Monday, October 25, 2010

Best Breakfast Places in Singapore

I enjoy having a sumptuous breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. It is the only time that I can relax and take my time to eat my breakfast. Every weekend, I search for the best breakfast places in Singapore to eat.

I am not looking for good food per se because the whole of Singapore is filled with good and yummy food. What I am looking for is a place with reasonable food, reasonable service and most importantly - a nice ambience.

Usually, this are cafes where there is the thick aroma of coffee that welcomes you the moment you open the door. In Singapore's sweltering heat, it helps to have some air-conditioning though I am generally alright if the place is outdoors but with some shade. There are usually newspapers or magazines for you to browse and the place shouldn't be over crowded.

I know of a few nice places. This includes Toast at Takashimaya, Olio Dome and of course Casa Verde @ Botanic Gardens. If I am just looking for a quick and satisfying meal, I will usually head out to Toastbox. The problem with Toastbox is it is usually jam packed on weekends and the ambience isn't great. At Toastbox, I will usually just have Nasi Lemak and a cup of coffee.

Where can the best breakfast places in Singapore be found? Anyone care to share their selection?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Over-Indebtedness Puts You At Risk of Becoming Obese

by Matthew Stathis

The worldwide economic crisis has caused an enormous number of citizens in high-income countries to become over-indebted, even though they may have severely reduced their standard of living. The rise in personal debt has corresponded with a parallel rise in stress levels, resulting in widespread lack of sleep. Now it appears that over-indebted people have one more worry to add to their list: they are at risk of becoming obese.
A study was conducted in Germany a few months ago that showed a relationship between over-indebtedness and obesity. Dr. Eva Munster and her research team at the University of Mainz have concluded that extreme debt obligations result in more than twice the likelihood that a person will be obese or overweight as compared to a financially stable person
The study defines over-indebtedness as the inability to make timely payments on one’s debts due to the imbalance between income and the cost of living. Low socio-economic status has long been considered a contributing factor to the worldwide epidemic of obesity. However, a direct relationship between indebtedness and obesity had not been considered prior to Dr. Munster’s study.

Are Over-Indebted People More Likely to Become Obese?

The goal of the study was to measure the general health of individuals who are over-indebted. Two German population-based surveys provided the data. The first was a telephone survey, which included 8318 respondents from the general population. The second was a questionnaire distributed to the clients of debt counseling centers, to which 949 over-indebted people responded. Both surveys obtained information on socio-economic status including age, sex, education and income. Information was also collected regarding body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity that is based on one’s height and weight), smoking behavior and depression levels.
Males and females were found to be equally over-indebted. Many of the traits that are common to people of low socio-economic status were present: lower education levels, lower income levels, greater depression levels and greater quotidian tobacco consumption than would be found in the general population. However, the over-indebted subjects were younger than people of low socio-economic status usually are. Also, they were more likely to be overweight or obese.

Obesity A Corollary To Poverty

Previous studies have shown an association between low financial status and being overweight. However, this is the first study to show that financial belt-tightening, in the form of serious indebtedness, could result in a literal belt loosening. One reason is the diminished access to healthy food, researchers speculate. There is an inverse relationship between a food’s caloric content and its cost. High calorie (energy dense) food, such as fatty snacks and sweets, generally costs less. On the other hand, low calorie (low energy) food, such as broccoli or carrots, tends to cost more.
Impoverished people tend to eat low-cost food that has a high-energy content while they simultaneously reduce their energy expenditure – participation in leisure and social activities tends to be curtailed when on a budget. Another factor that contributes to higher BMI may be psychological distress. A person who is in a depressed emotional state may increase food intake to achieve a sense of well-being. Therefore, over-indebted individuals may self-medicate with food to improve mood.
In Germany, approximately 7.6% of households are over-indebted and 33% of residents are obese. Germans have the reputation of being the fattest people in Europe and the government has launched an anti-obesity campaign to address the issue. If it is determined to be so and if the German government is successful in its campaign to end obesity, the people might experience an improvement in their financial condition.
It is not clear from Dr. Munster’s study, however, what the causal direction of the observed relationship between a man’s waistline and his financial stability is. It is not clear if being indebted is a risk factor for becoming obese or the other way around. It has been suggested, for example, that obese individuals face greater difficulty finding a job that will pay the bills, simply because they face psychological (negative body image) and social (prejudice, stigmatization, etc) barriers that are uncommon to normal-weight people.

Extrapolating The Data

The medical community is considering whether the results obtained in the German study can be applied to other countries. In the United States, where the number of people who are over-indebted is on the rise, the study’s results are cause for concern.
Currently, obesity in the United States affects one in four people. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes America as obesogenic, which means that society has created the conditions that promote obesity. This is due in large part to the congressional farm bill, which subsidizes the production of fattening food like corn and other grains, keeping unhealthy foods inexpensive. There is also a suburban culture that mandates long commutes by car and discourages walking. Furthermore, many jobs in the modern, technological workplace are sedentary.
Could over-indebtedness be another obesogenic factor in American society? According to a recent report, more Americans filed for bankruptcy during March of 2010 than any time since the overhaul of the federal bankruptcy laws in 2005.

Implications of the Obesity-Debt Link

The German study shows that over-indebted people are more prone to obesity. If this is true, with over-indebtedness on the rise in high-income nations, a corresponding rise in obesity should be anticipated. Since obesity is associated with serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer, a healthcare crisis should also be anticipated. As developed countries struggle to mitigate the parallel epidemics of obesity and over-indebtedness, access to healthy food by people of low socio-economic status must be considered a top priority.

Matthew Stathis, PhD, is a young entrepreneur who recently left his career as a research scientist at Washington University in order to learn and apply simple business and investment principles. Alarmed by rising rates of obesity in the United States, he maintains a blog where he shares and explains scientific information that can address this issue. Matthew has identified 3 clinically researched diets in the US, including Weight Watchers which you can read about here. Other diet programs that Matthew recommends and features in his site are Medifast, Bistro MD, Diet to Go, and eDiets

Weekends are Expensive

Weekends are a source of joy for me as it is the time that I get to spend quality time with the family. I try my best not to work on weekends but there are certain times when I do need to get work done so the weekends that I can enjoy without having to worry about work are truly precious to me.

During this kind of weekends, I will usually splurge a little. We will have nice little breakfasts and brunches at nicer places rather than hawker centres. We will eat a little more, and likewise, spend a little more too with some shopping for home stuff or books or whatever retail therapy that suits us.

I have sort of figured that each weekend, I can easily spend close to $200. This includes meals which usually add up to over $150 over both Saturdays and Sundays. The other $50 will usually be used to buy miscellaneous items like books, clothes, etc, etc. This is usually retail therapy as the more I walk around the shopping malls like ION or stuff, there are just so MANY things that I want to get.

It means that weekends tend to be much more expensive for me compared to a normal weekday. But I guess it is worthwhile. Afterall, such weekends are precious to me and I am willing to spend just a little bit more of money for the ambience and the mood to make sure that the weekend is well-spent.

Wedding Dinner Pay How Much?

I found very useful information while surfing the net.

This site basically allows one to search for their wedding banquet according to various costs, etc.

Also a very useful site when you need to know how much money to put in your red packet.

The prices listed are without service charge and GST so you have to add that in yourself.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Paying Housing Installments With CPF

I visited one of the branches of HDB's office today to start paying a greater percentage of my housing installments using my CPF monies instead of using cash.

I have been paying close to $500 cash with the rest of the housing installments paid by my CPF. However, I decided to use more of my CPF monies to pay for my housing installment so that the amount of cash that I will pay is really nominal now (less than $100). This should free up some cash and provide a little more flexibility for me.

I was surprised at how efficient and how fast the service was. I spent less than 15 minutes there to settle everything even though it was a Saturday morning where one would expect things to be working a little slower.

So now I am paying $1000 per month from my CPF monies for my HDB flat. I don't think I will have much CPF money for the next few years.

For those of you who are unacquainted with Singapore and acronyms like HDB and CPF here is a brief explanation:

1. HDB - Housing Development Board. One of the first few statutory boards established by the Government under the Ministry of National Development to take care of the housing needs of Singaporeans. The high rise apartments or flats that are built by HDB are called HDB flats. Most Singaporeans (around 80%) live in these HDB flats which vary in shapes and sizes, and are distributed across various town centres in Singapore.

2. CPF - Central Provident Fund. Another stat board formed. CPF is a social security savings plan for Singaporean's retirement. Over the years, it has been expanded to allow Singaporeans to purchase their HDB flats and pay for medical bills too. When people refer to CPF in Singapore, they commonly refer to their CPF monies which are kept in this account.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rooney, Manchester United and Job Loyalty

So Wayne Rooney has been having a poor form lately in football. This was after his dismal World Cup performance earlier in the year. Then some news came out that he had an affair while his wife was pregnant. To make things worse, his form on the pitch did not improve and he was left on the bench for many games. For some of the games, he was not even considered for the bench.

Now, the latest news is that Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney are going their separate ways. After some weeks of denying that Rooney wants to leave, newspapers today reported that Wayne Rooney had asked to leave Manchester United. That's after he had spent almost 6 years at United since moving over from Everton. Job loyalty? Just throw it out of the window. Here comes the mercenary. Well, at least that's how the newspapers were reporting it.

Come on.

Who amongst us dares to say that we have sticked with one company for 6 years? Most people don't even practice job loyalty nowadays yet when soccer players want to change clubs, we suddenly call them mercenaries and blast them for being selfish, money-faced and what nots.

This is incredible considering that many people today do not even stick with a company for 6 years! Most people I know have only been with their company for less than 4 years. In fact, it seems common for people to change companies ever so frequently nowadays. Job loyalty? It seems that people nowadays are no longer loyal to only a certain company. After all, no company today dares to promise its employees lifelong employment. What they can guarantee is lifelong employability and not lifelong employment.

Considering that soccer players have only such a short career span, it definitely makes sense for them to eke out the best opportunities for themselves before they hit the "official" retirement age of 35. To be left on the bench for a season is almost akin to loosing your work experience for like 10% of your working life.

Job loyalty certainly does not exist in work outside football so why do we expect this kind of standards from footballers. Give Rooney a break.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Childhood Memories and Nostalgia

A few months back, I was standing at my previous home compound where my parents still live. I was wandering downstairs with the family when I suddenly remembered that many years ago, I used to roam the playground and the fields nearby with my neighbors. These were my childhood playmates whom I used to meet up with almost every other day to play simple games like catching, hide-and-seek, etc. Over the years, we all lost contact with one another. Today, I can still recall their nicknames and which floors they stayed at as we frequented each other's house quite often.

I stood at the block and looked up. A sense of nostalgia hit me. I wondered what these childhood friends were doing now. I have lost contact with every single one of them. The last time that I saw one of them was more than 10 years ago in late secondary school on the bus. Even during that time, we had already drawn apart as we only stayed in touch till around early secondary school.

Standing there, I felt like going up to each of the house to knock and ask whether so and so was still staying there. After all, I missed those carefree days when we roamed around and I really wondered how they were getting on with their lives. The last I heard, some of them went overseas to study, some went to work, and some... I don't know. I tried looking up to see those houses and whether there were any lights in them. Have they moved out? I don't know. What do they look like today? I also do not know. After all, we were all in primary school during those days.

But I am certain that they had lovely memories about our childhood. And I do hope that we will be able to meet up one day. Unfortunately, there is almost no way to trace where they are now. Even with facebook, I don't even know their surnames or last names to be able to track them down. After all, in the past, we only used our names and were not too concerned about each other's surnames.

Childhood memories. Sweet childhood memories.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Peter Lim - Almost Liverpool Owner.

So the news is out. Peter Lim withdrew his offer for Liverpool after its owners did not revert back on his better offer than New England Sports Ventures (NESV). And NESV are now the proud new owners of Liverpool which just lost 2-0 to Everton. Liverpool now stands at the 2nd last in the English Premier League and are in the relegation zone. Of course, it is still way to early in the season to tell.

I guess it is really a pity that our very own Singaporean billionaire did not get the chance to be the owner of Liverpool FC. Imagine the limelight it will throw on Singapore. A Singapore owner for one of the top football clubs in Europe and England! What a pity. I guess most people underestimate how such things can actually bring so much other untold benefits to Singapore.

For one, readership of this blog went skyhigh during the news of Peter Lim making an offer to buy Liverpool. My readership for this blog hit record highs for a few days consecutively. Too bad the news has died down almost as fast as it started. And I am sure many Singaporean Liverpool fans are sorely disappointed.

I guess we can only think about all the "what ifs" now.

Perhaps Manchester United next ? =)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Credit Card Bills

It is amazing how fast a month flies past.

I racked up a hefty amount of credit card bills during the past month paying for a lot of big ticket items. Stuff like road tax and car insurance were all due together and so my credit card bills balloned to way past the $3000 dollar mark.

Looks like this month will be a leaner month for me. Time to tighten the belt and start saving for the year end holiday.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Remisier King Peter Lim Offers $750m for Liverpool

Peter Lim had increased his bid for Liverpool to fend off US rivals. Besides offering to clear the debts of Liverpool, he is also willing to give an immediate cash injection of 40 million pounds for the football club to buy new players. His bid is also attractive as it does not require an financing.

This comes amidst a bitter court battle over the sale of Liverpool. The other two bidders are New England Sports Ventures (NESV) and Mill Financial (a US hedge fund).

Mr Lim is the son of a fishmonger and is revered in Singapore financial circles for being an extremely savvy investors. Known as the "remisier king", he amassed a large fortune and had a winning touch in various companies - the biggest being that in Wilmar International which grew from $10 million initial investment to close to $2 billion today.

He however has business relationship with Manchester United and has the sole rights to own, operate and develop a chain of the famous club's restaurants across Asia. Whether he will give up the venture remains unknown.

The fate of offer will however depend on the court battle that is currently being waged between Liverpool's owners and chairman. The Liverpool owners want to stop the sale as they claim the price is too low. If the court rules in favor of the current Liverpool American owners, the club is likely to go into administration and will lose even more points in the Premier League.

Being a savvy investor, Peter Lim certainly must know what he is doing and while English media and fans are wary of the bid, Singaporeans here are cheering that our very own local hero could potentially own one of the biggest sporting clubs in English football history. Others have however questioned whether that money could be invested in the ailing local soccer scene which would benefit in a big way from that amount.

As Andy Ho, president of the local Liverpool supporters' club says: " This will put Singapore on the world football map."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Peter Lim Makes Offer for Liverpool

Former remisier king has made an offer to buy over Liverpool.

Well done! Our very own Singaporean billionaire who can afford to buy over a well-known English football club. I wrote about Peter Lim some time back under this post.

So how will this impact me?

Well, just yesterday, I saw my blog views on this blog jump to over 2000 page views in a single day just on that post alone.

I guess the hype about this new potential owner of Liverpool has got many people Googling his name and landing up on my blog.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

AIA Agent's Insurance Scam

Another scam has hit the market. This time in the insurance industry again. It is like...AGAIN??

It is not surprising that in my first post in IMSavvy, I decided to write about whether one can trust your financial planner. I wrote that post because I cracked my head hard to think of a posting that would truly be timeless in a certain way. And I have been proven right in a certain sense. There are definitely conflicts of interests in the financial advisory business where the salary model is that of a sales business (i.e. commission based). A lot of unethical people lurk in the insurance business where the entry into business is easy and the rewards are high.

No matter how hard you try to argue that there is no conflict of interest, this conflict of interest will exist.

But I guess in the AIA agent's case, this has been brought to a whole new level. Selling non-existent insurance products! Who is to blame? Surely not AIA. Which insurance company can actually stop its agent from selling non-existent products? This is just an outright scam and the agent involve just lacks the ethics. It could literally happen anywhere and it is just unfortunate that this happened in the insurance industry AGAIN.

So what can the consumer do?

Simple. Just make sure that whatever contract you sign is really legal and is from the insurance company. Letter heads can be faked and so can many other things if the agent is out to cheat your money.

Another way is to not pass hard cash and when in doubt, call the customer service for info (yes, please get the customer service number from the website and not from your "trusted" agent)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Finexis and AXA FutureProtector

Many of you should recall the saga between AXA and Finexis over the sale of the FutureProtector term insurance which was literally given away free by Finexis. AXA ended up demanding to claw back money from Finexis due to the high lapse rate of the product.

Just the other day, I received a letter dated 1st Oct 2010 from Finexis. Its contents are as follows:

Attention: Mr/Ms./Mdm XXXX


Dear Mr/Ms./Mdm XXXX,

Thank you for being a client of Finexis Advisory Pte Ltd.

As you would know, insurance provides peace of mind for you and your family, and an appropriate amount of term insurance coverage is the foundation of proper financial planning. These term insurance rates tend to increase with age and your decision in getting such coverage early is extremely prudent. The AXA Futureprotector is such a term plan, which offers you the following benefits:

  • Financial protection against death and terminal illness
  • Guaranteed renewability
  • Guaranteed premiums for the coverage term
We noted that you have purchased the AXA Futureprotector last year during our promotion. However, you may have overlooked the renewal and thus, your Futureprotector is no longer inforce.

To allow you to renew your Futureprotector plan, which has lapsed on 17 April 2010, we have arranged for designated personnel(s), to contact you soon to follow up on our letter and to complete the Health Declaration form. The reinstatement will be at AXA's absolute discretion and this letter is valid till 15 January 2011.

Yours sincerely,

Signed off by Warren Lim


I think Mr Warren Lim is mistaken in a few ways by sending me this letter:

Firstly, I did not purchase AXA Futureprotector. It was given to me free-of-charge as part of their promotion. I was told to just pay for it first with a full reimbursement to come later.

Secondly, I did not overlook the renewal. I was reminded by the agent to cancel it and he even sent me a Giro cancellation form which I did not use at the end of the day as I simply called up the bank.

Thirdly, once you get something for free, it is very seldom that you will want to pay for it. Why pay for something when you had it for free the last time?

Friday, October 8, 2010

To Cultivate Generosity and Love Simplicity

I read a book by John Stott about some Christian perspectives about wealth and I had some reflections about the matter which I thought might be useful to share.

How to be content in life is really not about chasing riches or wealth.

Being content in life is really about learning how to live simply or to love simplicity. Truth be told, many of the pleasures in life can actually be enjoyed without paying a single cent. Sometimes, the night sky with all the stars is enough to take my breath away compared to watching a zillion movies. Living simply also means being happy with the simple things in life like the MRT ride to work, the cup of coffee, a quiet rest at night, a nice bath, etc.

Loving simplicity is however not enough. One ought not to hoard wealth to the extent that he puts his trust in them. After all, you never know whether you will wake up with it or whether you might even wake up the next day. Another part about managing wealth is really about learning how to give your money away according to your means. The money that you have can be given to good causes rather than just to satisfy your own desires. After all, what can one do with so much money if you don't even know whether you will live past a certain age.

So cultivate generosity and love simplicity. Be content with the food and clothing you have. Give generously to the poor.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Big Money Talk on MRT

I was on the MRT going back home when I overheard this conversation between a middle-aged man and a guy in his late twenties. The young chap was probably a property agent and talking to this middle-aged man who was also probably a property agent himself. They were talking about flipping properties and the young chap was eager to learn from the middle-age man.

Young man: So you buy and sold a lot of properties?

Old Man: Yes. A lot. In the past, just buy and then sell, and you make lots of money.

Young man: How much money do you make per sale?

Old Man: Good money.

Young man: So 30K?

Old Man: No lah! 30K is peanuts. I am talking about 6 digit here man... 30, 40K is peanuts!

Young man: Wow. *suitably impressed

Old Man: In 2007, any property on the market, you just buy and sell. Surely make money.

Young man: Wow. So you must have made a lot of money.

Old Man: Enough to survive lah. Nowadays it's just consolidating.

Young man: So how much do you make from all your transactions? Got 200K?

Old Man: No lah! Please! 100-200K is peanuts I tell you. Chey..200K is nothing man, I tell you.

Young Man: Wow....

Even when I heard this conversation, I was like "Wow". 200K is peanuts??

Some people do not even earn $200K after working for ten years and here was a man talking quite loudly in the MRT about $200K being peanuts and how he has made a lot from flipping properties.

Food for thought!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Living Within Your Means

Most people have heard about "living within your means" but how many people actually practise it?

I have just discovered that it is very hard to live within one's means. As one climbs up the career ladder, or as one ages, one feels obliges to spend more on certain stuff. This can range from food, clothing to holidays even.

It is difficult to live within your means when everyone else is spending like there is no tomorrow. It is difficult to live within your means when friends and colleagues are always nearby and offer a good comparison of the things that you have versus what you do not have.

In fact, I am almost certain that it is not your absolute income that makes you happy. Rather, it is your relative income that makes one satisfied.

The simple lesson: Stop comparing and live the life that you really want to. Comparing gets you no where and only makes you desire for the things that you do not have. The reason why we fail to live within our means is because we keep comparing and our expectations go up. We expect to be able to own certain luxury goods that we could easily do without.

I have failed in this area too many times. This entry is just a reminder to myself and to readers to Live Within Your Means.

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