Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Better to get medical insurance while young and healthy

Some people say they fear sickness and disability more than death, as the former will drain their wealth.
But you can easily avoid this problem by buying health insurance, and by buying it early when you are healthy.
Do not think that you need insurance only when you are old, as the risk of illness goes up as you age.
Once illnesses develop, insurers may slap on an extra charge, or choose not to cover your pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing medical condition is a condition, disability or illness that you have before you apply for health cover.
Apart from basic medical expense insurance or hospitalisation plans, which pay for hospital and surgical expenses, there are hospital cash insurance plans which pay a fixed amount of cash should you be warded. You can also choose a critical illness plan or a disability income insurance. Then, there is long-term care insurance, which gives you a regular cash payout if you are too ill to look after yourself.
The common mistake many people make is to hold off on taking out a basic hospital plan as they are already covered under their company's insurance plan.
Most companies do not offer portable group health insurance plans. So the coverage ceases once the employee leaves the company. Those who have an existing illness may then realise too late that they are no longer insurable, or that the insurer will not cover their illness.
Singapore's health-care financing system offers three tiers of protection - through heavy subsidies in acute public hospital wards; Medisave; and MediShield and the private Integrated Shield plans.
This is a national medical savings scheme whereby individuals put aside part of their income into their accounts with the Central Provident Fund. It can be used for the co-payment of their personal or immediate family members' health- care bills. All employees, as well as self-employed persons earning more than $6,000 a year, have to contribute to Medisave.
Medisave can be used to pay for the premiums of Integrated Shield plans, subject to a limit of $800 per policy per year. The limit for those aged 81 and above is $1,150 per policy per year.
Medisave can also be used to pay for treatments that are not covered by insurance, such as outpatient treatment of chronic diseases.
It is important to maintain your Medisave account and to use it prudently. Note that the cash will run out fairly quickly when you stop working. This is why it is important to have health insurance, as it can cover major medical expenses.
This is a low-cost catastrophic medical insurance scheme that helps meet medical expenses incurred for class C or B2 wards in government restructured hospitals.
All Medisave account holders who are Singaporeans or permanent residents will be automatically covered unless they opt out of it.
Because it is a catastrophic policy, which covers extended hospital stays, you may find that you have to fork out a large sum for short stays after all the limits are applied.
Also, the subsidies for class B2 and C wards are subject to means-testing, where lower-income patients will get more subsidy than higher-income patients.
Therefore, higher-income patients or those who want to use higher ward classes or private hospitals should go for Integrated Shield plans on top of their MediShield.
Integrated Shield plans
These are Medisave-approved private health insurance plans currently offered by NTUC Income, Great Eastern Life, Aviva, Prudential Assurance and American International Assurance.
They do not usually cover pre-existing health conditions. But the good news is you can use your Medisave to pay the premiums.
Also, the premiums are kept affordable because the plans are designed with deductible and co-insurance components which promote individual responsibility for one's health-care needs.
Deductible refers to the first layer of costs that you have to pay before the insurance kicks in. Co-insurance is the share of the insured portion of the bill that you must pay. It is typically set at 10 per cent.
You can get a rider to cover these components or extend coverage to medical expenses incurred abroad but the premium has to be paid in cash.
Many Integrated Shield plans offer lifetime cover, or up to age 100, which is something you are unlikely to find among private insurers outside the Integrated Shield plans.
Key things you should know about Integrated Shield plans
· Claim limits: Plans may vary in terms of the maximum claim that you can make per policy year. Some plans may also stipulate a lifetime claim limit; other plans may not set a cap on lifetime claims.
· Pro-ration factor: If you stay in a higher-class ward than what your plan entitles you to, a pro-ration factor will be applied. It reduces the sum that can be claimed.
· Last entry age: For most plans, the latest age you can apply for coverage is 75. The maximum coverage age is the length of coverage.
Some plans offer lifetime coverage, while others may extend cover until age 80 or 85. Note that the riders attached to a plan with lifetime coverage might offer coverage up to a certain age (for example, 100).
· Premiums: All plans can be renewed as long as the premium is paid. But the rates, which rise with age, are not guaranteed. They can rise on renewal depending on the claims experience of the portfolio.
· Pre-existing conditions: These are not usually covered. You have to disclose all pre-existing conditions at the time of application as insurers may declare the policy void if you misrepresent or fail to disclose them.
Some plans may cover a pre-existing condition following a waiting period of, say, five years, provided the insured does not experience any symptoms or receive treatment or medication for the conditions during this time.
· Coverage: The inpatient benefits commonly include daily room and board, and treatment costs. Outpatient benefits can include kidney dialysis and cancer treatment. All these may be subject to a claimable limit or covered on an 'as charged' basis, which means that you can claim for what has been billed for all eligible expenses.
· Final expenses benefit: With this, the deductible and co-insurance portions of the bill - up to a limit of say $5,000 - will be waived if the insured dies during hospitalisation or within a stipulated period after discharge from the hospital. Not all plans provide this benefit.
· If you are warded: Your insurer may provide a letter of guarantee - an assurance of payment for the portion of the bill covered by the insurer. It can help to reduce the upfront payment to the hospital.
But the sum indicated in the letter may not be sufficient for the entire bill. To better plan for the cost, ask the hospital for an estimated billing amount, and also query the insurer on the basis for the sum indicated in its letter of guarantee.
To compare benefits, coverage, policy features and the premiums for the different Integrated Shield plans here, go to the health care financing section of the Health Ministry's website (www.moh.gov. sg).
You can contact me if you wish to know more about the  Integrated Shield plans.

Govt to do more to help children in welfare homes

To improve the quality of care given to children and young people in welfare homes here, the Government will roll out a series of programmes in the coming years.

Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Halimah Yacob said an assessment tool used by overseas case workers dealing with children, the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths tool, will be adapted to the Singapore context and applied throughout the children and youth sector.

Those working in the sector will also get better training, and the Ministry will fund and support homes that carry out resilience building programmes to build up their wards' confidence and self-esteem. Six small group homes will be set up in the next four years to take care of special needs children in a more personalised environment. Two will come up in the second half of the year.

'A society's success cannot be measured by how well we take care of the most able among us. Rather, our benchmark must also be how well we have taken care of the most vulnerable among us,' said Madam Halimah.

More motorcyclists and pillion riders die on roads in 2011

Motorcyclists and their pillion riders are still a cause for concern, accounting for about half of the total road fatalities in 2011, the Traffic Police revealed on Tuesday morning.

Of the 197 deaths, 99 involved motorcyclists and their pillion riders, an increase of 11.2 per cent from the 89 fatalities recorded in 2010.

To reduce the number of motorcycle accidents, the Traffic Police will implement a two-tiered theory test structure for learner riders of Class 2B motorcycles from Feb 27.

All learner riders will be required to pass two separate theory tests -- the Basic Theory Test and the Riding Theory Test -- before they are allowed to take the practical riding test.

The Traffic Police said this allows for deeper and wider testing of local traffic rules and motorcycle handling knowledge, which is helpful at increasing riding competency.

The authority will continue to inculcate safe riding behaviours and target enforcement efforts against unsafe riding habits through the strategic enforcement teams that were introduced in October 2011.

The patrol officers in these teams will interact with motorcyclists on the roads to convey road safety advice. If necessary, they will take enforcement action to correct dangerous riding behaviour quickly before accidents occur.

The Traffic Police was giving an annual update on Singapore's road traffic situation for 2011.

Monday, January 30, 2012

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

More bank account errors surface

SINGAPORE - Two readers have come forward to say that they have encountered bank statements with errors in the accounts' ownership.

One told my paper that his name was replaced with that of another individual in a joint account, while the other said her name was added to a joint account which did not belong to her.

Maybank account holder K. B. Ong, 35, a manager in the shipping industry, said that he found his name replaced by that of another individual when he received a statement for his joint account a few weeks ago.

The account - which was opened late last year - is shared between Mr Ong's mother, his brother and himself. It holds about $100,000.

Mr Ong said he called the bank immediately, but was told that nothing could be done at the time as it was after office hours.
"I had a flight to catch early the next day, but had to reschedule it to sort out the issue," he added.

In response to my paper's queries, the head of business operations and support at Maybank Singapore, Ms Helen Neo, said: "This arose from an error in attending to the customer's request to make certain changes to the account.

"We rectified the error immediately, upon notification by the customer."

In a separate incident in 2007, a United Overseas Bank (UOB) account holder - housewife B. G.
Chua, 59 - discovered that she was listed as a holder of a joint account that she was not aware of. She realised this only when she received a cheque for the investment proceeds of the account in the mail.

She returned the cheque.

Yesterday, my paper reported on a similar incident in which an unknown person was added to a joint account that sales engineer Raymond Tham shares with his mother.

Mr Tham said yesterday that a UOB representative has contacted him to say that "it was a human error" and reassured him that it was "not a widespread situation".

Said Mr Stree Naidu, vice president for Asia-Pacific and Japan of data-security firm Imperva: "The person whose name was added to the bank statement will be able to make withdrawals without the consent of the other joint party, with the proper documentation required by the various banks."

For instance, an identity card with a name matching that of one of the account holders listed on the bank statement could be used.

A programming error in computer systems could be another reason for the mix-up, said Mr Tan Teik Guan, chief executive of Data Security Systems Solutions.

However, he pointed out that account holders need not be overly worried.

Mr Tan said: "While such a case is frightening, it's a consumer's right to ask the bank to be responsible for his money and replace the money should it be taken away."

Group-buying deals: A raw deal? 32 complaints in 2011

Bank executive Jeff Lim thought his mid-January holiday was a done deal. He had booked a hotel in Bali last May, and bought air tickets to the Indonesian resort island.

But just three days before he was supposed to fly, the travel agent told him that his hotel coupon - which he had purchased from group-buying website Deal.com.sg - could not be redeemed.

Complaints from consumers about being unable to redeem their coupons as advertised are a growing concern. Last year, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) received 32 complaints from customers of three popular group-buying sites: Groupon.sg, Deal.com.sg and BigDeal.sg. The previous year, it had received none.

Some of the common complaints are: customers not being able to make appointments for the services they paid for, and getting a different product or service to that advertised.


  • Last year, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) received 32 complaints from customers of three popular group-buying sites - Groupon.sg, Deal.com.sg and BigDeal.sg. The previous year, it had received none. 
  • The common complaints include customers not being able to make appointments for the services that they paid for, and getting a different product or service to that advertised.

Recourse for consumers
WHAT should one do when a seemingly good coupon deal turns into a dud?

Such deals usually involve consumers buying coupons on websites which are redeemed by businesses providing a particular product or service.

Lawyer Suresh Divyanathan, the head of law firm Oon & Bazul's commercial arbitration practice group, said that usually in such cases, the contract made is between the consumer and the website, and not the merchant.

However, he said there may be scope under the Contracts (Rights of Third Parties) Act to seek redress from the merchant who offered the deal.

He explained: 'If a website and a merchant make a contract to provide a product or service to a consumer, the consumer can hold the merchant liable.'

He added, though, that the merchant is not obliged to give a full refund.

Consumers can approach the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) for help in negotiating with the businesses.

Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of Case, said: 'If the business engages in unfair practice, the consumer can take it to task or Case will be able to take appropriate actions... under the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act.'

Pentagon to trim army by 13%, invest in future

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Pentagon on Thursday proposed trimming the Army's size by 13 per cent as the debt-ridden United States winds down a decade of war but vowed new investments to exert power in Asia and the Middle East.

With pressure mounting to balance the US books, President Barack Obama's administration sought a nine per cent cut in the 2013 budget compared with last year's request by retiring older ships and planes and pulling back two brigades from Europe.

But the administration called for investment on new projects including a futuristic floating base for special operations and drones and assigning elite Brigade Combat Teams with language training to each region of the world.

'We are at a strategic turning point after a decade of war and substantial growth in defense budgets,' Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said as he unveiled a preview of the Defence Department's 2013 budget requests.

Govt's ComCare funding likely to match that of 2008's recession

Although the impending economic slowdown is unlikely to be as serious as the previous global financial crisis in 2008, the government is prepared to set aside the same amount of ComCare funds this year, said Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Madam Halimah Yacob after a visit to North East Community Development Council (CDC) on Thursday. The ComCare budget for 2008 was $63.7 million.

During her visit to the CDC, she was briefed on its operations and how it assists needy residents via its community-based programmes.

Adding that the funding amount 'will always be subjected to review if that is not sufficient', Madam Halimah also emphasised that 'the most important thing for us is that it is not just the ComCare schemes in terms of financial assistance, but schemes in terms of providing support for residents who are affected to get back on their feet and the most important thing is getting them a job'.

The CDC has reported a spike in the number of financial assistance cases that it saw last year, with close to 50 per cent increase in the number of applications for financial assistance for the last quarter of last year compared to the previous quarter.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Double rainbow heralds the Year of the Dragon

A double rainbow spanning a few kilometres was seen over Bukit Panjang after a heavy deluge which affected much of Singapore in the late afternoon on Saturday.

In Chinese culture, a double rainbow is considered auspicious and a reason for reflection and meditation.

Rainbows are an optical and meteorological phenomenon in which a spectrum of light appears in the sky when the sun shines on droplets of moisture in the earth's atmosphere.

Wishing all my readers Gong Xi Fa Cai and have a Prosperous New Year ahead!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Challenges ahead as govt ramps up elder care services

SINGAPORE: The government plans to beef up manpower as it targets to significantly expand aged care services over the next decade. But industry players say retaining workers is a big challenge.

Low Mui Lang, Executive Director of the Peacehaven Nursing Home, said: "The elderly needs to be fed, changed and showered. Some of them, you need to bring them to the toilet every four hours, or they may be on diapers, you need to change them.

"So as you grow older, as a care worker, sometimes you find it a bit straining on your back. It's a continuous, tedious, mundane kind of work."

What needs to be done is job re-design, and this involves tapping on a hidden pool of labour such as unemployed housewives or retirees. It also means introducing flexible work hours and attractive pay.

Lim Sia Hoe, general manager of NTUC Eldercare, said: "(We) must pay people well enough so they can actually deliver service better. (We must ask ourselves,) how do we invest in them to make them more professional when delivering such services?"

Besides manpower issues, stakeholders Channel NewsAsia spoke with said that funding continues to remain a challenge in the eldercare sector. One suggestion is for the government to set up a community elder care fund that is both flexible and accessible.

Ms Lim proposed a co-funded model between the government and service providers that is specifically used for serving elderly in the community.

She said: "It could be upfront, let's say, S$1 million (from each side), contributing to this fund. Then every service provider will (be able to) use the money for the purpose of serving the elderly. With very broad guidelines, it will be flexible enough for us to deliver services based on a very broad, easily administered kind of process."

The Ministerial Committee on Ageing will also be reviewing aged care financing schemes to look into what can be done to make aged care more affordable.

More than $400m collected from ERP over 3 years

In the past three years, the Government has collected more than $400 million in revenue from drivers who pay for Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges, The Straits Times reported on Wednesday.

This was revealed in Parliament on Wednesday when Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew responded to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Lina Chiam.

For the financial year 2009, the Government collected $149 million.

For FY2010, it collected $159 million. And for FY2011 up to end-October, a total of $97 million was collected, the report added.

Mr Lui emphasised that the ERP system is to 'manage congestion and not generate revenue', the report said.

The Nicoll Highway gantry collects the biggest amount in terms of weekday revenue, Mr Lui said. It collects about $32,000 daily on average.

At the other end lies the gantry along Upper Boon Keng, which collects about $130 daily on average.

2 in 3 S'pore workers don't save enough

About two in three Singapore workers save less than 20 per cent of their monthly salary, with those in the events management, public relations and sales being the worst savers.

A total of 2,278 people were surveyed online by JobsCentral from August to September last year.

The survey found that the savings trend is consistent across two vastly different income levels - those who earned less than $1,000 a month and those who made above $10,000 a month.

Majority of both groups of respondents - who comprise employed individuals from all levels of occupation and income groups - indicated that they save 10 to 20 per cent of their monthly income.

The top three savers among the group are employees in research and development (56.7 per cent), consulting (50 per cent) and business development (47.7 per cent).

JobsCentral Group's deputy CEO Huang Shao-Ning noted that it is "interesting" that the top three worst savers are those who "require strong social skills and high energy level to perform their tasks".

Ms Huang added: "The more exuberant personalities of these three groups of workers, and the requirement of their jobs to leave positive impressions on new people they meet every day may also translate to higher expenditure on grooming, commuting and entertainment."

The survey also showed that 44 per cent said they save most of their bonus.

At least one in three indicated that they spend the bulk of their bonus on recreation, mostly on holidays, shopping, and giving most of it to their parents.

Only nine per cent said they would put it into investments, and 0.5 per cent said they will donate to charity.

Most of the respondents (76 per cent) indicated that salary-related information should be kept private and prefer not to share it with their peers in the company.
Respondents with higher gross monthly salary are more tight-lipped about their salary compared to those who earn less.

About three-quarters of those surveyed said they do not moonlight and those who do, earn extra income through dividends from stocks or bonds, freelance work and part-time jobs.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Medifund to be extended to home nursing services in 2012

Coming April this year, Medifund subsidies will be available for home-based healthcare services, said the Minister of Health Mr Gan Kim Yong.

Mr Yong was responding to a question asked by Mr Patrick Tay Teck Guan, MP of Nee Soon GRC, in today's Parliamentary session.

Mr Tay asked if Medisave and Medishield schemes can be extended to home palliative care and home nursing services.

To that, Mr Yong said that the Government provides subsidies of up to 75 per cent for lower and middle income patients who require home palliative and home nursing services.

Patients can also use cash payouts from ElderShield to further defray the cost of such services.
For home palliative care, the Government has allowed use of Medisave funds since 2010.

However, as MediShield is designed as a basic insurance scheme for catastrophic hospitalisation expenses to keep premiums affordable, it is therefore unable to cover home-based services.

Nevertheless, needy patients who require additional financial assistance for home-based healthcare services beyond the subsidies they are receiving will be able to apply for Medifund subsidies soon.

The Government will be extending Medifund subsidies to such home-based services from April 2012, Mr Yong said.

Medifund is an endowment fund set by the Government.

The interest income from the capital sum of Medifund is allocated to approved hospitals and medical institutions in the form of grants, which are then used to help needy Singaporeans pay for the medical bills which they cannot afford.

Mr Yong added that the voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) that provide home-based services also provide additional financial help for their patients if necessary.

Mr Yong said the ministry will continue to review government subsidies and the use of ElderShield and Medisave to ensure affordability of such home-based services for the elderly, while balancing against the adequacy of Medisave and the impact on ElderShield premiums.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Five Steps to Financial Freedom Step 2 – Get Rid of Unnecessary Debt Part 1

If you haven’t already read the previous post, please refer to Step 1 – Boost Your Active Income

Before we move on, let’s review the Five Steps again.
Step 1 – Boost your Active Income
Step 2 – Get Rid of Unnecessary Debt
Step 3 – Save More
Step 4 – Reduce Spending and Live Within Your Means
Step 5 – Invest For Passive Income
I recently received a comment that Step 4 should in fact be the first step. I thought about it and here’s why I put them in the order I do. I look at our Personal Finance as a business, so in essence we are all running a business – which is our own finances. What’s the first thing you want to do with your business? Get more revenue or reduce costs? Obviously, the first focus is to boost Revenue, hence I put the Steps in the following order as how I would run a business.
Step 2 – Get Rid of Unnecessary Debt
Why is getting rid of unnecessary debt important? Simple, useless debt is a drag on our personal finances, increasing our expenses with high interest expenses. Not only is the debt painful to the pocket, it is stressful to the mind and body as well. Speak to anybody under mounting credit card debts; you will know they are really stressed by trying to make payments. Every useless debt we pick up takes us further and further away from our goals, instead of getting Passive Income, we are getting Passive Expense instead! Debt management is a really large topic in itself and I will not attempt to address every single aspect in this Five Steps Financial Freedom series, I will however try to cover the main points.
Let’s look at some of the main culprits.
Loan shark Debt/ Unlicensed Moneylender / Black market Moneylender
This is the worst scenario one can be in. Loan sharks/ unlicensed money lenders whatever you call it do not play by the rules. They often make the borrowing really easy but make paying it off extremely difficult. Interest rates of such debt are known to hit over 100 percent interest per month! Once you get in, it is very tough to get out. Worse still, they will make your life hell by harassing you and your family constantly. Never ever step into this category.
Licensed Moneylender Debt
This debt is only slightly better than the previous. However, the interest rates are also extremely high, as high as 200% a year. The good news is that they are regulated by the government; the bad news is that many of them still employ harassment tactics used by the loan sharks. For more information, read Staying Away From High Interest Rate Money Lenders. Again, stay away from these sources no matter what.
Credit Card Debt
Most young people are guilty of carrying credit card debt balances and rolling them over month after month just by paying the minimum charges. Many also do transfer balance from an existing card to a new card at lower interest rates, which is supposed to be good, but they end up charging their previously paid credit card to the max again. With a credit card limit of up to 2-3x the salary of an individual, it’s easy to see how people can end up owing lots of money with couple of maxed out credit cards. Banks are also extremely cunning in that they allow you to pay a minimum of say $50 per month, but they will charge you up to 24% interest on your remaining balance! How often does one make investments which can yield over 20% per year?
Personal Loan / Credit Line
Banks are just as guilty of pushing personal loans as are licensed moneylenders. While the interest rates are not as high as credit cards, they can still be between 5% to 15% per year depending on your credit status and the loan amount. When the loan check comes in the mail from your bank, resist the temptation and just tear it up, remember it’s a loan, not cash.
Car Loan
Car loans are one of the most misunderstood loans as they are structured differently from a housing loan. People often claim that car loans which have 1-3% interest rates are very cheap, cheaper than housing mortgage interests in some countries, or is it? Car loan interests are calculated based on the principle for the whole tenure while housing loan interests are calculated based on the principal outstanding. A simple rule of thumb is that the car loan interest rate is nearly double in housing loan term rates! So a 3% car loan interest is actually closer to 6% if you want to compare to housing loan. Now you know why you should pay up your car loan as soon as you can. For those who live in the city like Singapore, public transport is a viable alternative. If you have to own a car due to work or so on, buying a second hand car can be a huge money saver as well.
Mortgage Loan on a Non Performing Property
While housing mortgage loans are typically one of the cheapest loans you can get, it really doesn’t make sense to be paying financing costs for a property which is not generating any income or capital appreciation. Examples are where the location is not as hot as it used to be or the demographics have changed into one of lower income and increasing crime rates. It may also make sense to cut loss on a property if the fundamentals have downgraded dramatically. Since housing loans are usually very large in amount, clearing them off also helps to improve your leverage ratio dramatically.
 As we can see, there are many types of unnecessary debt which can be a huge burden to us. We have to identify if we have any of these debts and understand the impact of what this debt has on us. As we work through the different classes of debt, we also find out that most of these debts have interest rates far exceeding that of many asset yields like dividends and rental. As long as we have these debts, Financial Freedom will be difficult to achieve. If you do not have any of the above debts, Congratulations! You are one Step closer to Financial Freedom!

Five Steps to Financial Freedom Step 1: Boost Your Active Income

Financial Freedom has been the latest buzzword recently. Everybody is talking about it. Open up the newspaper and you will at least 3-5 advertisements a day teaching you how to achieve Financial Freedom through some kind of investment, whether be it in your career or getting a higher education degree.

Well, what is financial freedom and do those advertisements really deliver Financial Freedom to you? For me, I define Financial Freedom in a very simple way; basically, you have enough Passive Income to pay for your basic expenses, so that you have time to do what you really want to do it life.

Achieving Financial Freedom is not that hard really; it just takes 5 simple steps.
Step 1 – Boost your Active Income
Step 2 – Get Rid of Unnecessary Debt
Step 3 – Save More
Step 4 – Reduce Spending and Live Within Your Means
Step 5 – Invest For Passive Income

The problems with a lot of those advertisements are they just focus on Step 5. There are all kinds of gurus which teach you how to invest In Stocks, Properties, Trade Stocks, Options to become a multi-millionaire. Wow! That’s assuming everybody has already mastered Step 1 to Step 4! 

If you have already mastered Step 4, you wouldn’t be paying few thousand dollars to attend a seminar! Wouldn’t that money be better spent investing In Passive Income? Alright, let’s get back to the 5 steps.

Step 1 – Boost your Active Income
Active Income is simply income you generate by trading your time and effort for money. For more on Active Income, read Passive Income vs. Active Income. The most basic Active Income everybody has is a job.  Assuming that you don’t have a wealthy family or a huge amount of inheritance, all of us have to work for our money initially. Now, the key here is to maximize your Active Income. How do I do that? Here are a couple of suggestions.

Work Harder on Your Career and Continuously Upgrade Yourself
Figure out where your career is going and how you can further improve in the climb up the ladder. All Companies want individuals who are willing to step up and contribute without being asked to.

Show the initiative and work hard to prove yourself to the Company that you are ready for higher responsibilities. By doing so, you will eventually get recognized and be promoted, raising your salary packages and more.

It is also necessary to continue upgrading yourself, be in taking new courses, getting an MBA, getting a CFA, picking up books on the industry and management. Learning never ends.

Make Sure You Are Paid Top Dollar for Your Job
There are a lot of people who for some reason choose to settle for a job less than what they are capable of. Either that or they choose to accept a salary package which works out to be a lot less than market rate.

If you fall into that category, chances are you are probably working too hard and not get paid enough. All of us who come out to a job market should expect to get paid at least market rate for our productivity, otherwise it’s doing injustice to oneself.

One of the first ways to figure that out is to look for job surveys published by recruitment agencies and job classifieds such as Jobstreet.com. They normally have a pay scale varied by industry and position level.

Make sure your pay scale is at least in the middle tier or top tier. If you are not, you should start looking for a new job. At the same time, give your current Company a chance to raise your salary package by having a heart to heart talk with your current boss.

However, make sure you are a valuable employee first before having that talk; you should know your contribution to the firm very well.

Get a Job with a Variable Package as Opposed to Fixed Package
A well designed salary package is often based on variable factors as opposed to a fixed salary. A good management knows that by tying rewards to contributions, employees are well incentivized to work harder.

Similarly, you can try to get a job with a variable package such as sales, work really hard every month and you will see your rewards very quickly in terms of higher commissions and so on.

Even if you are a manager on a fixed salary, discuss with your employer to see if they can tweak the salary package to one which is of lower basic but higher overriding or profit shared incentive.

So when your division does well by having good profits, you get a higher compensation package as well, making it a win win situation.
Get a Part Time Job
This is a very practical solution for the young people who have a 9-5 job and don’t work weekends. There are many options here, depending on your education level, skill level and age.

It can be as simple as working part time in a restaurant, retail shop or so on. Some of the more lucrative part time jobs include Insurance Agent and Real Estate Agent.

However, being in the insurance or real estate industry is not simple. They are usually commissioned based and may require a huge commitment in terms of time and effort.

Another very popular part time job these days is the tuition teacher. Parents are obsessed with their kids’ education from a young age and are willing to pay any undergraduate a decent sum to tutor their kids

Freelance with Your Skills
There are some skills which are very sellable in the freelancing market. Such skills include web design skills, photography, graphic design, interior design and so on.

There are always jobs out there which prefer to look for a freelancer instead of a full service firm due to costs, flexibility and so on. Many jobs are usually based on referral, so it is very important to treat every job seriously and perform them with utmost responsibility.

There are many designers who get so much business from freelancing that they eventually quit their jobs to focus on their own business.

Subsidised GP scheme expanded to benefit more Singaporeans

More Singaporeans will benefit from subsidised general practitioner (GP) healthcare from Sunday with the expansion of the Community Health Assist Scheme.

The scheme formerly known as the Primary Care Partnership Scheme has been changed to better reflect its objective and reach.

From Jan 15, qualifying income for the scheme has been raised from the current $800 to $1,500 per capita monthly household income.

The age criteria for eligibility will be lowered from 65 to 40 years old. Patients under the scheme will pay subsidised rates at specialist outpatient clinics when referred by GPs under the scheme.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Banks in Singapore scramble for share of deposit pie

Banks here, especially foreign ones, are getting into the seasonal spirit by offering higher interest rates on deposits as they usher in Chinese New Year.

But some market watchers say the banks' motives for handing out 'red packets', to gain a share of the deposit pie after bonus season, may be far from festive.

They say some banks may be scrambling to stockpile cash just in case the global banking system seizes up again as it did in 2008 and 2009.

Banking analyst and head of research at CIMB, Mr Kenneth Ng, said: 'There is an aggressive hunt for deposits. Banks are offering rates considerably higher than the Singapore Interbank Offered Rate (Sibor), especially the foreign banks.'

What some banks are offering
  • HSBC
Enjoy 0.8 per cent and 1 per cent per annum on eight- and 12-month Singdollar and US dollar term deposits.
Fresh funds of at least $25,000 and up to $5 million in either currency, deposited from now until Feb 29, will qualify for the promotion.
  • UOB
Customers who place an additional sum of $10,000 from now till Feb 29, can enjoy an interest rate of 0.628 per cent a year. The $10,000 can be deposited incrementally throughout the promotional period.
  • ANZ
Interest rates that increase at the end of every three-month cycle, starting at 0.7 per cent for the first three months, and up to 1.5 per cent for the fourth quarter, if at least $150,000 is held for a 12-month tenor.
Different rates apply for amounts less than $150,000.
  • OCBC
The first 1,000 customers who deposit at least $68,000 will receive a two-piece abalone gift set. The first 380 who deposit $368,000 or more, will receive a six-piece abalone set.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Car COEs dip in Jan 1st bidding

SINGAPORE - Certificates of entitlement saw a fall in prices for most categories at the end of the first bidding exercise of the year at 4pm today.

Premiums for Cat A (cars 1,600cc and below and taxis) were on a downward trend, dipping for the fourth bidding exercise in a row.

It closed $46,889, a 6.2 per cent drop compared to the last bidding in December 2011.

Cat B (cars above 1,600cc) COE premiums fell by a similar margin. It dropped six per cent to end at $65,801.

The open category dipped by a slightly bigger margin of 7.5 per cent to close at $65,700.

COEs for commercial vehicles ended lower at $38,699.

However motorcycle premiums rose by 14 per cent to $1,689.


Most distributors are expecting COE premiums to rise in 2012 because of a smaller quota.

Based on the current rate of deregistered vehicles, the number of Cat B COEs is expected to fall from about 353 per tender to 325 between February and July next year, a recent Business Times report said.

The new vehicle population quota that will kick in from August to January 2013, the second half of the quota year, will reduce that number even further: to 250 per bid.

However the situation could be different for small cars. The first half of the quota year -- February to July -- will see an increase from 550 COEs per bid to 600, the report said. The number will then fall from 600 to 455, based on the current scrappage.

DBS/POSB customers hit by unauthorised ATM withdrawals

SINGAPORE - DBS is investigating several hundred cases of unauthorised withdrawals from POSB/DBS accounts allegedly made from Malaysia in what could be a large scale bank fraud.

A local news source reported that when last checked at 8pm today, about 200 customers had reported unauthorised withdrawals from their bank accounts to DBS.

The average amount withdrawn is believed to be about S$1,000.

The Straits Times reported that the bank is combing through all transactions made in Malaysia to validate them. In the meanwhile, the bank has deactivated cards suspected to have been compromised.

Several Singaporeans have been writing in to citizen journalism website Stomp complaining of unauthorised withdrawals from their bank accounts from Malaysia.

The spate of unauthorised withdrawals appear to have affected just POSB and DBS account holders for now.

One reader, who gave his name as Dennis, said he found out a sum of money had been withdrawn from his account, with the withdrawal done in Malaysia, and made a police report on January 4.

Dennis told Stomp that there has been a number of cases where money was withdrawn suspiciously from DBS and POSB bank accounts over the last few days. Those affected include cardholders with ATM cards as well as those holding debit cards.

He added that he noticed that in all the cases, the ATM cards remained in possession of the owners, who did not leave the country, but the withdrawals took place in Malaysia.

One victim, Ms Lin, told a news channel that she was told by DBS that the unauthorised transaction had been made on a Malaysian ATM machine around the same time she was withdrawing her money.

Facebook user Amanda Goh posted on her profile that her POSB account had been "hacked" into, with four transactions made from overseas ATM machines.

The withdrawals added up to $2,000 over a two day period, she wrote. She added that she has no internet or paypal accounts.

Another reader Ricky Ng wrote in to warn those with DBS and POSB accounts to check their bank accounts for money suspiciously withdrawn.

"Be alert as a few of our fellow Singaporeans have already fallen prey to this," he said.

In response, DBS has launched investigations and will also be alerting customers if any unusual activity is detected on their accounts.

The bank further said all customers will be fully compensated within 24 hours for any false transaction.

In response to media queries, the police confirmed that they have received several reports of unauthorised withdrawals being made from POSB and DBS bank accounts.

The Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force is investigating the matter.
The public is advised to check their bank accounts, and if they believe unauthorised withdrawals have been made, to lodge a police report via the Electronic Police Centre (ePC) at http://www.spf.gov.sg/epc/ or at any Neighbourhood Police Centre.

The report should include the date, amount, location and transaction description for each unauthorised withdrawal.

In addition, bank account holders are also advised to report the matter to DBS.

Any customer who suspects their ATM or debit card has been compromised should contact the bank at 1800-220-1111 or visit any bank branch.

A replacement card will be issued on the spot at any of its branches, DBS said.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How to turn your $1,000 into $1 million

Sounds too far-fetched? We'll show you how, if you have a grand to spare.

It won't be easy - but it's not impossible. With some stocks growing more than a few hundred times since their IPO prices (think: Apple), it's quite possible!

The key is in spotting the cash cows early. Here are the signs to look out for.


Look for a company with an economic "moat" of some sort, says Paul Larson, an equity strategist. The company should continuously outdo competitors and maintain profits.

A company's "brand power" could give it a steady edge. People trust Coca-Cola, so they're willing to pay more money for it, even though a generic cola is essentially the same.


Look for a company that's targeting a particular market.

If it's well positioned to dominate, the odds of success are good, says Andy Obermueller, a portfolio strategist.

If a company has potential access to an underserved market, it also has access to untapped wealth.
Take Urban Outfitters. It created a blueprint of expensive sweatshirts and denim that tapped a valuable market of affluent youth.


The business has to have the potential to grow, grow and then grow some more, says Obermueller.

When you find a company with a market that seems endless and a product that is innovative, you likely have found a winner.

Consider Green Mountain Coffee. It jumped on the Keurig cup idea early and captured much of the market.


Look for patents - a company's ownership of intellectual property gives it pricing power.

The archetype for disruptive technology is a drug company with no revenue - and no product but a strong drug in development.

When that drug is granted US Food and Drug Administration approval, the company can become a billion-dollar business, says Obermueller. This happened with Genentech in the early 1980s.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Singapore's economy grew by estimated 4.8% in 2011

The pace of growth of the Singapore economy eased in the fourth quarter of 2011, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said on Tuesday.

According to advance estimates, the economy grew by 3.6 per cent on a year-on-year basis in the fourth quarter of 2011, compared to the 5.9 per cent growth in the third quarter, the MTI said in a statement.

On a seasonally-adjusted quarter-on-quarter annualised basis, the economy contracted by 4.9 per cent, following the 1.5 per cent gain in the previous quarter.

MTI said that for the whole of 2011, the economy is estimated to have expanded by 4.8 per cent, in line with its growth forecast of around 5.0 per cent for the year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

S'pore's economy to grow 1-3% in 2012

SINGAPORE - Singapore's economy is expected to grow by one to three per cent in 2012, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his New Year message yesterday.

Mr Lee explained that as a small, open country, Singapore will inevitably be affected by the debt problems in Europe as the external environment is uncertain and 2012 looks to be a difficult year for the global economy.

In 2011, Singapore achieved a 4.8 per cent economic growth.

The prime minister also highlighted that the tightening inflow of foreign workers will also slow economic growth.

"Admitting fewer foreign workers also means forgoing business opportunities and accepting slower growth," said Mr Lee. Adding that, Singaporeans must raise productivity, "to make up in quality what we will miss in quantity".

However, Mr Lee said: "Overall, we have every reason to be confident and optimistic."

"Amidst this flux, we need to be confident of our position, and clear about our priorities and plans to build a better Singapore," he emphasised.

The government is working hard to tackle the immediate challenges and the long-term issues to improve Singaporeans' lives.

Among pressing issues, the government is committed to keeping homes affordable to all Singaporeans. In 2012, PM said that there will be another 25,000 new launches of BTO flats.

The government will also redouble efforts to improve the public transport system and expand the train and bus network. He said that more MRT lines are on the way and bus services will be enhanced to improve the daily commuting experience.

In the long run, the prime minister pledged to keep healthcare affordable and accessible, enhance the education system and uphold inclusive growth and social mobility.

Mr Lee noted that population is a "particularly complex and critical challenge," which will be discussed over the year, so that Singaporeans can better understand what is at stake and what choices we must make as a nation.

"I am confident that in a changing world, we will continue to bond as one people and walk shoulder to shoulder into a brighter tomorrow," said Mr Lee, as he wished Singaporeans a happy new year.

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