Saturday, October 27, 2012

Happiness is not for sale

Seah Cheang Nee explain the difference between happiness and prosperity in this article. By leading a simple life, people can be happier and less stressed, such as in Bhutan.

Claims snag after upgrade to IncomeShield

From James Wong Chee Wah (printed in Today paper)
Last December, I converted to the Enhanced IncomeShield basic plan after being insured under MediShield since the scheme was introduced.

This year, I was admitted thrice to hospital for heart problems. I decided to stay in the "C" Class ward, even though my insurance plan entitled me to a B2 ward, and incurred a total hospital bill of about S$12,000.

However, NTUC Income did not pay my claim on the grounds that I did not disclose that I had a cancerous kidney removed in 1992 and other conditions which were cured, even though there was no relapse for almost 20 years. The insurer also wanted to cancel my policy and refund my premium.

I understand that for the integrated plan as specified by the Health Ministry, my claims should be covered under the basic MediShield plan, which I had all along.

NTUC Income, though, sent me this statement: "You will remain insured under Basic MediShield if you satisfy the CPF's eligibility criteria."

What does this mean? Surely, it is the insurer's duty to check and then decide if I am eligible to be paid under Central Provident Fund coverage. After four months, my claims have not been settled, causing me stress.

I would advise others to avoid upgrading to an enhanced plan, as they, too, may have claims rejected on unfair grounds. Does the ministry have views on this matter?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Buying property under development

There is a risk of buying a property under development. If the developer is not able to complete the project due to financial difficulty or other issues, you will be stuck with a partially completed project.

This has happened to investors who have bought properties under development in Malaysia and other countries. The control over the developers is not as reliable as in Singapore and some of the projects had been aborted. The investors had been stuck with the uncompleted projects.

It is better to wait and buy a completed property, even though the price may be higher.

When buying an overseas property, the purchaser of an overseas property should also be aware about the government regulations, e.g. property tax, capital gain tax, approval for foreign ownership, etc.  After taking all these risks and uncertainties into account, it may be better to avoid buying an overseas property.

Buying an overseas property

Mr. Lim (not his real name) invested in several plots of land in Alberta, Canada, sold by a Canadian company.  They were bought at different times, following briefings conducted by the Singapore office of the promoter.  He received titles to some of the plots and was waiting for the title for the remaining plots, when the Canadian company filed for insolvency.

Mr. Lim was shocked to learn that the Canadian company had taken a mortgage loan on his plots of land without his permission. After a lengthy legal process, the Canadian court had ruled that the mortgage was valid and the mortgage holder had higher priority on the land.

The land title showed that they had an undivided interest in the land. Presumably, the title of the land still resided with the Canadian company, which was able to take a mortgage loan on the land, to the detriment of the owners who had bought the "plots" of land. Mr. Lim and the other Singapore investors did not lodge a caveat to register their interest in the land.

When buying any property, whether in Singapore or overseas, it is important for the buyer to engage a lawyer who will take care of the legal formalities, including lodging a caveat to record your interest. Mr. Lim had trusted the promoter to handle the formalities, but that trust was misplaced, as the promoter had acted fraudulently.

As the registered owner of the land, Mr. Lim received notices from the Alberta Provisional Government to pay the property tax on the land. He is in a dilemma as he does not know if it is a crime for him not to pay the tax, and he does not know the real value of his land.

Purchasers should be aware of this risk, when they buy an overseas property.

Penalise executives who make risky bets

President Barack Obama said the next important step 
for making the U.S. financial sector safer
is to make sure executive pay is less closely tied to risky bets.
In an interview to be published on Friday in Rolling Stone magazine..
.. the stability of markets is still at risk
because people making risky bets
are handsomely rewarded if the bets pay off,
but face limited consequences if those bets go sour.
"It tilts the whole system in favor of very risky behavior,"
he said.
"By the time the chickens come home to roost,
 they're still way ahead of the game."

Do not lose your moral compass

Read this testimonial from a successful doctor who died from cancer at the age of 40.

Share buyout offer

Here are some tips on how to decide on a buyout offer, such as the offer by a conglomerate to buy the F&N shares.

Cooling measures in danger of losing credibility

Although it is still early days, many property market watchers are coming to the conclusion that the latest round of Government cooling measures - curbing the tenures of home loans - is having little or no impact.
Some have described them as "very disappointing". Even the knee-jerk reaction that accompanied the previous rounds of cooling measures was missing.
Show flats were packed the day after the Oct 5 announcement, with prospective...

Fee for credit card payment

25 October 2012

Editor, Voices
Today Paper

I wish to follow up on the letter by Alvin Ho (many companies
still charging swipe fees, Today, xxxxx 2012).

He said that in July, the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS),
and the credit card companies had stated in the media
that merchants are not allowed to pass on any form of 
surcharge/swipe fees/administration charges to consumers
when they make payments with credit cards.

Recently, I booked a ticket with JetStar Asia and was given 
the option to pay by credit card (and incur an administrative charge of $18) 
or to pay using NETS at several outlets (and be free of the charge).

I am sure that the low cost airline incurs a higher cost to process
the NETS payment, rather than the credit card payment. It is ridiculous 
for the airline to encourage its consumers to adopt a more inconvenient 
and more costly way to make the payment.

I understand that the merchant now has to pay a high fee to the bank 
for the credit card payment. 

The ABS should ask its member banks to reduce their charge that they 
impose on merchants, so that in turn the merchant can offer the credit
card payment to their customers without the additional charge.

Tan Kin Lian

Financial Services Consumer Association

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Online process of Government Agencies

This document explains why it is difficult to use the online processes of government agencies and suggests a simpler method for the public to submit their forms:

Tips on Motor Claims

If you meet with an accident and the other party is at fault, you can protect your No Claim Discount and avoid unexpected problems by following the tips shown here.

Cut credit card fees imposed on merchants

I refer to Mr Alvin Ho's letter "Many companies still charging swipe fees" (Oct 25).
He said that it was stated in July that merchants are not allowed to pass on any form of surcharge/swipe fees/administration charges to consumers who make credit card payments.
Recently, I booked a ticket with a budget carrier and was given the option to pay by credit card and incur an S$18 administrative charge, or to pay using NETS at several outlets,...

Visit TODAYonline at

Many companies still charging swipe fees

In July,
the Association of Banks in Singapore (ABS),
as well as Visa/MasterCard/Amex stated in the media
that merchants are not allowed to pass on
any form of surcharge/swipe fees/administration charges to consumers
when they make payments with credit cards.
As the holiday season approaches,
it is disappointing
that many tour operators are still passing on their merchant fees to the consumers
via surcharges of between 1 and 6 per cent.
there is also the 10 per cent "administrative charge"
for payment via credit cards by taxi companies.

Third party claim went sour!

Mr. See (not the real name) was driving a van when a motor cyclist collided into his rear. A man saw the incident and claimed that he is representing workshop X. He took Mr. See to the workshop and advised that this is a straight forward claim and agreed to make a claim against the insurer of the motor cycle.

Mr. See was asked to sign some papers in small print and was offered a free rental car for 8 days. The car was also repaired at no cost to him.

!8 months later, workshop X told Mr. See that he was not able to claim from the insurer of the motor cycle and asked Mr. See to pay for the repair cost, amounting to over $10,000. Mr. See refused to pay this bill, as it was above the market rate. He received a writ from the lawyer acting for the workshop.

What can Mr. See do? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Early action could have reduced losses

21 October 2012 

Editor, Forum Page
Straits Times

I refer to the letter from Ms. Angeline Fernandez, Director (Communications) of the 
Monetary Authority of Singapore ("MAS spells out regulatory criteria, ST. xx Oct 2012") 

Ms. Angeline said that MAS does not regulate schemes that involve investors
acquiring physical assets, such as property, gold, art or wine.

I understand that the property or gold schemes involve more than the acquisition of
the physical assets. There is a guarantee of a buy back of the assets for the invested sum
 and the payment of an attractive, guaranteed rate of interest. 

These schemes are more akin to taking of money on deposits with the promise of
payment of interest and capital, 

Most of the investors would not have invested in these schemes, if it did not carry 
these promises on the guaranteed payments.

MAS is responsible to regulate companies taking deposits. It issues licences to 
banks and finance companies to carry out this type of activity and supervises their
business. MAS should not have allowed other businesses to take money from the public 
with similar promises, without getting a licence from MAS.

MAS knew about the activities of these companies but decided to put their names in 
their website under its Investor Alert List. If MAS had investigated these companies at that 
time to find out if they are infringing the law on deposit taking, it was likely that these activities 
would have been stopped earlier, when fewer people were involved. 

Tan Kin Lian

Termination of Financial Adviser

A Financial Planner asked for my views on whether he is entitled to the future commission on policies that he had sold previously, if he resigned from the company. His contract stated:
Either party may at any time terminate the Agreement by giving not less than 30 days written notice of such intention to the other party. The exercise by the Company of its right termination as stated above shall not disentitlle the Life Planner from receiving any commission (individual policies or group insurance products), overriding commission and production commission (hereinafter referred to as "the said Benefits") due to the Life Planner up to the date of termination and the Life Planner so affected in the manner described herein before shall further be entitled to the Renewal Commission due to on premium actually paid on policies (hereinafter referred to as " the said additional Benefits") in the year following after the date of such termination PROVIDED ALWAYS that the said Benefits and/or the additional Benefits, as the case may be, shall not be payable to the Life Planner if the Agreement has been terminated by the Life Planner under this clause. Such said Benefits and/or additional Benefits shall not paid to anyone else. 
It is clear to me that the Financial Planner will lose not only the commission that accrue after the termination of the contract, but also the commission that accrue from the date of notice of termination to the date of termination, described as "the said Benefits".

It seemed to be quite unfair that the commission that accrued during the period of service, i.e. before the termination date, is also forfeited. There should be a case for the Life Planner to argue that the contract terms are unfair.

Edgeworth Properties

An investor wanted to see me about his investment in Edgeworth Properties. I carried out a research and found that this was already covered in the Business Times Article:

There is another article that explained the liquidation of this company. 

It is sad to see 2,000 investors in Singapore lost their hard earned savings in this bad investment. 

Lesson: Avoid buying property under development in other countries. Many things can happen.

Disappointed with an education policy

Where do average clients like us go to seek redress or recourse,
given the fact that we bought the policy on good faith
by trusting the agent of the insurer,
who understood the reason we wanted to invest in such a policy
more than 20 years ago?
Mohd Yusoff H. Hamdan

Regulate for safer investments

 THE explanation by the Monetary Authority of Singapore
("MAS spells out regulatory criteria"; last Saturday)
to the question raised by Mr Tan Sin Liang about regulating questionable firms
("Not as good as gold at all..."; Oct 14)
is that these firms fall outside the MAS' jurisdiction.
If the MAS does not wish to,
perhaps some other government agency could step in
to regulate the investment industry
to ensure that Singapore is a city where investors can operate with peace of mind.
Eng Tiang Chuan

Buyback lure requires stricter rules

THE Monetary Authority of Singapore said that
it does not regulate schemes that involve investors acquiring physical assets
like property, gold, art or wine
("MAS spells out regulatory criteria"; last Saturday).
It appears that the MAS knew about the activities of these companies
but decided to put their names on its website under its Investor Alert list.
If the MAS had investigated these companies at that time
to find out if they were infringing the law on deposit-taking,
it is likely that these activities would have been stopped earlier,
when fewer people were involved.
Tan Kin Lian
Financial Services Consumer Association

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shortage of babies

Lucky Tan disagree with the argument put forward by DPM Teo on the need for more foreign workers to cover the shortage of babies:

He argued that if we are short of babies, we should be importing babies now, rather than older foreigners for the work force.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Multi-racial in spirit

At the ferry terminal, I observed this incident. Two Chinese ladies were speaking in English and Teochew. One of them asked in Teochew about a local dish. A Malay lady, sitting in front and wearing a tudong overhead them and told them the name of the dish. She was a Singaporean and shyly told me that she knew a little bit of Teochew, having mixed with the Chinese in the daily life.

This is multi-racialism in spirit; where every one can understand a little about the language, food and culture of the other communities. This is one positive aspect of life in Singapore that should be preserved. It may be a simple incident, but it is quite meaningful.

US Presidential Election and Singapore

Lucky Tan points out the similarities of the policies pursued by the Republicans in USA and the PAP in Singapore. I agree with this observation and dislike the policies of both parties.

My view of the ad - MyRetirement

I saw an advertisement of the new policy, called MyRetirement, from Aviva. Here are my views:

a) The capital is guaranteed

My view: A long term investment that is capital guaranteed usually pays a poor return. Please check carefully.

b) There is a guaranteed return of up to 2.38% per annum. This means that the return could be lower than 2.38% p.a. but could not be higher than 2.38% p.a.

My view: A return of 2.38% p.a., is quite poor for savings that is locked up for a long term.

c) It provides a guaranteed monthly income for 10 years.

My view: This statement means nothing. If I have $120 dollars, I can also get a monthly income of $1 over 10 years. It is more important to get an adequate return on your monthly income.

A better choice
 If you are investing for the long term, make sure that you can get a yield of at least 4% per annum.  You can attend the FISCA talk on financial planning or investments (see to find out some better choices.

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