Saturday, January 28, 2017

A balanced financial health

Mr. Tan give advice on how to prepare for retirement with a balanced financial plan

Tariff, excise and GST

Many people in Singapore worry about the direction of the world leading to the introduction of tariffs. They fear that a return to protectionism will be harmful to countries, such as Singapore, that depend on global trade.

I like to argue that the return to protectionism is good for the world. My reasons are set out in this paper.,-excise-and-GST

I am confident that Singapore can adjust and adapt to the new global environment. We are a small country with a well educated and hard working people. We can meet the challenge.

Singapore will do better in a world that is more stable and can provide a better standard of living for the people in all countries.

Of course, there are a lot of things that we need to fix in Singapore. I am confident that it can be done, but we need new leaders.

Problem solving skill for JC students

I showed this video to a junior college teacher. He teaches general paper. He said that the students are generally unaware of what is happening.

He like the concept of problem solving. He tries to teach the theory to the student on focusing on the big picture, but the concept is difficult for the students to grasp.

With the practical steps shown in this video, it would help the students to understand what is "focusing on the big picture".

He invited me to give the tutorial to the students in his class. There will be 40 students, so I will have to think about how to approach it.

If other junior colleage teachers want to try it, send email to

You can also register for this free tutorial in my office:

Friday, January 27, 2017

How to do financial planning with CPF

The CPF is now in a mess. The employees are confused with the money that goes into their account - and don't understand how much goes into each sub-account. They leave it to CPF to sort out.

They also don't know how much interest is earned on each account. It used to be 2.5% p.a. on the ordinary account and 4% for the other medisave and the special accounts. Now there is a complicated formula to calcuate the bonus. Anyway, the employees leave it to the CPF to sort out.

They also don't know how much contribution should go into their account. The contribution depends on several factors, such as age and citizenship. Permanent residents also contribute but a different formula applies to them.

Civil servants also contribute to the CPF but at different rates from private sector employees.

If you really want to know, there are several booklets totalling more than 100 pages (perhaps).

There is also the complication of using the ordinary account to pay for the purchase of HDB flats or private housing. There are complicated formulas to determine how much can be used. We leave leave it to the CPF to tell us, right?

When the employee reaches age 55, some money is transferred into some accounts. Don't ask me how it works - it is extremely complex. We just leave it to the CPF, okay?

No need to worry. Just let CPF figure out all the compications and tell us what we can or cannot do, and how much we can withdraw when the time comes. If they want to keep the money longer, what can we do?

With this kind of convoluted system, the government ask the workers to plan for their retirement. How? They cannot do any planning, if they don't understand how the CPF works, right?

This government, under Lee HL, gets top marks for designing a very complicated system. Maybe, it is the most complicated in the world?

Let's celebrate the return of the Terrexes

We can celebrate the return of the Terrex to Singapore. The mainstream media would paint it as a triumph of our "sovereign right" and the skill of our minister in negotiating its return of these vehicles "before the 15th day of the Lunar New Year".

It is all right for them to present their "alternative facts". (Shhhh. Let's play down the fact that the Terrexer were retained for more than two months, okay?)

Never mind.

I hope that our arrogant ministers and the other elites realize that their approach towards this incident was a big mess. They had insisted on sovereign immunity and challenging the action in Hong Kong court. All of them do not hold water, and showed how naive they had been.

Instead, they now face the prospect of having their surrogates, most likely the shipping line, being asked to defend their breach of the customs laws in the same Hong Kong court.…

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A bad promotion from DBS

I receive this email from DBS SME Banking

Deposit fresh funds of SGD 128,000 and maintain an average daily account balance of at least SGD 258,000 for 3 months, 1 Feb to 30 Apr 2017.

Receive SGD 100 in Cash Rebates to usher in a prosperous Year of the Rooster!

It is a lot of money to deposit and maintain to receive a miserable $100.

DBS SME Banking must think that their customers are idiots !

Nice follow up from SGX Call Center

I posted my unpleasant experience about the SGX Call Center. A staff from SGX called me to get my feedback. That was nice of them.

I gave my feedback. She said that she would pass it to her management.

I told her to get the person in charge to call me. My past experience is that nobody paid any attention.

The person in charge called me today. It was nice of him. I spoke to him. He understood my points.

My main points are:

a) Do not pass irrelevant messages to customers. We are busy and do not wish to spend some much time with irrelevant messages.

b) Make it easy for the customer to talk to somebody, instead of taking them on a merry go round.

That is nice of SGX to pay attention. I hope that they will be able to make changes to improve the customer experience.

Buy insurance directly

Dear Mr. Tan
I went to an insurance company to buy life insurance directly. The staff told me that it is better to buy through an agent, as the agent can assist me in making a claim. Is this true?

Read my reply here:

Make it easier to change billing for utilities accounts

Published in Straits Times, 26 Jan 2017

I am the owner of an apartment that is leased out.

When I lease out the apartment, I have to apply for the utilities account (under SP Services) to be closed and the services disconnected. The new tenant has to apply to open a new account and arrange for services to be connected.

When the tenancy is completed, the same process has to be repeated. The tenant has to apply to close the account and I have to open a new account.

The account opening process from SP Services is quite troublesome. I have to complete a detailed online form and provide documents to prove my ownership.

I have gone through this process several times in the past 15 years.

SP Services should allow the apartment owner to keep the utilities account and apply for the billing to be sent to the tenant during the period of tenancy.

When the tenancy ends, the owner can apply for the billing to revert to the owner.

This will save a lot of work for the owner, tenant and staff of SP Services in processing the opening and closing of utilities accounts and the disconnection and reconnection of services.

Tan Kin Lian

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A world with tariffs can be better

The corporate media and governments stated the return of tariffs and protectionism will be disastrous. They are exaggerating.

Consumes now pay the price of goods plus GST. When tariffs are re-introduced, GST can be reduced or removed. Consumers will pay the same price.

The difference is that local producers will benefit. That will be good for creating jobs in each country. The government can get some revenue by introducing a payroll tax but it should be lower than the tariffs.

Global producers can still sell their goods because they enjoy economy of scale through large production. Take a product X that sells for $500. If tariff is $100, the imported cost is $600. The cost of local production may be higher than $600, so the global producers can still compete.

It is clear that the global companies will not make the large profit margins that they enjoyed in the past. Why should global companies make so much profits when the ordinary workers can get jobs at decent wages?

The new global order will be better than the existing one.

Why tariffs is better than GST

I believe that governments should abolish their GST and introduce tariffs. This will generate revenue for the government (to replace GST) and encourage local production of goods and services to create jobs for the people.

I look forward to the new era.

Global trade will continue, but the volume could be lower, as local production will meet a larger share of each country's needs. There will be less needs for traders and logistics services, but it will improve the living standards of people all over the world.

Learn the skill of problem solving

If you wish to learn the skill of problem solving, here is a free 1 hour tutorial that you can attend. The basic principles will be taught. You can develop the skill through practice.

China shares

If you or your wife has invested in China shares or small cap shares and are stuck with big losses, here is what you can do.

Time to invest in property?

Is it time to invest in a property now? How long should you wait? How much should you pay for a property?

Donald Trump is president of USA

You can vote on the two issues here:
a) Donald Trump will be good for America
b) Donald Trump will be good for the world

Recovery of the Terrex

The results of the voting on the following issues are now available:

a) The Terrex are protected by sovereign immunity
b) Singapore recover them through the legal process

You can view the results here. They are as expected, but to what extent do the "crowd" disagree with the approach taken by the government? It can come as a surprise!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A painful process to open an utilities account

I just opened an utilities account with SP Services. It is a tedious account opening process. The online form is quite difficult to complete. They ask for so many information.

As the owner of the apartment that is tenanted out, I have to go through this tiresome process each time there is a change of tenancy.

SP Services does not allow the "old account" to be re-opened. Instead, they force the owner to go through a painful opening opening process - as if this is the first time opening of the account.

Do they have common sense? They should go to Cambodia and learn from the people there. (See my earlier posting about how I was impressed with simple, common sense procedures that is adopted there).

I had given this feedback to SP Service 2 years ago. Nothing is done. Their painful procedure remain the same.

Three envelopes for Donald Trump

Why did Barack Obama only give one envelop to Donald Trump? He should give him three envelops.

The story of three envelopes is a business classic for dysfunctional organizations. It starts with an incoming manager replacing a recently fired outgoing manager. On his way out, the outgoing manager hands the new manager three envelopes and remarks, "when things get tough, open these one at a time."

About three months goes by and things start to get rough. The manager opens his drawer where he keeps the three envelopes and opens #1. It reads: "Blame your predecessor." So he does and it works like a charm.

Another three months passes and things are growing difficult again so the manger figures to try #2. It reads, "reorganize." Again, his predecessor's advice works like magic.

Finally, about nine months into the new job, things are getting really sticky. The manager figures it worked before, why not try again. So he opens the envelope drawer one last time and opens #3. It reads..."prepare three envelopes."

Obama worte a letter for Donald Trump

President Donald Trump said this:

"I just went to the Oval Office and found this beautiful letter from President Obama," he said. "It was really very nice of him to do that and we will cherish that," he said, holding up a white envelope before tucking it back in his jacket pocket.

I thought Obama left him three envelopes, to be opened during the next three major crisis?

1st letter: Blame Obama
2nd letter: Blame China
3rd letter: Write three envelopes for Mike Pence.

Thomson View Apartment for Rent

Thomson View, 17th floor
2 bedroom apartment, 1,313 sq ft
Available for rental - 1 Febuary 2017
Monthly rental $2,300
Full condo facilities.
Fee for introducer $500

Details here:

Monday, January 23, 2017

A place where common sense can still be found

In my recent visit to Phnom Penh, I had two interesting observations.

a) In my hotel room, there was a hand written card. "Welcome back, Mr. Tan". The hotel took the trouble to check their database.

b) The lounge at Phnom Penh airport was the best that I have visited. They provide mobile device charging points in most tables. The food was simple, but good. They have a simple password for their Wifi.

Cambodia may be a poor country, and do not have much money to spend on expensive infrastructure. They make the best use of what they have. Most importantly, they use their common sense.

In contrast, I find many of our operating procedures in Singapore are written in detail for staffs to implement in a mindless fashion. The staffs and customers are highly stressed with unnecessary activities.

I have been using Starhub internet for 20 years. Each time that I call their call center, they treat me as a new customer and apply the full script that is suitable for a new customer.

Some financial products sold by banks are highly dangerous

Customers visit the banks often to place fixed deposits. They are sold some financial products by the bank officers. The customers assumed the products to be safe, but some are highly dangerous. Watch this short video and learn what to look out for and to avoid.

Sharpen your political awareness

For Singaporeans who don't want to spend time to attend events at Hong Lim Park, here is another site for you to express your views and judgment.

Get into the habit of giving your views and sharpen your political awareness.

A bad trading experience

Dear Mr. Tan
My wife and I attended your talk on financial planning a year ago. We liked your suggestion to invest in the STI ETF and to take a long term view. I agree that this is the right approach.

After my wife learned about investing in shares through the stock broker, she forgotten about what you taught. Her friend encouraged her to invest in shares for a quick profit. It worked for a while and then the market turned against her. She is now holding several shares, mostly of China companies, that have dropped more than 50% in value. 

What should she do?


Problem with Tiger Air website

I wanted to book a return ticket to Manila in March. I tried JetStar. All okay. I got the price.

I went to Tiger Air to compare. I got this message:

The page isn’t working redirected you too many times.
Try clearing your cookies.

I cleared by cookies and tried again. Same message. One more time. Same message.
I gave up on Tiger Air. I went to book with Jetstar.

Introduction by a schnauzer

I met a friendly person who has a schnauzer dog. We had a good chat. He is involved in training staffs in several countries. I talked to him about the training on problem solving.

Nice to meet you through the introduction by your schnauzer.

Here is the link to the 1 hour tutorial that I conduct on Saturday morning in 2 weeks time.

I like to invite you and your colleague or family to attend. It's free.

And here is the link to the video.

UberPool is an excellent scheme

Last Sunday, I took UberPool to the airport. I usually take GrabTaxi but no taxi was available (probably due to lower supply on Sunday).

UberPool offers a discount of about 20% compared to the normal Uber fare, but allows the driver to pick up another passenger along the way.

In my case, the Uber car drove me to the airport alone. So, I enjoy the discount and have the sole use of the car.

This pooling arrangement is excellent. If the driver is able to pick up another passenger along the way, the driver will earn more than the normal fare. By pooling, it makes better use of the car.

Well done to Uber.

Someone asked me previously if they are covered in case of an accident while taking a ride on Uber. The answer is "yes" but ...For a fuller explanation, read this article.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

CPF withdrawal age

When the CPF was established in 1955, the life expectancy was 65 years. The withdrawal age was set at 55 which was also the retirement age at that time. Most retirees have an average of 10 years after retirement.

The life expectancy has increased to 82 years. If the same 10 year gap is maintained, the CPF withdrawal age should be set at 72 years.

The Government has maintained the withdrawal age at 55 years but require a minimum sum to be kept in the CPF. Over the years, the minimum sum has increased from $35,000 but has increased in stages and is $155,000 in 2016. As a result, most workers are not able to withdraw any money at 55 years (except for a token sum).

The minimum sum has to be converted into a life annuity from 65.

Through these measures, the CPF has been converted from a provident fund to a pension scheme.

Find the right word

I created this app to help users to find the possible words for the popular "3 Pic 1 Word" game. Once in a while, some users access the app for help. I received a daily report on the usage.

For those technical people who are interested, the app is created using this approach:

a) I located a dictionary with 100,000 words (used for Scrabble)
b) I saved the words in a database and index them according to the number of letters. For example, the word "city" has 4 letters.
c) When the user makes a request, I filter out all the words with the specified number of letters and match them against the given letters. About 15,000 words have to be matched but this can be done very fast.
d) I display all the matching words for the user to find the most appropriate word.

How do I tell the app which are the "common words"?

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