also teaches us lessons in management. Germany has displayed discipline and teamwork in the game against Argentina.

While mega stars provide the excitement, results are delivered by discipline and teamwork.

Lothar Matthaus made an interesting comment that Michael Ballack’s absence was a blessing in disguise! He said “ …. I’m genuinely upset for Michael Ballack (injury) but his absence has helped Germany. I don’t mean that in a spiteful way, but Ballack was arguably holding up a number of players who have now blossomed. Each of them has taken on a little more responsibility and Germany is playing with far more pace. Ballack often took a lot of pace out of the game, but that wouldn’t fit the mentality of this young team. Missing out is a personal catastrophe for Michael, but it has benefited Germany.”

By the way, Germany has one of the younger squad. Lothar Matthaus made an interesting management statement that teamwork is more important than individual stars and fresh legs are what it takes to win tournament.

Cashew Nut

My observation
I have come comments to make about Singapore's own Goal 2010. See separate blog.

Business simulation game (BEST)

The BEST simulation game gives you the practice to submit a business plan on the pricing and market of four products in a competitive environment. The game is played over 7 days and allows you to submit your business plan for one year daily. The actual time required to be spent is 15 to 30 minutes. You can read more about how to play this game by downloading this Player Guide.

The game can be played for various types of business, e.g. insurance, banking, hotel, airline, manufacturing, retail.

If you are interested to play the game, give your particulars here. I will create a game when there is sufficient players for the industry.

If you have played before, and wish to create a game for several of our friends, send an e-mail to and give the e-mail address of all the players. Indicate the type of industry that you wish to compete in.

One insurance company is actively using the game to train its head office and branch managers.

A participant who register through my blog likes the game and wishes to introduce his friends to play the game. I will create a game for his group.
My friend, who is studying in university in UK is organising a game for his classmates.

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