Saturday, February 09, 2013

Event at Hong Lim Park, 16 February 4.30 pm

I will be speaking at the event in Hong Lim Park. Look forward to see many of you attend to give your support. 

Event: Say No to 6.9 million in 2030
Date: 16 February at 4.30 pm
Venue; Hong Lim Park
Organizer: Mr. Gilbert Goh

More details

Learn the skill of problem solving

Do you want your children or grandchildren to learn the skill of thinking and problem solving? Bring them to attend any of these free talks to be held on Saturday morning. Suitable for children above 10 years old, adults and seniors.

Take care of your financial future

I have often been asked by consumers, "Mr. Tan, I find it so confusing that insurance agents keep introducing new products to me, explaining the risks that I face. How do I know which is a good product to buy?"

I am too polite to tell them what I honestly think. Here is my frank answer.

1. You will be cheated of 40% of your hard earned savings. If your savings should accumulate to $500,000 by the time you retire, the insurance policy will take away $200,000 from you.

2. If you buy the right insurance, you should give away $50,000 and keep $450,000 for your retirement.

3. You deserve to be cheated, because you are too lazy to attend a talk ( or too stingy to pay $30 for a talk or to pay $12 to buy a book (

4. You only need to spend 1% of your annual income on insurance. The best form of savings and investment are taught in the FISCA talk or in my book. Learn now, how to take care of your own financial future. Spend the time and a few dollars.

5. The life insurance companies will keep introducing new products to catch the naive consumers. Their insurance agents are trained to keep selling new products to you, so they can earn the commission and the insurer can make more profits from the new products and the old products that are being replaced. 

Stressful experience on getting a refund

This consumer was "cheated" by a forex trainer into paying a large fee for a course that he did not attend and had a difficult time to get a refund of the fees. He shared this story to warn other people to avoid falling into the same trap.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Abuse of the Internal Security Act

Someone asked for my views about the Internal Security Act and the people who were arrested in Operation Cold Store in 1962. 

Most people were told that the operation was carried out to put the dangerous communists behind bars, so that they will not cause unrest and violence in Singapore. This message was drummed into the people by the newspapers. The Barisan Socialists were painted in a bad light.

When I was in Secondary School in the mid 1960s, I lived in Thomson Road, near the junction of Balestier Road. The Rakyat Clinic (Malay name for People's Clinic) was located there. The name of Dr. Lim Hock Siew was written on the wall of the clinic; but Dr Lim was not there, as he was arrested in 1962.

I had met Dr. Lee Siew Choh many years later, and found him to be a soft spoken and gentle person. He did not seem to be a dangerous person, although he was a leader of the Barisan Socialists.

I watched a speech by Dr. Lim Hock Siew on Youtube in 2010 and met him once. I got to know of him and his his beliefs in democracy and social justice. It was really sad, that good people like him and his comrades were detained for several decades. Singapore would have been a much better place today, if the Internal Security Act had not been abused by the people in power.

I like to see the ISA replaced, just like it was done in Malaysia.

Internship - learn office skills

One vacancy for an intern is now available. Interested, please send resume (or CV) to

Hold a referendum on the Population White Paper

648 people have signed the Petition asking the Government to hold a Referendum on the Population White Paper. 

It does not matter that the Government is unlikely to heed this call. More important, is to show the Government that a large number of citizens are willing to give their particulars in support of the Petition.

This is why the Petition ask for name, NRIC, age and occupation. I have also asked for email and telephone, in case there is a need for verification. I do not want to have mischievous people giving false particulars.

I urge those who feel strongly about the potential increase in population to encourage more people to sign the Petition.

Will overseas education lead to a brain drain?

Someone asked, "Being denied of the chance to further your studies in Singapore with no reasons given, do you think local students will feel attached to their homeland? This is no longer the Singapore they know and love anymore."

Here is my reply.

1. I observe that many students who studied abroad return to Singapore. A few may stay back to work in the countries where they had studied, but is is not easy to find jobs there anyway.

2. Many students are now pursuing degrees of overseas universities that are conducted in Singapore. This helps to reduce the expenses for them and their parents.

3. I am, therefore, not so concerned about the perceived "brain drain" or the "loss of loyalty to Singapore". While this may occur, the impact is likely to be small.

4. My bigger concern is the large sums that are being spent on university degrees, which may not help the graduate in getting  a job or a higher salary that justify the time and expenses. Some of them find it hard to get a job. Others complained that employers prefer candidates with working experience.

5. If some of these people do not pursue a degree, they can spend the time to acquire work and practical experience that maybe more relevant to them and the economy.

6. Our challenge is to get rid of the old mindset that favors paper qualification compared to practical experience. If people with practical experience can earn as well as those with degree, it will encourage our students to pursue the right types of training that will serve the economy better.

7. This change has to be led by the public service, which is the largest employer, and by the big companies. They have to set the right strategy for others to follow.

Access to justice for the poor

Someone asked, "Is it true that the poor cannot afford justice and the rich abuse it? How can this be solved? Why were some targeted people bankrupted or have to pay huge sums for a fair trial? Aren't we supposed to have access to impartial justice? How can can the public avoid pre-verdict judgments based on coverage by the media?

Here are my points.

1. The laws of a country differentiate between "crime" and "civil offences". If the offence is a crime, it is the duty of the state to take action, e.g. murder, assault, cheating, vandalism. The victim can make a report to the Police and let the state investigate and charge the offender. The victim does not need to have money to get justice.

2. The poor can also get access to a "free" lawyer in certain cases, e.g. to defend a charge of a serious crime. The state may pay the lawyer or use a panel of lawyers who are willing to provide this free service for the poor.

3. In some countries, the attorney general acts as a lawyer for the people, and will take civil cases collectively on behalf of a large group of victims. The attorney general of New York State is quite active in this role, and has sued or obtained out-of-court settlement from big corporations for alleged offences.

4. In America, some lawyers are willing to take up cases for consumers on a contingency fee arrangement. The lawyer bears all of the cost and will take a percentage e,g. 30%  of the compensation, if successful. This type of fee arrangement is not allowed in Singapore.

5. The legal system in America protects the rights of the citizens, and the poor. Singapore needs to adopt some of these good practices, so that the poor can also have access to justice and fair play.

6. The media reports statements made in court as there on cases of public interest. It is for the public to avoid making "biased judgment" based on incomplete facts, inadequate consideration or ignorance of the law. They should leave it to the court to make the judgement.

I hope that these points are useful and interesting.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Rent a HDB flat first

Here are my views about how to allocate new HDB flats in a more effective way. 

As new HDB flats (under the build to order system) are being sold at a discount to market price, it is natural that most applicants want to get the flats earlier and to get a bigger flat to enjoy a bigger discount. Each person will argue for a new way to set the priorities, so that they get in front of the queue. 

generally do not support this type of selfish thinking. I prefer to find a solution that is fair to all parties.

The most urgent demand are for young couple who wants to get married and to start a family. We need a way to let them have their flats earlier.

Their need can be best met, in my view, by offering them 2 or 3 room rental flats. They can stay in these rental flats for a few years, until they get the new flats that they need. During this time, a small flat will be adequate, as their family is small. At most, they may have 1 or 2 babies in the meantime.

For applicants who come from rich families, their parents can help them to buy a resale flat or private condo, so they do not need to use the rental flat scheme.

It should be possible for the rental flat to be offered to newly married couples at an affordable rental for a period of say, 3 years. Beyond this period, the rental can increase to the market rate, so there is an incentive for them to move to their own flat.

There are advantages of offering rental flats. The occupiers do not get a bigger flat that they need, for "investment" purpose. They can choose a flat that is close to their place of work, and can move to a new location, if they change workplace. This will reduce the travelling time.

They can also rent a place close to the parents, so that the parents can help to look after the grand children.

We need to build a system of rental flats to provide flexibility to the housing situation.

While renting a flat, the young couple can keep their savings in the CPF, and also invest the savings in REITS and blue chip shares, to enjoy a yield better than 2.5%. They will build up the savings to pay for the new HDB flat that they buy later.

Most families will end up with 1, 2 or 3 children, so a 4 or 5 room flat should be adequate for their use. They can choose the right time to buy their flats.

If the immediate pressure for a place to stay is removed, they can make a more rationale selection for the HDB flat that they will ultimately own. 

Work-life balance

I give my views on how to achieve a better work life balance in Singapore.

We have to look at experiences of other countries that are successful in achieving a good work life balance. Australia comes to mind. Here are the key factors. 
1. They have a high minimum wage
2. They have regulations on maximum working hours; employers are required to pay for overtime work at 1.5 to 2 times of the normal wages
3. They have unemployment benefit for workers who lost their jobs.

The fair terms of employment and job security encourages the workers to work for what is expected of the job, and do not force them to compete hard or work long hours, just to be sure that they can keep their jobs.

They can feel secure in working the expected hours, and leave time for the family and leisure. Over time, this becomes the national norm. The Australians enjoy their sports and hobbies. (At least, this is the impression that I get after talking to many Australians).

The next question that comes to mind is - can Singaporeans afford to work less hard, when we have to compete in the global economy and do not have the natural resources that are available to other countries?

I believe that we can. Here are my reasons:
1. The extra hard work that is put in by Singaporeans are, to a fairly significant extent, not really productive. We stay back long hours to appear to be hard working. We spent some of the time on unproductive and unnecessary work.
2. The long hours of work mean more profit to the owners or higher rentals for properties, and do not translate into growth for the economy; this is reflected in our high income gap.

If we adopt a better work life balance, we can still be competitive and leave more time for workers to spend with the family.

To achieve this goal, regulation of working hours and work practices is required. We cannot depend on the free market, as the freedom leads to exploitation of the workers with weak bargaining powers. 

Performance of the Civil Service

Someone ask: What is the service & efficiency level in the government sector? Are the bonuses of civil seIrvants "guaranteed", unlike the private sector? Is it a metal rice bowl mentality, leaving to complacency, no need to improve? Should the public has a chance to give them appraisal of the performance of civil servants?

Here are my views:

1. There is a fair degree of inefficiency in the public sector. Many civil servants stick to the book, instead of exercise judgement. They do not want to take any risk, as it may cause them to lose their job, if they make a mistake.

2. They impose systems that make them secure or reduce their work, but pass the burden to the public. I have spent hours on submitting many online forms that save just a few minutes of the time of the civil servant.

3. They spent too much effort on achieving their key performance indicators (KPI) that may be badly described. The effort goes to achieve results that are not useful. For example, they bring in foreign direct investments (FDI) that may not benefit our economy, but the numbers are counted anyway.

Not all civil servants fall into this description. Some are quite good and exercise initiative. But, I believe that a large number just follow the book blindly without regard to the wider consequences.

The civil servants receive a bonus that is related to economic growth, and not on the profit of their agency. They bonus is somewhat performance related, but there are people who doubt that economic growth is a good indicator of good performance.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Improve the means tested scheme

2 February 2012 

Eidtor, Forum Page
Straits Times

A panel of Member of Parliaments have the Government
to refine its means testing to make them more equitable and

This testing is now used for large scale transfer schemes, such 
as GST Voucher and Central Provide Fund top-ups. Currently, 
they are based on assessable income and annual value of 

There has been many complaints from retirees who have 
insufficient income but now live in property with annual values that
exceed the thresholds. 

As means testing is going to be used quite often, the Government
should take the additional step of keeping a record of people
who fall within the test.  The people who qualify could fall within
the currently used criteria. 

Those who fall outside the criteria and do not have adequate income
can apply to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. If approved, their
record can be updated to allow them to be entitled to the financial 

At a later date, applicants can apply for a "means tested card" that can 
be used to access other benefits, such as health care or transport.

Tan Kin Lian

Monday, February 04, 2013

Referendum on Population White Paper

This is the proposed home page of the Petition calling on the Government to call a Referendum on the Population White Paper. May I have your views?

Free talk on Thinking and Problem Solving

Learn how to solve puzzles and improve your skill in thinking and problem solving.
Free talks are conducted by Tan Kin Lian on Saturday mornings. Book here.

Content of the talk can be found here

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Withdrawal of CPF savings at 55

Many people are angry at the Government for holding back their CPF at age 55. They argued, "This is our money. Give it back to us at 55, as you had promised. We know how to handle with our money. It is our business, even if we lose it"

I do not support this argument. At the same time, I do not agree with the way that the Government is handling this matter. There should be a sensible compromise.

Here are my reasons:

1. The government is not holding back all of the CPF. They are only holding back the minimum sum. This is the amount that is deemed necessary to support the cost of living for the next 20 to 25 years.

2. Any CPF savings above the minimum sum is paid out at 55. Many people may not have any savings left to take out, as they had spent too much of their savings on buying or upgrading their HDB flats. But there are others, who have been more prudent, that do have some money to take out at 55.

3.  If all the money is taken out at 55, there is a real risk that many people will lose their savings due to bad investments or were cheated by crooks or "lovers". We cannot ignore this risk or allow these naive people to be exposed to it.

4. I repeat - the Government only keeps back the minimum sum (i.e. any excess can be taken out) and gives an attractive interest rate for this minimum sum in the retirement account or in CPF Life. On balance, I think that this is a wise and fair move.

Having said this, I do not agree with the way that the Government is handling this matter. These are the changes that they should consider:

a) Allow the member to make partial or full withdrawal of the CPF minimum sum under certain specified circumstances, provided that they have received counselling  by a specially trained financial adviser.

b) For example, if there are debts to be paid due to illness, unemployment or other acceptable grounds (including bad mistakes made in the past), or even to take an extended holiday, the requests should be considered.

c) For people who are capable of handling their own investments, and can show evidence to that effect, they can request for full withdrawals.

d) Those who wish to migrate from Singapore should be allowed (and I think that this is already the case).

e) If the minimum sum is insufficient, the member should be allowed to ask for the required monthly withdrawal amount, even if the money runs out earlier than 20 years.

My advice to consumers is to keep as much money in the CPF as is allowed, as it is a good, risk free and hassle free investment.

Be assured that the Government has more than enough money to pay you the monthly installments. Do not believe in the rumors that the Government does not have the money. The Government is, in fact, too rich from the high taxes and levies that they have been collecting!

Be prudent in buying life insurance

Understand what needs to be insured and what can be left uninsured

Insurance package for 1% budget

Here are some tips to get a suitable insurance package for 1% of your annual income. If you earn $60,000 a year, you only need to spend $600 a year on your insurance.

Population - NSP proposal

Lucky Tan talks about the alternative proposal put forward by the National Solidarity Party

Family planning policy of the 1970s

I was asked, "Is the low birth rate in Singapore caused by the family planning policy, i.e. the 'Stop at Two' policy, implemented in the 1970s?" 

The answer is "no". The family planning policy affected the earlier generation, and not the young people today.

Our low birth rate today is due to a different set of circumstances. People are now marrying late, deciding to have fewer children, or to remain single.

The key factors are:

a) Time spent on National Service (for males), taking away two years of their time
b) Emphasis on university education, making people start work later
c) High cost of housing and cost of living, making young people delay getting married
d) Working too hard, leaving less time to find a suitable life partner
e) Worry about the high cost of raising children, i.e. tuition fees and other expenses
f) A different set of values, where having children is now not so important
g) Worry about saving enough money for retirement and health care cost for the elderly
h) In recent years, increased competition for jobs with foreigners, leading to depressed wages.

To increase our birth rates, we have to address the concerns of the young families today.

We have to find "out of the box" solutions, as the marriage and family packages adopted during the past two decades have failed to produce results. Insanity is described as "repeating the same methods and expected different results."

I will write about what I like to see as a new approach later. I like to hear your views.

Calculate yield on a complicated life insurance policy

Several people have asked for an Excel spread sheet to calculate the yield of the life insurance policy.

This spreadsheet is now available at the FISCA website, FOR MEMBERS ONLY.  You have to login and download the spread sheet to do the calculation.

The spreadsheet can take care of premiums that are payable over a limited period and also for benefits that are paid out in cash at certain duration of the policy.

It also calculates that amount that you should get, if your premiums earn you a yield of 4% per annum. I consider 4% to be an acceptable yield, for a life insurance policy that provides protection. Any yield lower than 4%, makes the life policy unattractive.

The information page of FISCA is shown here:

Happy Lunar New Year 2013

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