Saturday, June 09, 2012

Improve your vocabulary

Here is an iPhone App that improves your vocabulary and is fun to compete with your friends. It can also run on iPad.

Improvement to traffic light at Bugis

LTA has taken urgent steps to improve the traffic light at Bugis, where two serious accidents occurred recently. Article.

A taxi driver told me that the problem was noticed by many taxi drivers earlier, but they did not know who to report to. We need to improve our system of getting feedback from the public and acting on the feedback promptly - rather than wait for a serious accident to occur before taking action.

In recent years, there is a tendency of many government agencies to avoid taking responsibility and to point fingers to other agencies. We have to find a solution to change this bad habit.

Singapore needs to strive for growth

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong explains why the government needs to pursue its growth strategy. His speech is reported by CNA. Article. And another report from Today. Article.

I will be writing to give my views on several points contained in his speech including the following:
a)  Most countries pursue growth policy
b) But they balance this policy with other priorities, to give a better life for the people
c) Singapore's policies are not well balanced - leading to a feeling of insecurity, stress and lower quality of life
d) This is reflected in our low birth rate - among the lowest in the world
e) The policy of increasing asset value is flawed, as it is fueled by an asset bubble that will have to be paid by our future generation!

Firms have to explain anti-corruption measures

WHILE the recent reports on the corruption case
involving the former Singapore Civil Defence Force chief
have named the companies whose employees were alleged to have given sexual favours
in exchange for getting business,
the attention has been on the wrongdoing by the individuals
('Former SCDF chief faces 10 charges'; Thursday).

The companies concerned need to explain...
including monitoring and enforcement.

.. also review
whether their promotion and reward systems are overly aggressive
in encouraging financial results at all costs.

Associate Professor Mak Yuen Teen
National University of Singapore Business School

Millionaires who don't feel rich

the third richest country in the world on a per capita basis, 
may be good at accumulating wealth
but it fares less well when it comes to distributing it.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

An affordable home

A family should spend not more than 4 years of the family income (based on two working persons), or 5 years of the income (based on a sole income earner). This article explains the calculation.

SCMP: Former chief of HK monetary authority reprimanded

6 Jun 2012
The former chief of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) Joseph Yam Chi-kong is likely to be reprimanded in an investigation report to be released by lawmakers today on the Lehman Brothers minibond scandal.

The report, to be tabled to the Legislative Council this morning after a probe into the saga that has lasted more than three years, is also expected to criticise major government figures including Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and Secretary for Financial Services Chan Ka-keung, as well as former Securities and Futures Commission chief executive Martin Wheatley.

But at least three lawmakers, including Jeffery Lam Kin-fung, Philip Wong Yu-hong and Abraham Shek Lai-him who are supporters of Yam, are said to have refused to sign the report and have vowed to table a minority report on the findings. All three did not return calls last night.

The lawmakers' minibond investigation was launched after Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, leaving more than 43,000 Hong Kong investors facing losses after buying the product through local financial institutions.

Despite the name, minibonds are not corporate bonds, but risky derivatives linked to the credit of listed companies. Over 30,000 investors complained to the HKMA and Securities and Futures Commission, accusing the banks of not telling them about the risks.
A source familiar with the probe cited the report as saying that Yam had to bear the greatest responsibility. He mostly paid heed to maintaining the stability of the financial system and did not consider protecting small investors as one of his main tasks, a source said.
Many lawmakers disagreed with his paying so little heed to small investors.

The source said Wheatley was also blamed as the securities watchdog should have better regulated the financial institutions.
Tsang and Chan faced less severe criticism as the government was not the direct regulator.

Motor insurance premiums continue to increase

Why are motor insurance premiums so high in Singapore and increasing year after year? What can be done about it?

Shoebox units

I agree with Conrad Raj that the Government should not interfere in the market for small size apartments, also called shoebox units. Article. The purchasers are fully aware about what they are buying and they have their reason to buy small units, which in most cases is all they can afford, giving the high property prices in Singapore.

The Government should intervene in the right areas, for example, when consumers are being cheated or bullied by the big businesses. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

High cost of motor repairs

I understand that the average repair cost for a car damaged in a collision is $4,000 in Singapore.

An insurance company in Jakarta told me that their average repair cost is $300 and that an insurance company is able to repair a car at a lower cost than consumers, due to their volume of business.

In Singapore, the insurance company pays more than 2 times of the cost  paid for consumers for the same repair. The average repair cost in Singapore is 10 times of the cost in Jakarta. There is something seriously wrong with the business model in Singapore, leading to high cost for motor insurance repairs and premiums.

This has been a problem that our authority and the insurance company had been unable, or reluctant, to address for several decades.  It is another factor contributing to the high cost of living in Singapore.

Danger of speeding

The recent two traffic accidents in Bugis showed the danger of speeding, especially to beat the red light at a road junction. In both cases, the speeding vehicle did not have the right of way.

Even if they had the right of way, it is important that they should be able to stop in time, if the other vehicle had made a mistake in getting into their path. This is called defensive driving - i.e. to avoid an accident even if the other vehicle had infringed on our right of way.

I find that many vehicles are driven too fast on our roads and the driver may not be able to stop on time, if there is an unexpected obstruction or if the vehicle in front needed to change lanes. We need drivers to be patient and to drive more slowly to avoid road accidents.

Learning about compound interest

Many consumers do not realize the importance of understanding compound interest. This may change their perception!

Understanding Singapore's reserves

Here are some important questions to be asked about Singapore's reserves.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Practice defensive driving

An edited version of tThis letter is published in the Straits Times Online on 4 June 2012.

27 May 2012
Editor, Forum Page
Straits Times

The One Motoring website stated that, unless otherwise indicated, 
the speed limit on our roads is 50 km. This may not be widely known, as it is 
quite common to see many vehicles be driven at a faster speed on our roads.

I suggest that more publicity should be given on the speed limit, especially as 
many foreigners are now allowed driving on our Singapore roads.

Recently, there were fatal and serious accidents involving fast and reckless
driving, especially in the early morning. I urge the authority to take action 
against these drivers. With modern technology, it should be easy to identify
these cases and follow up with prosecution.
There should also be exhortation on the need for defensive driving. Even if 
a vehicle has the right of way, a prudent driver should be ready to stop a vehicle 
in time to prevent a collision.

Many drivers are impatient and in a rush. They are unwilling to give way to a 
vehicle in front that signals an intent to change lane. 

Singapore is a small place and our roads are getting more congested. There is 
no need for cars to be driven at a fast speed.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Avoid strange business or investment

Hi Mr Tan
I thought of sharing with you what my school friend had shared with me. He resigned from his research assistant job and go full time in this business. Of course this will be the ideal job if it works but as a practical person, I'm not really convinced how this business will work because it is a MLM concept.  I believe you have come across this business concept and most times, it will never work out. What are your views on this? (The e-mail contains several videos and weblink on a MLM selling scheme).

Sorry, it is too much for me to read, and I don't have the time to spend to analyse this. You should avoid being drawn into any "business" or "investment" that sound strange.

Financial Tips for Consumers

Dear Mr Tan,
I chanced upon your blog and saw many posts related to insurance. I was approached recently by an insurance agent promoting me a ILP. I am only 20 this year, awaiting for ns and university. 

I understand that you urge young people to not get ILP so early due to the effective returns calculated in the future after deducting the premium allocation. It would be more economical to get a savings plan and a life time term plan for illness or death coverage.

Although it is a good practice to cultivate a habit of saving. Is it even necessary for me to get a ILP in the future? I may have more financial knowledge when I grow older and may be able to manage my own basket of investments. Will an ILP be required when I grow older? 

My objective of an insurance at this stage will be to save for about 10years to create a substantial amount of savings for future investment use when I grow older. My second objective will be to cover a plan for death or critical illness or disability as I'm about to enlist soon.

It is better for you to invest in an ETF, rather than an ILP. REad this article


Several internet websites have introduced Captcha as a security measure. Some of the messages are bizarre. I wonder if they are effective in fooling the robots, but they certainly do give a lot of stress to human beings.

Reporting by the MSM

We need fair reporting by the MSM (main stream media).

Should you invest in stocks now?

The answer is, ironically, "yes" for the long term investor. Forget about individual stocks, but the market (i.e. a fund invested in many stocks representing the index). Forget about past returns - focus on cost. This is the same message given by FISCA.

High COE prices and impact on taxis

Challenge of integrating foreigners

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