Saturday, June 23, 2012

How to read a benefit illustration

When an insurance agent (or financial adviser) recommends a life insurance policy to you, the agent has to give you a benefit illustration.

This is an important document. You have to read it carefully and understand its contents. This article explains what you have to look out for, to see if this policy gives you an acceptable return.

When a consumer writes to ask me about a life insurance policy, I always ask them to send the benefit illustration to me. I look for the points set out in this article to see if the life insurance policy is worth investing in. 

Wasteful practices

The petrol station that I frequently was demolished recently. The pump attendant had told me a few months ago that their company lost the tender for the renewal of the lease and a new petrol station would be taking over. I did not realize that this meant a total reconstruction work for the petrol station.

I have been quite unhappy about wasteful practices that jack up the cost of living and the cost of doing business in Singapore. The previous petrol station was in good condition. It has to be torn down and replaced by a more expensive development paying a higher cost of occupancy. It must result in a higher cost of living.

Already, Singapore has become quite an expensive place to live in, and wages are still quite modest. We have to stop the wasteful practices and higher operating cost.

Different strokes of justice

The recent spate of court sentences has got
Singaporeans wondering
whether judicial decisions favour the elite. 

“These may be early days,
 but unless the Government acts decisively
 it may affect the court’s integrity,”
one lawyer commented.

“Don’t forget,
 justice lies very much in the hands of judges and prosecutors,
 who mostly hail from the elite class.”

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fees charged by private hospitals

Here are the charges for various treatment in private and public hospitals. Patients should ask for a fee estimate before accepting treatment in a private hospital - to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Pinnacle Notes case in US courts

Service standard on the bus

Alvin Tan commented 

Alvin wrote: "Its not experience that makes the ride smooth, its the professionalism & pride in service that makes the ride smooth. 

In Europe, Australia, Japan etc, the service providing staff pride themselves in giving commuters a good experience by; greeting them when they board, calling at all stops (regardless flagged or not) briefly, take a moment to check on elderly/ disabled passengers, and they enforce all passengers to be seated (nobody should be standing) etc. And they never swing out of bus bays recklessly.

Here in Sg, everything that's wrong by service & safety standards is attempted almost to perfection."

Minimum wage for specified sectors

The NTUC chief gave this reasons why he opposed minimum wage for specified sectors. He had also opposed a general minimum wage.,-not-a-floor

Although there are difficulties in a minimum wage system, many countries have overcome them, including Hong Kong. These difficulties are exaggerated. 

High bid for Farrer Drive site

The projected selling price for this new development is too high.$113m-top-bid-for-Farrer-Drive

Will this be the last high bid before the likely fall?

Microsoft's Surface Tablet

This new device from Microsoft is exciting

I agree with the optimism. I believe that Microsoft will succeed with this gadget. There are many people who are now using Windows on PC. They will move to the Surface tablet.

This could be a big challenge to Apple. 

A competent lawyer

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A more convenient journey

Beats standing in a crowded train
I took the bus from my home to the MAS office. The iPad app told me to take 857 and transfer to 130 or 167 at Raffles Hotel. I was able to find a seat all the way. I could also read the news on the iPad.

It was more convenient than taking a feeder bus to the Yio Chu Kang station and transfer to two trains.

I find the bus more comfortable and convenient than the train. It usually provides better connection and require less walking.

I encourage commuters to learn how to take the bus. You may find a better connection that the train. I also find it more convenient to take the bus, rather than drive on the crowded roads and to search for a parking space.

High cost of nursing care

Many Singaporeans are not able to afford the high cost of nursing care for their parents. They belong to the sandwiched generation, who have to take care of parents and their children. The Government can, and should, play a bigger role.

Too good to be true

Dear Mr. Tan,
Can you kindly do some research on (name removed)  and do a write up in your blog. This Company, which is banned in Malaysia, is selling "discounted" Gold bars in Singapore and paying buyers 2% interest per month for 12 months. It sounds too good to be true. I heard they were placed under MAS Alert List.


Read the following

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Prevent corrupt practices

17 June 2012

Forum Page
Straits Times

Over the past decades, Singapore has built up a good reputation for being 
relatively free of corrupt practices.

The two recent cases of alleged indiscretions involving the award of I.T. 
software contracts has exposed a weakness in our system. The people involved
in negotiating and recommending the contacts are often reporting
to the people who take the decision in the award of the contracts.

I suggest that the award of contracts above a certain sum, say $250,000, should be decided 
by an independent panel of knowledgeable persons who are independent of the actual operations. 
Suitable people for this panel are retired civil servants or business leaders who are people of repute, 
have held past senior positions in the respective fields, are no longer in active occupation
 and are free of any potential conflict of interest.  A different panel could be formed for each tender award.

These members of the panel should be paid a respectable honorarium for the time that 
they that have to spend to make the decision. As the amounts involved are large, the 
cost of this layer of decision making could be justified by the potential saving in 
preventing corrupt practices.

Tan Kin Lian

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A new social and economic order

This video shows a new social and economic system, which depends on lower energy consumption and lower economic growth.

Promote the use of buses

15 June 2012 

Forum Page
Straits Times

The Land Transport Authority has been struggling for over a year to find a 
solution to the over-crowding on trains, congestions on our roads and insufficient 
parking spaces.

I wish to suggest a practical measure that can give a immediate and temporary solution to 
these challenges.

Many people may not realize that it is often more convenient to take a bus instead of
a train or a car for their journey.  

I started to use the bus service more regularly during the past year and, after becoming more 
familiar with the bus services, now prefer this mode of travel. It takes away the stress of 
driving on our congested roads or searching for a parking space. I now use an mobile app 
to tell me the bus services to take for my journey. 

On many occasions, I found that taking a bus is more convenient that travelling on our 
over-crowded trains. I was able to find a seat on the bus for most of the journey, enjoy the 
air conditioned comfort and read the news on my mobile device.

Recently, I helped a friend to find a bus alternative to commute to her home. She was taking two trains 
and one hour for the journey for almost two years. She was surprised to learn that there was 
a direct bus that took only 40  minutes and the fare was cheaper. 

If more people become familiar with the bus services, some may find that they do not need to own a car 
or to drive it to work. This would reduce the congestion on our road and improve our road situation. 

I hope that the Land Transport Authority will consider my suggestion to promote greater awareness
of the convenience of our bus services and the use of the mobile app to find the best way to travel.

FISCA Dinner Talk

FISCA is organizing a dinner talk for members and non-members. This is for members to get together and meet each other and to meet the committee members. We encourage non-members to attend as well to learn about the activities of FISCA and to join as members in the future.

The dinner is subsidized by FISCA. You pay less than the actual cost of the dinner. The venue is within walking distance of City Hall MRT station.

Details of the dinner talk can be found here:

You can register at

Sale of life insurance policy to a student

A student was advised by an insurance agent to buy a life insurance policy as a form of savings. He was not told that if he could not continue with the regular savings, he would suffer a loss of a large part of his savings, as the cash value is much less that the premiums paid. As he did not have a regular income, he could not continue to pay the premium and had to suffer a large loss. 

The student asked for my views, if the insurance agent is contravening section 27 of the Financial Adviser's Act, as the agent failed to take reasonable steps to make sure that the policy was suitable for the student. How can the policy be suitable, when the student did not have a steady source of income to pay the premium?

I replied that the student had a valid point and asked him to write a statement along the following lines:

a) state what investment product you were recommended to buy and the circumstances in which you were made to invest in the product
b) state why it was not suitable to you
c) state the wordings of section 27 that apply to this infringement
d) state how you have lost on the investment
e) state why you were not aware about the bad recommendation earlier and how you find out about it now.

Another student was sold a similar policy by the marketing officer in the bank. The mother brought up the case to me. She asked how it was possible for the bank officer to determine that the life insurance policy, which also required regular savings to be made over a long period of time, was suitable to a student who did not have a regular source of income?

I wish to call on other students, who had been mis-sold a life insurance policy and was not told about the potential loss of savings, to come forward and write a similar statement. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Intelligence Quiz

I printed 3 volumes of the Intelligence Quiz. It is a test of logic and is based on the original quiz that was purported to be created by Dr. Albert Einstein. It was popular two years ago, but had since been overlooked.

My friend in Kuala Lumpur told me that he gave my book to his niece two years ago, but she as not interested at that time. Recently, she found the book and tried the puzzle. She became addicted to it and is now asking for additional volumes.  It seemed suitable for children after they reach a certain age.

For those who are interested to try this quiz,  you can buy it at

Kuala Lumpur International Airport

The Malaysian authorities have done away with the disembarkation card and the custom form. This has now been confirmed on my visit to Kuala Lumpur. I first observed this change two months ago when I visited Penang but I was not sure if it was a temporary arrangement, e.g. they run out of cards, or was made only for Penang.

At KL, I was required to scan my index fingers for verification, but the process was fast. A year ago, I had to scan all the fingers and thumbs and the process was long. It took 3 hours to cleared the queue at that time.   The authorities had probably learned that it was not necessary to verify all the ten prints and that two prints are sufficient!

I am happy to see that the Malaysian authorities had been progressive in getting rid of unnecessary requirements, i.e. the entry cards, and have used technology in a sensible way. It is time for Singapore and other Asean countries to learn from Malaysia and get rid of the unnecessary cards and forms.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

FISCA Talks for Organizations

The mission of the Financial Services Consumer Association (FISCA) is to educate consumers on financial planning, investments and insurance. FISCA is a consumer based association and has no connection with any financial institution. We give tips and advice that are in the best interest of consumers. Website:

By investing in the right way, a consumer can get a much higher return, compared to the return from most financial products that are sold to them. The difference for an average consumer could be $200,000!

FISCA is able to offer the following talks to organizations for their employees and members, to be held in your premises.

More details here:

Bad call center service in Singapore

The Consumer Association conducted a survey and found the quality of call center services to be quite bad. Read this report.

The difference between bad service and excellent services is a simple step, But many organizations refuse to take this step, preferring to adopt the same method, and refusing to make a change.

I wish to share my experience here.

Green Post

I registered for Green Post ( a few months ago. This is an excellent website. But, they had little success and take-up, and it reflects the sad state of affairs in Singapore. I wish to share my experience and to reflect on our problems and what should be done to correct the wastefulness that is now typical of Singapore.

First, I was surprised to find that only a few organizations signed up for Green Post, i.e. two telephone companies and 1 utility company and some small companies. It seemed to be quite troublesome to register, so I did not try at that time.

I received an e-mail about a contest. It seemed that the largest highest score was 7 points. The participant get 1 point for registering for a service and to 1 point to refer a friend. So, the take-up must be poor, in spite of an excellent website.

I located my telephone and utility bills for these three participating organizations and made the effort to register. It was quite troublesome - due primarily to the requirements of the participating organizations. I had to provide several pieces of information that was not available to me. The requirement of Sing Tel was particularly difficult, as I had to provide a Sing Net address (which I do not have) or a mobile number registered with them (which I do not have). I only had a fixed line. I also failed to register to Starhub, also due to their difficult technical requirement (have to download a Java script which failed). After putting in much effort, I only managed to register for SP Services.

I am resigned to continue to receive my monthly statements through the post. This is good for Singapore Post, but is bad for the economy. What a wasteful country - this Singapore.

The problem is the unnecessary requirements regarding "security". Each organization felt that they had to authenticate the identity of their customer in their own peculiar way, forgetting that most customers do not remember the secret passwords and other long forgotten personal data.

It would have been easier for them to accept a login through Sing Pass or for the customer to upload a signature. We need a simpler way to authenticate a person through the website, instead of the separate methods (often ridiculous methods) used by different organizations.

Singapore may claim to be advanced in the use of technology, but if you look at the huge volumes of paper mails that are being sent around, we are indeed very inefficient and wasteful.

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