Saturday, January 01, 2011

Welcome to the New Singapore

Read this article 

You can also find interesting articles on social and political issues in SGEP.
Keep reading SGEP to decide on how to vote at the next general election.

DPIS and young people

Spare young people the premium shock
Make DPS an optional scheme for young people
and spare them the shock of seeing their hard-earned money disappear in no time
 Review system
I was surprised to read an insurance company's letter
addressed to my 19-year-old daughter
informing her that a premium of $36 was being deducted
from her CPF account under the Dependants' Protection Scheme (DPS).

Fidrec needs to build up trust

Read this letter published in the Straits Times Forum:

Family Life 1.1

This game has been revised. The new description of the game is shown here:

This game helps young people to understand the impact of key decisions that they have to make during their lifetime and how it affects their work and family. It will be ready for launch on 9 March 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Refund of bus fares

I don't understand why must every ezlink card holder goes to MRT station to check if they are entitled to any bus fare refund. Since ezlink office knows which card is entitled to refund, cant they just automatically credit the refund into these affected ezlink cardholders? A simple computer programme can do this job.

Ezlink already over-charge... why make any mistake by troubling every Singaporean ? A waste of productivity! It is not right to donate un-claim $$ to charity. We should demand better service from our service providers. If they make mistake they should refund and compensate us.


Social Life 1.0

A game for singles. Let your avatar do the scouting for you. You create an avatar with characteristics that reflect your personality and indicate the personal qualities of the person that you look for as a life time partner. Your avatar will meet other avatars through activities held over 52 virtual weeks and go out on dates with other avatars that meet your criteria. At the end of the game in 7 actual days, you have the option to know the real persons behind the avatars that have dated your avatar a few times.

Financial Plan - help to promote this tool

Please inform your friends and other contacts, by email or facebook, that they can get a financial plan using the following website:

The financial plan is free and is important for consumers to have a feel of their financial future. It will help them to make the right way to save and invest their savings, and avoid getting a poor yield.

If you are an active user of Facebook or other social media, you can these channels and viral marketing to tell your friends and ask them to tell their friends.
Tan Kin Lian

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A consumer view about Fidrec

Mr. Tan
Just like the first comment on your blog, both FIDREC and the adjudicator are on the FI's side, be it the Bank or the Brokerage.

FIDREC's expenses in staff and office are financed by annual contributions from the FIs, so this body knows exactly who is their boss,honestly the adjudication stage is just a show, the process and outcome is just the same.

We could only show sympathy for the victims in private, no use bringing up to MAS, all of them work in collaboration for show only.

We put too much trust in this Govt, who let us down in times of need. One investor said that the adjudicator finally said during hearing, that investor should put the entire blame on MAS who allowed the derivatives to be sold to retail investors, not fault the FI who sold them, the FI is only the go between agent.

With such feedback, would it be much help to bring up to MAS attention about the adjudication's process. The buck is being pushed around in a merry go round. Just swallow the humiliation, and move on.


Spa victims writes to political parties

Dear Sir,
Thank you for your civic mindedness once again.
I would like ask an open question.
I had written to all the opposition parties about the True Spa Subtle Senses incident, but no one has taken up this issue to be discussed in the coming election. Neither have they responded to me.
Ministry of Trade and Industry recently introduced changes to the consumer protection law, albeit very late. At least they are responding but it is still too little too late. And they are also not addressing the petition that some 400 true spa victims have submitted to MTI.
I being to wonder if when the Opposition comes to power one day, will they also act like the PAP.
Thank you,
Spa Victim

My reply
It is not fair to expect the "opposition" politicians to do anything when they are not in power, and  not even in Parliament. It is the duty of the elected leaders and MPs to address these issues. 

Oil price and US recovery

Hi Mr.Tan,
With the already highest COE price for cars in Singapore and in the World, the next scenario of higher oil prices with surely put a dent on all the prospects of sustained recovery etc. as I can't imagine the impact of higher petrol price here?
$5 Gas In 2012, Ex Shell President Predicts

Theft of information from credit card

Here are three ways for thiefs to steal information from your credit and debit card and made fraudulent payments. Be careful

The Property Bubble and Investment Trap

Hi Mr Tan
I wrote this piece on Property in my Blog inconjunction with my last posting and article for SGEP on ""Concepts About Aging - Nanjing YY Li vs Singapore MM Lee" for year-end closing. I have received some positive comments via emails.

Note: This article has alse been published in SGEP

Cars in Singapore

COE prices have gone up due to the cut in quotas. Many people, especially those with children, said that they need a car due to the poor transport system, e.g. overcrowded trains and unreliable bus schedules. Allowing more cars to be owned will not solve the problem, as our roads are too congested and there are insufficient parking spaces in the offices and residential estates.

In brief, we have a bad transport system in Singapore. Our hope is that in 5 to 10 years time, when more MRT lines are opened, it will be better. Meanwhile, the construction of the MRT lines add to the congestion and pain. We have to be prepared to suffer many more years, due to the bad planning during the recent 15 years.

There is something that can be done urgently to improve the situation.  We need the Land Transport Authority and the two Transport Ministers to be willing to listen. They only need to look to Hong Kong and find out why their transport system is so much better than Singapore. Hong Kong has light buses to bring people conveniently to the train stations and an efficient taxi system (compared to the terrible de-regulated system in Singapore). Many people said that the Hong Kong system is convenient and inexpensive, compared to Singapore.

Tan Kin Lian

US economy is still disappointing

There were two bad news last night on the US economy:
  • Consumer confidence is low
  • Housing prices continue to slump
Economists were expecting things to get better but the US economy continue to disappoint. If the US does not address the underlying issues, they will not be able to get out of the slump. Read my views here.

Snooping on e-mails

There is a news report of a case in America where the husband hack into the e-mail account of the wife and found that she was having an affair. The husband divorced the wife. He was later charged and found guilty of snooping, i.e. reading e-mails of the wife without her permission.

The law in Singapore is not clear on such issues of privacy. There is a need for such clarity. These are important issues governing the rights of people (for privacy) and the free access of information.

We need out laws to be clear on many issues affecting the rights of people  and their proper social conduct. We also need the laws to be enforced. I hope that our elected MPs do their duty to bring up issues in Parliament. This is their duty and what they are elected for. We need MPs to be full time, so that they can do their job well. They are adequately paid now to be full time.

Tan Kin Lian

Accidents in Malaysia

There were two recent cases of accidents in Malaysia that should cause concern to visitors. A bus travelling down from Cameron Highlands went into a ravine killing many tourists. A boat capsized after a trip from a kelong in Sibu Island and 4 Singaporeans drowned.

I want to quote these two incidents about the harm caused by the free market, without adequate regulation. The tour operators had to compete fiercely for business by reducing their prices. They pay low wages to workers who have to work long hours to earn enough to make a living. There is inadequate regulation on working hours, minimum wage and safety standards. The consumers are not able to know about the poor safety standards, until they are in the bus or the boat, and then it is too late.

I am in favor of a regulated market, where there is regulation on fair practices and safety standards. The regulation will apply to all business entities. This may cause the price to be higher, e.g. due to minimum wage levels, but it is better for consumers in the long run. We see this type of regulated practices in the advanced countries of Europe, America and Australia. The standards should apply to Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian countries. I am impressed that China is giving attention to this type of issues, rather than just leave matter to the market to sort out.

Tan Kin Lian

Fidrec decisions

Fidrec was established to be an alternative dispute resolution center. For Fidrec to gain the trust of consumers, it has to be seen as being impartial and fair to consumers. Has Fidrec met up with this expectation? Please share your experience by sending a confidential e-mail to I will not disclose your identity, but I need to gather some feedback to pass to the authority. Please share your experience briefly and state why you felt the process to be fair or not fair.

Straits Times Forum 29 Dec 2010

Provide e-mail addresses on websites of govt agencies
Fidrec adjudicators' decision not binding on complainant
Insurer says sorry for lapses

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What does it mean being poor?

What does it mean being poor? A young man from a rich family found out that it is not too bad.

Fascination by Night

Beautiful night scenes of cities around the world accompanied by my favorite song Fascination sung by Nat King Cole.

Bus-fare refunds go unclaimed

Hi Mr Tan,
I refer to Asiaone headline today.

After reading the report in Shin Ming Daily news dated 19th Dec, a retiree claimed that he got back only 1 cent refund, though he and his wife take buses almost everyday. LTA reportedly insisted that their computation cannot goes wrong on the same day report.

My personal experience proof that this is not very true. I went to the AVM machine to try the refund on 21st Dec. I was shocked to see a quick flash, indicating that the refund I was entitled was only 10 cents (no details of how the amount was being derived). As I seldom take bus to work, for the 3 days in Nov, I took down the amount that was deducted wrongly from my card. After reading the report that LTA claimed the refund cannot go wrong, I made a manual claim from transitlink website, and got back another 60 cents that were being deducted for the 2 days (3rd day was correct).

My question is, how accurate the refund system is then ? Do they expect all the commuters to take note the amount that was deducted everyday and do a manual claim themselves? The problem is not only the few cents, but the faulty system. Having to even refund wrongly to the customers, then why spent so much money to set up rather then donate this amount of money to the charity ? 

Till date, I still encounter overcharging of few cents, but do not bother to claim anymore. Just wish to share with everyone else who read your blog frequently.


BEST Competition

Join in the competition for 3 industries (insurance, hotel, airlines) each night and win a prize for being the best player. The game starts on 27 December 2010 and three new games will be started every night until further notice.

Details available here:

Find out who runs the best insurance company, the best hotel and the best airline! Prizes are donated by Tan Kin Lian & Associates Pte Ltd

Watch this video on how th play this game. Login here to practice the game and take part in the competition:


Here are the educational talks being organised by FISCA. I will be conducting the talk on financial planning in February and on insurance in March. I hope that consumers will register early for these talks.

BEST Game - for practice and fun

You can practice the best game at any time against the simulated players. This allows you to learn the technique.
You can have fun by asking a few friends to compete with you. They go at a fixed time and choose the same game as you. After year 5, which takes 50 mins, you will know who is the winner. You can have a friendly bet with your friend and pay $1 to the person who reaches the top of the game. The game can be played here:

Enjoy and learn the skill of running an insurance company, hotel, airline or other types of business. Join the competition at 8 pm, 9 pm and 10 pm each night and compete against other players.

Financial Plan for John Tan

This is a sample financial plan for John Tan prepared from the website There is a link at the bottom of the document to seek further explanation from an expert.

Monday, December 27, 2010

End of holidays

As the December holidays come closer to an end, the visitors to my blog and website are now returning to normal, i.e.
2,500 for blog
400 for website

Unfair contract terms

We have a law against unfair contract terms. How does the law define what is an unfair contract term? Would the following contract terms be deemed to be unfair to consumers?

a) The bank imposes a penalty for late payment that is why above what it cost the bank to process the late payment? If the actual cost is $2, can the bank impose a fee of $200?

b) If an personal accident policy require the consumer to notify the insurance company about a change of occupation, can the insurance company deny a claim due to failure to comply with this requirement, even though the change of occupation did not have any impact on the nature of the risk?

As businesses now aim to increase their profits, they may be imposing penalties and conditions that are onerous and unfair to consumers. What redress does the consumer have under the law against unfair contract terms?

Tan Kin Lian

Utmost good faith and incontestability

The principle of utmost good faith in insurance applies in both directions. The insurer expects the consumer to declare truthfully what he knows or ought to know about the nature of the risk. The consumer expects the insurer to declare truthfully the nature of the insurance contract and also to settle the claim fairly, as was promised.

It would be wrong for the insurer to find unjustified grounds to reject the claim. As it is difficult to monitor the bad behavior of insurers, some countries have introduced the incontestability clause to govern life and health insurance policies. This is to prevent the insurer from finding flimsy excuse to reject claims due to alleged non-disclosure, especially if the consumer does not even know about the condition that they failed to disclose.

I hope that insurers and regulators understand the need for fair treatment of consumers and the correct application of the principles of utmost good faith and the incontestability clause. If consumers are unfairly treated, they will lose trust in insurance contracts.

Tan Kin Lian

Incontestability clause in life and health insurance policies

Read this explanation about incontestability clause in a life insurance policy. And this explanation about its application to a health insurance policy.

I am not sure if there is an incontestability clause in Medishield or a Shield policy issued by an insurance company. There is need for this type of protection of consumers against unfair rejection of claims.

Corporate e-mail address

I looked for the corporate e-mail address of MAS. They do not provide it. They provide the fax number and mailing address. I don't know why they prefer to have the inefficient way of communicating with the public?

MAS can provide a corporate e-mail address such as They can have a staff to check the inbox regularly and forward the mail to the colleague handling the matter. They have to do the forwarding with mail received by post and fax anyway.

Some corporations allow the public to submit a web form. Maybe MAS has this web form. In most cases, the web form is difficult to find, difficult to use (e.g. ask for many unnecessary information), have a text box that is too small and do not allow attachments.

Why create so much trouble for everyone? Just provide a corporate e-mail address! I hope that corporate IT manager or admin managers are reading this blog!

Read this suggestion:

Tan Kin Lian

Renovating a small industrial premise

I complained earlier that I had to spend $3,500 to get a qualified engineer to certify the fire safety for the renovation to my industrial premise of 1,600 sf. The contractor told me that if I did not get the stamp from the engineer, the building manager would not give approval for the work to start.

I now learned that the process took three weeks for the engineer to do the drawing. What a waste of time! What  a waste of money! I am angry that that the fire safety regulations is adding a lot of unnecessary cost to me. It is why the cost of doing business is so high in Singapore - due to these wasteful requirements. I have written to the Pro-Enterprise Panel. I hope that they are reading this blog.

Tan Kin Lian

Unfair rejection of Shield claim

Here is another case of an unfair rejection of a shield claim. The rejection was based on a medical condition that occurred 5 year previously and was not of a long term nature. The agent had advised the consumer that it was not necessary to declare this condition. The consumer was insured with another company previously but made this change after getting the assurance of the agent.

My view
The agent is greedy to make a few dollars of commission on the Shield plan. The agent had harmed the consumer considerably through this irresponsible behavior.

Private hospitals

Malaysia is also facing problems with the charges in private hospitals. The journalist advice consumers to insist on itemised bills. SGEP

Best and Worst of Singapore in 2010

What are the best and worst of Singapore in 2010? Be ready for a surprise! Read SGEP

HDB prices and government subsidy

Are HDB flats being sold at subsidised prices? Here is an update. SGEP

Shark's Fin

This article contains photos of how sharks are being killed for their fins. The writer wants us to stop eating shark's fin.

Explanation on Financial Planning Projection

Here are some questions that the consumer may ask about the financial planning projection that has been printed from and the expert who can provide the explanation.

TKL Website (

Do this survey. Thank you.

I created the TKL website using the PDF centric format in August 2010, slightly more than 4 months ago. I wish to share my experience with this style of website:
1. It is easy for me to create content in PDF and to upload them into the website. I create several PDF each week.
2. It is easy to search for the PDF using the keyword. I have to use it often to locate PDF to answer questions from my readers.
3. My reader are able to use the "Enquiry" tab to send questions to me. I receive a few questions daily.
4. It is fast to retrieve information from my website, using the web browser.
1. Some readers said that they had difficulty in reading the PDF on their mobile device. I am not able to find a solution to this weakness. My intent is that the PDF should be read on a web browser and not a mobile device. I have tried to use the HTML format, but I found it difficult to embed graphics in the HTML format under the database structure of this website.

I believe that a public or business corporation should have an actively managed website with dynamic content and allow the public to search for information in an easy and fast way. The PDF centric website seems to provide this capability. The ease of creating content on PDF should encourage the corporation to have an active website, compared to the traditional HTML website.

I welcome feedback and suggestions to be posted here or sent to
Tan Kin Lian

Private Shield and the well off

Are you well off?
If you are - it is all right to have private shield, as you can afford the higher premium and higher co-payment  and you are assured of a better choice of doctors.
But, if you are not well off, and money is an issue, do read these FAQs:

Do not be mistaken that private shield will cover more of your medical bills. They do not. With a private shield, you are likely to end up paying more for your medical treatment. Whether you really get better quality of treatment is a separate issue.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Suzy Orman and Life Insurance agents

Suzy Orman does not like life insurance agents. Watch this video for the reasons.

Life insurance - its useful role

Most of the life insurance policies sold in the market in Singapore are bad for consumers, as they take a lot of money and give a poor yield. But life insurance, as a tool for managing personal finances is good, provided that is is designed to give a fair yield to consumers. It has to be sold directly. See this article.

Find out more about the flexi-life policy in You can also generate a financial plan and watch the tips on financial planning and insurance.

Motor insurance with Direct Asia

I recommended a friend to check with Direct Asia on the motor insurance for her car. She obtained a lower quote than her existing insurer and moved to Direct Asia. She found their service to be excellent. She preferred to deal directly with the insurance company, rather than go through an agent. See:

Competing with the experts

When a consumer buys insurance, the consumer has the compete with the insurance experts, e.g. the actuaries, on what is a fair price for the insurance protection. The insurance company will naturally want to make a bigger profit, if they can, and will charge more to the consumer for the protection. There is no way that the consumer can compete with the insurance company as they have the statistics and the expert to do the calculation. The unwary consumer is likely to pay too much and get a bad deal.

The best protection for the consumer is:
  • Deal with an insurance company that is pro-consumer, i.e. they will charge a fair price. An example is an insurance company that is not profit-driven. Today, it is difficult to find such a company in Singapore.
  • Buy a standard insurance policy that is offered on similar coverages by several companies. The market competition will force the company to lower their margin and make a modest profit. Examples are term insurance, motor insurance, personal accident insurance and fire insurance.
  • Avoid a specially designed product, under an exotic name, that is marketed to you by an insurance agent, adviser or consultant.  This applies especially to a life insurance policy that combines protection with investment of savings. You can be sure that this policy cannot be compared, and is likely to be highly priced to give a big margin to the agent and the insurance company.
Tan Kin Lian

Accept low yield or take market risk

We are in a period of low interest rate. Consumers should accept this low yield and do not be greedy. If you want higher interest rate, take the risk of investing in an indexed fund, comprising of equities. Accept the volatility and average out the good and bad years.

The worse investment decision is to buy structured products or unregulated products that seemed to promise high yield. The investor is likely to fall into a trap from cheats and scams or from financial institution that take off a large margin on the structured products and do not tell the real risk of these products.

Do not believe any marketing person who assure you that you can get a good return without risk. They are likely to tell you a lie. When you find out later, you are not able to hold them accountable, as they will deny the statement.

You should read my book, Practical Guide on Financial Planning or attend the educational talks organised by FISCA. If you do not put in the time to be educated, be prepared to lose a lot of money from bad investments!

Tan Kin Lian

Risk of long duration bonds

If current interest rate is 0.5% and government bonds for 10 years give a yield of 1.5%, which is better for the investor?

If interest rate remains at the low level for the next 10 years, it is better to invest in the government bonds and earn an additional 1% interest yearly. However, the risk to the investor is an increase in interest rate. If the interet rate increase to 3% per annum, the investor is stuck with 1.5% interest on the government bond for the remaining period. If the investor decides to sell the government bond at that time, there will be a capital loss of about 1.5% times the remaining period. If the remaining period is 8 years, the capital loss can be 12% (or thereabouts). The loss is higher, if the yield goes up to 5% (say).

It is difficult to predict the future interest rate. Even the the fund managers or analysts or the government leaders are not able to predict this trend. So, the investor cannot make this prediction. They should not ask other people, as nobody knows.

If you decide to invest in long term government bonds during a period of low interest rate, you should be prepared to wait out the entire period at the current yield. If you do not want to take this risk, you should invest in a bond for a short duration, say 3 to 5 years, even if you get a lower interest rate compared to long duration bonds.

Tan Kin Lian

Investing in equities

Many consumers find it difficult in deciding on which stock to invest in. My advice to them is to invest in an indexed fund or an exchange traded fund. They should not worry about stock picking (which is difficult) and market timing (which is also difficulty). If they are not sure about the timing, they can invest in several installments based on the principle of dollar cost averaging. Read this FAQ

Apple iPad

This writer explains why he is NOT buying the Apple iPad

I agree with his reasons.

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