Friday, May 30, 2014

Cheapest Way to Transfer Money Oversea - Citibank Global Transfer

Before I migrated to Australia, I did some researches to transfer my money to Australia. I was looking at Australia banks (i.e. Commonwealth Bank and Westpac Bank) at that time and they all require service charge % which is quite a big amount. Since Malaysia doesn't have these 2 banks, the charges is at 2 sides (i.e sender and receiver banks)!

Alternatively, a friend of mine told me HSBC Bank is free of charge but I checked, it was not free. I guessed it was an offer for certain period only. At the end (another friend recommended me to use Citibank), it turned out Citibank Global Transfer is the best and cheapest solution. No additional fees and charges are required!

So now you may wonder is there a hidden cost? The only thing the bank can play around is the foreign exchange rate. So I did a comparison with HSBC at that time (few months ago of course), it is about the same and in fact Citibank's conversion rate is slightly better. I don't think it will vary a lot unless you compare to money changers which usually have a better rate.

However there are few limitations. Not all countries are available to use this Global Transfer feature. For example, Europe and Canada are not part of the list. For a complete list, you can check it out in Citibank website. Another limitation is the transfer limit is cap at USD 12,500 daily. I'm not that rich, so it is not a concern for me! :)

Open Foreign Bank Account First

Before you start using this "Global Transfer" feature in Citibank, you must open the bank account first in the foreign country where you want to transfer your money to.

You have 3 options to open an account oversea:

  • Go through your local bank - I didn't know we can do that until a Citibank banker told us that we can make such arrangement. Basically they will send an officer from Australia to Malaysia's branch to help you on this. Of course there are some requirements like how much money you would like to transfer. Sorry I forgot the amount already, I think is RM 20K roughly. 
  • Apply it remotely - You can open a bank account remotely. The hardest part in this process is personal identity verification. I think you can choose "Online Verification" but I haven't not done this myself. You probably need to fax some documentations over. If online verification is not feasible, then you must go to the last option below.
  • Go there and apply directly - I applied directly there when I visited Australia. Since most of us need to do the "Initial Landing" once you get your PR, I would recommend you this unless you do not plan to visit the country at all. During the application, you need to provide your original passport and any original ID that shows your real name (e.g. your credit cards) for verification. 

Notes: If not mistaken, you can open the bank remotely and start transfer your money already. It is just that you can't withdraw the money until the verification is done either remotely or you go there directly.

Well, I have been using "Global Transfer" feature in Citibank for months and I find it very convenient! If you have other cheapest way of transfer money oversea (excluding hand carry cash), feel free to share. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Forgotten Death Planning - Buy Cemetery Plot Early

When people talk about death planning, 2 common things that you often hear are insurance and will witting. You rarely hear about buying cemetery plot as part of the package. Is this because of superstition and people are not comfortable with this topic or simply a forgotten death planning that we all don't prioritize?

It came into me how important of this when a relative of mine died in all sudden at very young age. It was unexpected, so many things became chaos at that time. Without a will is one thing (which I believe many have already known), buying cemetery plot is the one people often ignore it. This is essential because it is like a real estate or property. It appreciates every year.  The later you buy, it is more expensive. So one key take away for me in this incident is - "We Need to Buy Our Cemetery Plot Early".

However, I still haven't brought mine yet but have bought it for my parents in law. My parents are still in discussion stage. I think before you buy for your own, you need to buy for your parents first and this makes sense right? But be prepared for open discussion with them. :)

Where to Buy Cemetery Plot?

Depending on your preference, you can either choose to be buried or cremated. I think this also depends on what religions you're. Different religions do it differently. Since I don't have a religion, I go for the cheapest solution with cremated and we found this non-profit organization in Sungai Petani. It is called "Beng Siew Hall (明修善社)".

The building looks like it is only meant for Buddhism or Taoism but I think it should be independent because I have seen other religion cemetery's plots here (such as Christian and others). All the money that you buy for the cemetery plot is donated eventually.

When you go inside this building, you will see something like this.

There are total of 3 floors (if I remember correctly). This is in the middle section of each floor. There are sections that are facing east or west (facing the sky). Depends on your needs especially if you have Feng Shui considerations.

This is how the empty plot looks like and the prices. The one in middle and below eye level is usually the most expensive one. In this example, the highest level starts with letter A until the lowest letter J. The middle section is between number 9 and 15.

You can also buy the plaque (which is used to cover this box and also for displaying purpose). You need to decide what words that you want to put there. If you (not you obviously) want to buy it later on, it is okay too. Depends on your religion or your belief, there are also certain rules or requirements like how many words that you need to follow but this is totally up to you.


In my experience, buying cemetery plot is much or less very similar to buying a property. You need to choose the best location that best suits you or your parents but it is not necessary must be Feng Shui related considerations. For instance, you don't want your cemetery located at the unreachable area. On the other hand, it is also like an investment because the later you buy, the less choices you have with higher price. Isn't that it sound like buying a property?

The tricky part is, not everyone is comfortable in discussing this topic especially if you try to discuss this with your parents while thhey are still alive! It depends how open minded your parents are. In their perspective, it is like assuming they're going do die soon or you want them to die, that's why you discuss this with them. :)

Also, what I find strange here is I haven't heard of any financial planners talk about this topic at all. They often go for will and insurance when talk about death planning. It seems like none of them talking about buying or investing in cemetery plot. At least, I think they don't pay high attention in this area, do they?

Have you thought about this thing before? If no, I think we should all start to plan for it. Ultimately you don't want your kids suffering financially to find a home for you after your death. :) Personally, I have not yet do this for my parents and myself. It is one of my to do list. Things get harder now since I have migrated to Australia because I totally not familiar here.

I hope this article is useful. If you have any experience to share, feel free to leave your comment here.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Hanging Underwear in Balcony is Not Allowed in Australia?

Not just underwear, anything thing such as cloth or any other laundry items are not allowed to hang in Balcony of your apartment. I received notice not long ago after I move in. :)

Why I say only underwear? Because I've been told before only underwear is not allowed. So it is not just underwear, you basically can't hang "anything" in balcony. You're supposed to use dryer to make your cloth dry!

I look into the the strata title law in detail and this is what it says:

"Unless an owner or occupier has the written permission of the owners corporation they must not hang washing, towelling, bedding, clothing or other articles on any part of the strata scheme (eg. on the balcony of your lot) so that it may be seen from outside the building. Clothing hung on the common property clothes lines must only be there for a reasonable time."

This should be applicable to all apartment in Australia. Yes, you're not allowed to do that unless you get the formal approval. The last sentence is confusing but I guess it only applies to apartment that have common property clothes lines but "reasonable time' is a funny statement. Maybe not more than 24 hours?

So one of the drawbacks of living in strata title property in Australia is you can't simply hung stuff in your balcony! :)

P/S: Weird thing is I still see most my neighbors are hanging their clothes in balcony. Is this rule not really enforced here?

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