Saturday, January 26, 2008

Is Singapore a Clean Country?

Is Singapore a clean country? Yes, I used to think that but I no longer sure after this trip. I just got back from Singapore for a business trip. I arrived in Singapore on this Tuesday. This trip really changes my impression to Singapore that I had 8 years ago. Of course, 8 years ago I only visited Orchard road and I thought all areas in Singapore is like in Orchard. It turns out that I was wrong.

Hotel Sucks and Dirty!

After staying for 2 days 3 nights in a hotel called "Lion City Hotel" in Singapore, what I bring back is the reddish spot on my hands and this reddish spot very itchy sometimes. Luckily it just on my hand and I hope it won’t spread to my whole body. I stayed in the Superior room type which costs me about S$124. Due to the cost saving of my company, our budget is around S$150. I don’t have many choices and it seemed like the Lion City Hotel is the best candidate. If you look at the website, it really seems fine (at least clean enough). Don’t you think so? But, when I reached there the first night, it was really a nightmare!
  1. The room is very smelly. One kind of smell when first entered the room.
  2. Toilet is also very smelly and looks dirty.
  3. Toilet paper has been used before. No brush and toothpaste provided.
  4. Carpet in the floor is broken and if you look inside is it dark the dirty. I don’t know how to describe. It is just like shit or someone just vomit there.
  5. TV is very unclear and no remote control.
  6. Dust is everywhere. You can see the dust on the TV, Window, furniture and the corner between 2 walls. Yuacks!!!
  7. Inside the water boiler is like have a shit and mold stick with it. It is dark and black in colour. How can I pour coffee?

Rubbish Everywhere!

Surprisingly the area nearby the hotel is also full of rubbish. I saw rubbish is everywhere on the floor. I saw people just throw whatever to the floor (e.g. cigarette, food, plastics beg). A lot of people smoke in public too. I thought Singapore disallow people smoke in public? I thought Singapore disallow people simply throw rubbish too? Why this place is an exception? Is it because it is near Geylang, the red area - famous due to the prostitution business? This is really disappointing.

It seems like Singapore is just like another normal country like Malaysia. It is not as clean as I thought. Well, it seems like every country must have a place like that. Don’t you think so? Of course, Singapore is not an exception. What do you think? Is Singapore a clean country? Perhaps what I experienced is just a very minority?

p/s: Btw, I hope my reddish spot is not some sexual viruses. It should be due to the allergy. Don’t scare me. It is kind of worry me. :D

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Is Credit Card or Debit Card better?

Are they the same? Yes, they are the same physically – a piece of plastic but they serve different purpose. If so, what are their differences? Which one is better?

Credit card is for you to buy things without paying first. The bank will pay for you first and at the end of the month, you pay back the bank. You can decide to pay back the bank in full or partial. When you pay bank the in partial, you basically owe the bank. You’re actually taking the loan from bank. So the bank will charge you the interest based on the amount of loan you borrow.

Debit card on the other hand is for you to buy things with the amount of cash that you have in your saving account. Unlike the bank is paying for you, you’re actually paying yourself for the things that you buy and the money is deducted directly from your saving or current account once you swap you card.

In my personal opinion, the following factors determine whether you should choose credit or debit card.

(1) Which one is more convenient?

I owned a debit card before (VISA Electron) and it seems like the problem with that is not well accepted in a lot of places. Debit cards it not widely accepted as popular as credits card. However, this is probably only happen in Malaysia. When I traveled to US last year, debit card seems like as widely accepted as credit card. Not only that, I can use the debit card as an ATM card to withdraw cashes without any extra charges.

(2) Which one has reward points?

Does debit card have a reward points system? Not that I’m aware of. One of the reasons I choose credit card over debit card is because of the reward points. You can collect points when you spend your money with the credit cards and you can redeem the points for cash or other stuff. So far, I have redeemed the cash and 6 months prepaid phone card. I love this reward points system.

(3) Which one has cheaper fees?

I have been using credit cards more than 5 years and I haven’t paid them a single-cent. Just call them to waive the fees or cancel your existing card and apply for the new one with promotion. Usually the promotion will give you free annual fees. Some even give you free for life time. As for the debit card, I think the fees should be free as well.

(4) Which one is better control of your finances?

People says using debit card can gain more control of your finances because you can’t spent the money more than what you have. My belief is that if you can’t control your own finance, no matter what cards you’re using, you will end up with trouble (e.g. overdraft facility in your current account). Using the debit card is just an excuse. If you can control your own finance (aware of your spending), it is really doesn’t matter that which card you’re using. As long as you can use credit cards wisely, I don't see there is a problem with that.

Has anything that I left out? I personally prefer credit card because it is convenient and I can used it all around the world. Not only that I don’t need to pay for the fees at all, at the same time I can enjoy the reward points. If debit cards can fulfill all these requirements above, I don’t mind using it as I’ve already used the credit card as debit card or cash. I always pay my payment in full every month.

So for me, credit card is still a better choice for me at this moment. What is your choice?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

What is Your Definition of Success?

The definition of success is really a very subjective thing. No one in this world other than yourself can define the success of your life. Does success mean:

  1. Make more money?
  2. Gaining a sense of inner peace or happiness and a feeling of self worth?
  3. Balancing work, family, time, money and wisdom?

You may think success is to achieve your goal but I have different thought. In my opinion, success is a journey, not a destination. Achieving a goal is a destination. To reach the highest that’s within us and give the best we have during the journey towards achieving your goal is success. This is my definition of success.

Let’s look the following quote how these famous people define success:

"I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." by Bill Cosby

If you don’t know the key to success, it is still okay but you must know the key to failure which is trying to please everybody. In real life, you can’t please everyone no matter you are in business or employed. One of the mistakes throughout my journey is to please everyone will eventually end up a great failure. I would say if we could please 70% of people, I will consider it as a success. A great successful person has quite number of haters anyway. Don’t you think so?

"What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do." by Bob Dylan

Doing what you want to do is a success according Bob Dylan. It looks similar to the way I define millionaire which is to do whatever I want, when I want, where I want and with whomever I want. This can only be done when I achieve financial freedom at the age of 40. Completely freedom is the way to go! :D

"Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life." by Dr. David M. Burns

I noticed a lot of people focus on perfection rather than success. The worst part is they don’t allow themselves to be wrong. It either makes them a very defensive person or pessimistic person when something goes wrong. The sad thing is in Asia mind-set, majority of the parents or bosses punish those people who make mistakes and it ends up they don’t learn from their mistakes and take the ignorance approach. A real successful person learns from the mistakes, and not continuing to make the same mistakes again.

"A successful person is the one who can completely focus at the present in any situations." by ChampDog

Yes, this is my definition of success. As I mentioned earlier, success is journey and not destination. We are successful when we reach the highest that is within us and give the best out of ourselves. The only way we can reach the highest that is within us is 100% focus at the present. Focusing at the present sounds simple but especially in bad situation, it is not as easy as you think.

Does my definition of success make sense to you? What is your definition of success?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Simple Way to Explain Subprime Crisis

Have you heard about subprime crisis in U.S? Do you know what is it? Do you know why it happens? This article provides a very simple explanation of subprime crisis especially for those non-financial people or economist.

It was a very hot issue that has been discussed over the last year. I tried to search around the web to get more information about this subprime crisis in U.S. but all those explanations were too difficult for me to understand. So, this article is to simplify the explanation of subprime crisis which appears to be a very complex thing. I did this on my own research based on my understanding. You can verify whether my understanding is correct or not.

What is Subprime Mortgage?

First of all, we need to understand what subprime means. By dictionary, “Subprime” is an adjective relating to or for people with a poor credit rating. Simply says, if you never clear your credit card balance monthly, you have a poor credit rating. A poor credit rating people are disqualified to apply for conventional mortgage or loan application. They’re disqualified because they have higher risks that they are not able to make the loan payment due to their poor credit history. Bank is very clever. They come out a special type of loan to these poor credit rating people. This loan or mortgage is called “Subprime Mortgage” or “Subprime Loan”.

Why Banks Want Subprime Mortgage?

Why banks (subprime lenders) want to lend money to those who have bad credit history? They may not even able to payback the bank. But still, why they want to do that? Yes, you got it. It is all related to money. The banks are also greedy and they want to earn more. The main reason why the banks want to do this is they predict the value of the property will be going up. So they increase the mortgage interest rate (higher than the conventional loan) and they call it a subprime mortgage. They earn more with the higher mortgage interest rate and just in case the borrowers can’t continue the payment, they still can sell the houses with higher value due to the property appreciation.

To further reduce the risks and to get more loans (earn more money by loan interest), the banks repackage all mortgages into an investment product and sell it to financial institutions in all over the world (not just in U.S). This is now not only between banks and borrowers get involved in this subprime mortgage but also all the financial institutions around the world. You may ask why they want to invest in this high risk product (pool of subprime mortgage)? One reason, they believe that the property value will go up.

What happen to subprime borrowers?

They buy the house only for one reason which is expecting value of the houses to go up and they earn from the property appreciation. They can rent out their house with higher value or they can sell the house with higher value. All the debts they had previously can be easily paid off. Because house prices had increased so rapidly in the past few years, paying back the loan payment is not a problem at all. The borrowers also refinance their loan at more favourable terms due to they no longer have a bad credit rating history.

Can you see that? Everybody wins! Borrowers, banks and financial institutions are eating the same cheese happily and the cheese is “property appreciation”. Yummy, yummy!

When and Why Crisis Happens?

I think you should be able to guess it by now when the crisis will happen. Everybody enjoys the same cheese, if the cheese is gone, what happen? Crisis happens. It is that simple. When the house or property values drops, the cheese is gone. Everybody wins now becomes everybody loses!

When demand is more than supply (everyone wants to buy house), the property values went up like crazy. Until one day, when it becomes much more expensive to borrow, less people could afford to buy a house. As there were not as many buyers, the real estate market begin to cool down and house prices begin to fall.

When the house prices begin to fall, the subprime borrowers are going to suffer. Not only they’re not able to pay their existing debt, they are stuck having to pay a much larger mortgage payment. This causes many of these borrowers to not be able to make their house payment.

So for the financial institutions, they are going to lose their money that they invested because the borrower are not able to pay the loan payment. On the other hand, banks have a very big problem also because they rely on this these financial institutions to invest in the pool of mortgages investment product. Financial institutions no longer wants to invest and do not trust the bank anymore. If no wants want to buy them, where the banks get the money to offer the loans?

They bank also suffer from the lost for those borrowers who failed to make payment. As a result, the banks increase the mortgage interest rate to cover loses and hopes that borrowers (who afford to pay) can pay more. Sadly, the effect is opposite and this even makes the conditions worst. More and more borrowers failed to pay their monthly loan payment due to the interest rate increases. Crisis happens! Everyone suffers!


Subprime crisis happens because everyone predicts the property value will appreciate over time. The economy now is no longer as simple as in 30 years ago where we can predict the future with certain of accuracy. Future is getting harder and harder to be predicted for the coming years. What it next? It is really unknown.

Therefore the impact of this crisis is still has a lot of uncertainty. Will it causes another economy recession in U.S since 2000? Will this affect other countries? This is another huge topic to be discussed. Anyway, I hope this post is making sense and give you a little bit general idea on this subprime mortgage crisis in U.S.
[Updated - 20 Jan 2008]
Check out the latest news of the effect of the subprime crisis - Citigroup loses almost $10B
To have more comprehensive of explanation (which I find it difficult to understand), you can refer to this article from wikipedia.

[Updated - 2 Feb 2010]
P/S: I recently wrote about Understand Money as Debt Concept topic which could be one of root causes of this subprime crisis. You may want to read the article. Let me know if that is useful as it could be quite difficult to understand.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Should I Avoid Negative People?

As you may have already known, staying positive is one of key attitude we all should have to keep us motivated all the time. Whether you’re a business man, self-employed or an employee, staying positive is the only attitude that can make you happy and performing in your job. So now, you heard othe brilliant idea to stay positive is to “Avoid Negative People” around you. Yes it is a very famous phrase used by a lot of motivators out there:

“To Stay Positive, Avoid Negative People”.
Those negative people are most likely affect your attitude and influence you to become negative as well. On the other hand, the positive people influence you to become a positive thinking people. Yes, it is making sense but I’m going to challenge it.

Ok, do you see something is wrong here? Let’s me give you a scenario. If your wife is a negative people, are you going to avoid her? If your sons and daughters are negative people, are you going to avoid them? If your best friends are negative people, are you going to avoid them? No, you don’t want to avoid them, do you? Instead you want to get close to them to help them, don’t you think so?

So I come out a conclusion that the “phrase” is correct but need a little of modifications. Here you go:
“To Stay Positive, Avoid Negative People if you’re follower”.
You don’t avoid negative people if you’re a leader. You transform them and help them to become a positive person. Leader doesn’t focus on avoiding negative people to make them a positive thinker but only follower does. If you’re follower, which means you can’t control who you want to be (become negative when mix with negative people and vice-versa), you avoid negative people probably is a good thing to do.

So my next question to you, do you want to be leader or follower?

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