Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Just to share if you haven't read this report yet. Some interesting findings to take note of. It is based on a survey involving 16,000 people in 15 countries including Malaysia. The respondents covered people of working age (25 and over) and those in retirement. The survey was conducted between July 2012 and April 2013, and the report published in September 2013.

The charts below are taken from the HSBC Global Report on The Future of Retirement

HSBC Report on "Life After Work - MALAYSIA"

For the section on Malaysia, 1000 individuals and 298 private sector employers were interviewed by phone. Their response was organized around five key questions:

1. What is retirement?
2. How will we pay for retirement?
3. When should we retire?
4. How do older workers compare with younger ones?
5. Do employers and employees think alike?

Some 49% of retirees say they have not achieved their hopes and aspirations for retirement because they have less money to live on than expected. On a positive note, 67% say they are able to spend more time with friends and family.

One assumption among many working people is that their expenses will fall once they enter retirement. However, one-third of Malaysian retirees (33%) saw their expenditures either stay the same or increase on retiring from healthcare needs or from funding family.

Around 9% of Malaysians surveyed who are still working say they do not believe they would ever be able to afford to fully retire.

This may have led to the growing inclination towards semi-retirement, with close to half (54%) of non-retirees having planned for semi-retirement, higher than the global average of 42%.

Among those who expect to semi-retire, one in five respondents say that they would go for semi-retirement because they need to bridge a shortfall in retirement income (24%) and are unable to retire full-time (26%).

However, Malaysians generally still expect to retire on average at 55, earlier than their parents who averaged at 57.

Despite the anxiety of financial shortfall and unrealised personal aspirations, Malaysian retirees still intend to save during retirement. More than three-quarters or 78% of Malaysians still save during retirement compared to the global average of 56%, and these retirees expect to leave an inheritance to their children.

Saturday, February 22, 2014


Like most folks, I love stories, especially the rags-to-riches kind. I find them so inspiring. Here's one about this kid from Ukraine who started out in life disadvantaged and poor, and ends up on Forbes list of the world's richest men. To think that he took only five short years to achieve this. Certainly makes for a better story than the previous post about Li Ka-Shing's advice on how to own a car and a house in five years. This one tells how you can own 10 Porches, 10 beach villas and 10 mansions in five years, and that's only for starters!

I am referring, of course, to Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp for USD19 billion, turning co-founders of the mobile social media service, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, into instant multi-billionaires. The pioneer 55 employees also stand to receive USD345 million each - more than enough for them to laugh all the way to the bank.

The figures that led to Facebook buying WhatsApp for USD19 billion. Was it a good investment?
WhatsApp's phenomenal rise since its launch in 2009. (Source: Forbes.com)

If you are using a smart phone, chances are you already have WhatsApp installed. I use the application countless times a day to send text or voice messages, hold group chats or discussions, and send photos. As it is a mobile application, I can communicate with my family and friends anytime I want and from wherever I am. It's no wonder WhatsApp is the fastest growing social media service by far, out-stripping even Facebook by a mile. And no wonder too Mark Zuckerberg is ready to pay big bucks to have it in his stable of acquisitions. To think that Koum had once applied for a job with Facebook but was turned down. What irony!

The big question now for Facebook is how to add advertising and generate returns on their huge investment. (Photo: thenextweb,com)

Here's the back story of how it all began for Jan Koum, who came up with the original idea for WhatsApp, and Brian Acton, who sourced for the seed money. You can read the full article written by Ryan Mac and Kerry Dolan for Forbes. The link is given at the bottom of the page.

Brian Acton and Jan Koum - they look more like
technicians than multi-billionaires. (Photo: NYT)
Koum, 37, was born and raised in a small village outside of Kiev, Ukraine, the only child of a housewife and a construction manager who built hospitals and schools. His house had no hot water, and his parents rarely talked on the phone in case it was tapped by the state. He once stood in line to collect food stamps. Now Koum is believed to own 45% of WhatsApp and thus is suddenly worth $6.8 billion.

At 16, Koum and his mother immigrated to Mountain View and got a small two-bedroom apartment through government assistance. His dad never made it over. Koum’s mother took up babysitting and Koum swept the floor of a grocery store to help make ends meet. When his mother was diagnosed with cancer, they lived off her disability allowance. 

Koum was a troublemaker at school but by 18 had also taught himself computer networking by purchasing manuals from a used book store and returning them when he was done. 

He enrolled at San Jose State University but dropped out soon after he landed a job at Yahoo where he met Brian Acton. The two hit it off immediately.  

When Koum’s mother died of cancer in 2000 Koum was suddenly alone; his father had died in 1997. He credits Acton with reaching out and offering support. “He would invite me to his house,” Koum remembers. The two went skiing and played soccer and ultimate Frisbee.

In September 2007 Koum and Acton finally left Yahoo and took a year to decompress, traveling around South America and playing ultimate frisbee. Both applied, and failed, to work at Facebook. “We’re part of the Facebook reject club,” Acton says. Koum was eating into his $400,000 in savings from Yahoo, and drifting. Then in January 2009, he bought an iPhone and realized that the seven-month old App Store was about to spawn a whole new industry of apps...

The Rags-To-Riches Tale Of How Jan Koum Built WhatsApp Into Facebook's New $19 Billion Baby

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


This article has been circulating on the Internet recently. It is a translation by Edmund Ng at CeoConnectz. Click here to read the original in Chinese.

Suppose your monthly income is only RMB 2,000, you can live well. I can help you put money into five sets of funds. The first $600, second $400, third $300, fourth $200, fifth $500.

The first set of funds is used for living expenses. It’s a simple way of living and you can only be assigned to less than twenty dollars a day. A daily breakfast of vermicelli, an egg and a cup of milk. For lunch just have a simple set lunch, a snack and a fruit. For dinner go to your kitchen and cook your own meals that consist of two vegetables dishes and a glass of milk before bedtime. For one month the food cost is probably $500-$600. When you are young, the body will not have too many problems for a few years with this way of living.

Second set of funds: To make friends, expand your interpersonal circle. This will make you well off. Your phone bills can be budgeted at RMB 100. You can buy your friends 2 lunches a month, each at $150. Who should you buy lunch for? Always remember to buy lunch for people who are more knowledgeable than you, richer than you or people who have helped you in your career. Make sure you do that every month. After one year, your circle of friends should have generated tremendous value for you. Your reputation, influence, added value will be clearly recognized. You’ll also enhance your image of being good and generous.

Third set of funds: To learn. Monthly spend about RMB 50 to RMB 100 to buy books. Because you don’t have a lot of money, you should pay attention to learning. When you buy the books, read them carefully and learn the lessons and strategies that is being taught in the book. Each book, after reading them, put them into your own language to tell the stories. Sharing with others can improve your credibility and enhance the affinity. Also save up $200 per month to attend a training course. When you have higher income or additional savings, try to participate in more advanced training. When you participate in good training, not only do you learn good knowledge, you also get to meet like-minded friends who are not easy to come by.

Fourth set of funds: Use it for holidays overseas. Reward yourself by traveling at least once a year. Continue to grow from the experience of life. Stay in youth hostels to save cost. In a few years you would have travelled to many countries and have different experiences. Use that experience to recharge yourself so that you’ll continually have passion in your work.

Fifth set of funds: Invest. Save the $500 in your bank and grow it as your initial startup capital. The capital can then be used to do a small business. Small business is safe. Go to wholesalers and look for products to sell. Even if you lose money, you will not lose too much money. However, when you start earning money, it will boost your confidence and courage and have a whole new learning experience of running a small business. Earn more and you can then begin to buy long-term investment plans and get long-term security on your financial wealth being of yourself and your families. So that no matter what happens, there will be adequate funds and the quality of life will not decline.

Well, after struggling for a year and if your second year salary is still RMB 2,000, then that means you have not grown as a person. You should be really ashamed of yourself. Do yourself a favour and go to the supermarket and buy the hardest tofu. Take it and smash it on your head because you deserve that.

If your monthly income is at RMB 3,000, you must still work very hard. You must try to find a part time job. It will be great to find part time sales jobs. Doing sales is challenging, but it is the fastest way for you to acquire the art of selling and this is a very deep skill that you will be able to carry it for the rest of your career. All successful entrepreneurs are good sales people. They have the ability to sell their dream and visions. You’ll also meet many people that will be of value to you in the later part of your career. Once you’re in sales, you will also learn what sells and what not. Use the sensitivity of detecting market sentiments as a platform for running your business and in the identification of product winners in the future.

Try to buy minimal clothes and shoes. You can buy them all you want when you’re rich. Save your money and buy some gift for your loved ones and tell them your plans and your financial goals. Tell them why you are so thrifty. Tell them your efforts, direction and your dreams.

Businessmen everywhere need help. Offer yourself to do part time for any kind of opportunities. This will help to hone your will and improve your skills. You will start to develop eloquence and soon, you’ll be closer to your financial goals. By the second year, your income should be increased to at least RMB 5,000. Minimum it should be RMB 3,000, otherwise you would not be able to keep up with inflation.

No matter how much you earn, always remember to divide it into five parts proportionately. Always make yourself useful. Increase your investment in networking. When you increase your social investment, expand your network of contacts, your income also grows proportionately. Increase your investment in learning, strengthen your self confidence, increase investment in holidays, expand your horizons and increase investment in the future, and that will ultimately increase your income.

Maintain this balance and gradually you will begin to have a lot of surplus. This is a virtuous circle of life plans. Your body will start to get better and better as you get more nutrition and care. Friends will be aplenty and you will start to make more valuable connections at the same time. You will then have the conditions to participate in very high-end training and eventually you’ll be exposed to bigger projects, bigger opportunities. Soon, you will be able to gradually realize your various dreams, the need to buy your own house, car, and to prepare an adequate education fund for your child’s future.

Life can be designed. Career can be planned. Happiness can be prepared. You should start planning now. When you are poor, spend less time at home and more time outside. When you are rich, stay at home more and less outside. This is the art of living. When you are poor, spend money on others. When you’re rich, spend money on yourself. Many people are doing the opposite.

When you are poor, be good to others. Don’t be calculative. When you are rich, you must learn to let others be good to you. You have to learn to be good to yourself better. When you are poor, you have to throw yourself out in the open and let people make good use of you. When you are rich, you have to conserve yourself well and don’t let people easily make use of you. These are the intricate ways of life that many people don’t understand.

When you are poor, spend money so that people can see it. When you are rich, do not show off. Just silently spend the money on yourself. When you are poor, you must be generous. When you are rich, you must not be seen as a spendthrift. Your life would have come full circle and reach its basics. There will be tranquility at this stage.

There is nothing wrong with being young. You do not need to be afraid of being poor. You need to know how to invest in yourself and increase your wisdom and stature. You need to know what is important in life and what is worth investing in. You also need to know what you should avoid and not spend your money on. This is the essence of discipline. Try to avoid spending money on clothing, but buy a selective number of items that have class. Try to eat less outside. If you were to eat outside, do make sure you buy lunches or dinners and foot the bill. When buying people dinner, make sure you buy dinners for people who have bigger dreams than you, and work harder than you.

Once your livelihood is no longer an issue, use the remainder of your money to pursue your dreams. Spread your wings and dare to dream! Make sure you live an extraordinary life!

Famous theory from Harvard: The difference of a person’s fate is decided from what a person spends in his free time between 20:00 to 22:00 . Use these two hours to learn, think and participate in meaningful lectures or discussion. If you persist for several years, success will come knocking on your doors.

No matter how much you earn, remember to split your salary into five parts. Take care of your body so that it will still be in good shape. Invest in your social circle so that you will constantly meet new people where you can learn new knowledge from. Expanding your network will also have an important impact in how much you earn eventually. Travel every year and expand your horizons. Also keep abreast with the latest developments in the industry. If you follow this plan diligently, you will soon see big surplus in your funds.

Whatever happened in the past is over. Do not dwell on past mistakes. There’s no point crying over spilt milk. Everybody makes mistakes. It’s what you learn from the mistakes, and promising yourself not to repeat those mistakes that matters. When you miss opportunities, don’t dwell on it, as there are always new opportunities on the horizon.

Being able to smile when being slightly misunderstood is good upbringing. When you’re wronged and you smile with calmness, it is generosity. When you’re being taken advantage of and you can smile, you’re being open-minded. When you are helpless and you can do a philosophical smile, you’re in a calm state. When you’re in distress and you can laugh out loud, you’re being generous. When you’re looked down and you can calmly smile, you’re being confident. When you’re being jilted in relationships and you can smile it off, you’re being suave.

There are many people who are struggling to make ends meet. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. There are lessons for all to learn from Li Ka Shing.

Friday, February 14, 2014


It's Valentine's Day - again. While couples young and old celebrate the day exchanging gifts and Valentine cards, my thoughts, as always, are with those who will not be sitting down to a romantic candlelight dinner. Reason: they are single. To them, I say, "Happy Single Awareness Day!" I am one of you too.

Which one are you? There's a third one - being single and NOT available. 

Unless you are married to someone wonderful, it's better to remain single. I am not putting down the institution of marriage. But I seem to be hearing more couples getting divorced than getting married, especially among older couples. Once the children are grown and flown, a couple's marriage is put to the test. Retired couples, in particular, find that being in each other's company 24/7 can either rekindle the old flame of romance and passion, or it can extinguish forever the last sparks of a dying marriage.

It takes a lot of effort, compromise even sacrifice to keep a relationship going. Many young couples don't have the patience to work at it. Gone are the days when wedding vows were taken seriously and couples remained married 'till death do us part'. Even after death, the bereaved spouse stayed faithful to the memory of the dearly beloved. Second marriages were almost unheard of, as were divorces. Indeed, to ask for a divorce would be akin to asking to be ostracized.

Today on Valentine's Day, I dedicate the day to my parents. I remember them as a very loving couple. As a child, I used to listen with fascination to the love stories my mother told me about how my father wooed her. Their courtship days were like chapters taken from a Barbara Cartland novel. My father simply adored my mother, and spending time with her was something he treasured as we saw him only during the weekends. His work as a medical sales representative often took him outstation and away from the family.

My father treated my mother like she was a fragile porcelain doll. He was always eager to please her and make her happy. My mother bore him six children during their 10 years together. I was the eldest. My youngest sister never got to see my dad for he passed away in 1957 after a short period of illness. My mom was heavily pregnant with her sixth child when my dad left her - forever.

My parents - Annie Goh Kwee Foung and Jackie Fu Fook Im (1947)

My mother will be 87 this October. She has never remarried, and has remained a widow all these past 56 years. I am sure she still misses my father, that is, on days when she can remember, when her mind is clear, and her memory is sharp. For my mom has Alzheimer's. The other day when I showed her this picture of my dad and her, I asked if she knew who the couple was. Without any hesitation, she said 'That's me and that's your father. But he's gone now. He was very good to me.'

Whether you are single, married, divorced or widowed, today is the day we celebrate LOVE. We should be celebrating love every day, in the little things we do, for the people we love. Love doesn't have to cost a cent. Love can be a genuine smile, a warm hug or an affectionate kiss. Or a good deed for someone we don't know but who needs our help.


Friday, February 7, 2014


The next time you are out in the city or abroad on vacation especially in East Asia and Europe, take a good look at the people around you. Have you noticed more older adults than young people?

Welcome to the ageing world. If you are like me, a baby boomer, there are many more of us around than ever before. This is one case where there is no safety in numbers. Instead there is much concern, even alarm in some countries.

The figures speak for themselves. Source: HelpAge

According to a PEW Research Centre survey on attitudes towards ageing, it is interesting to note that Asian countries especially Japan, South Korea and China, are generally more worried than the US about the implications of an increasingly graying population.

Source: Pew Research Centre

A quick look at the statistics reveals why this is so. By 2050, those aged 65 and above are expected to make up more than a third of the population in Japan and South Korea, with China closely behind.

Any country with a rapidly ageing population faces a host of problems ranging from a slowdown in economic growth to soaring healthcare and welfare costs.

To read more, please go to Attitudes about Ageing: A Global Perspective.

Here are some cartoons taken from various sources on the internet to give readers a snapshot of the global ageing 'crisis'.

CANADA: Click here to read more.
NEW ZEALAND. Click here to read more.
CHINA: Click here to read more.
GERMANY: Click here to read more.
Source: The Star  (19 Jan 2014)

What about Malaysia? According to the United Nations, we will be an ageing nation by 2030. But why wait till then to get prepared? The relevant ministries should start planning NOW to cope with the expected rise in the elderly population. We must have the necessary systems and structures in place, and not wait till we are swamped by the onslaught of the silver tsunami.

Worth picking up to find out more about the implications of an ageing population.

I bought this book 'Shock of Gray' in 2010, after reading a review of it on Amazon. An absolutely fascinating and horrifying read at the same time. Highly recommended if you are interested in the topic.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Smaller angpows in the Year of the Horse?
The very first article posted on SeniorsAloud blog back in May 2008 was all about how to make every ringgit count. ("For Retirees, Every Ringgit Counts")

With the recent price hike of almost everything, it is time to revisit that article for some tips and an update on how to stretch our retirement funds for the lean times ahead. This is especially so for retirees depending solely on their government pension or EPF savings for their monthly sustenance. They will have to tighten their belts a notch or two to stretch their ringgit.

Here are some easy to follow Do’s and Don’ts.

Being patient can save you money. If you are planning to upgrade your cell phone, computer, or camera, don’t just yet. Wait for hand-me-downs from your adult children. They are always eager to get their hands on the latest models, and will be happy to pass on their almost-new discards to their parents, and that means you. If you wait till your birthday or Mother/Father's Day, who knows you might find a new lap-top all wrapped up as a gift for you. I received a Toshiba lap-top for my birthday last June, and also won the grand prize of a Chromebook at the Pikom Fair last December. Good timing indeed as my desk-top and net-book were already showing signs of old age. The two pcs saved me at least two thousand ringgit.

Be prepared to pay more for everything
when the GST comes into effect in April 2015, 
Cut down on eating out. A meal out with your spouse at a nice restaurant can set you back at least RM60. Make eating out a treat rather than a habit. That includes eating at food courts too. Meals at the mall food courts have already gone up in price since the beginning of the year. Some food outlets have started adding service tax and government tax. At least one restaurant I know has even started charging GST. I was under the impression that GST would only be imposed in April 2015. Nothing beats home-cooked meals for better nutritional value and savings, and it costs only a fraction of what you will pay for a meal out.

Go for cheaper alternatives. A RM200 watch serves the same purpose as a RM2000 one, which is to tell the time. Forget about losing face. At our age, there’s not much face to lose anyway. Ladies, steer away from pricey cosmetics and perfumes, unless you can afford them. Go for the more affordable brands. It’s good to remind ourselves that often, less is more, especially as we age. Less make-up, less jewelry, less designer items. That goes for designer coffee too. A cup of good strong coffee at the kopitiam is more satisfying and much cheaper than an expressso or latte at an international franchise coffee outlet where you also pay for the high rental and air-conditioning.

Small, compact and economical to maintain for a retiree
Downsize. If your adult children no longer live with you, you might want to consider moving to a smaller house or apartment. The same applies to your car. Sell off that fuel guzzler and switch to a Kelissa or a MyVi that is low on fuel consumption and maintenance. It still gets you from A to B in about the same amount of time. A friend told me that she could drive her Kelissa from KL to Penang on just RM25 worth of petrol one way.

Resist the temptation to keep up with the Lims. Your relatives just spent RM100,000 on renovating their house. Good for them. They probably have the money to do so. Your best friend just bought 200, 000 shares in a public-listed company. Congratulate him, even envy him, but you don’t have to do the same if you don't have a fat savings account. Be mindful that the best things in life don't necessarily cost a lot, and the most expensive things don't necessarily bring you lasting joy.

Be prepared to make small adjustments to your lifestyle. It's not just cutting down on eating out, and buying cheaper alternatives. Also take fewer holiday trips abroad. Travel economy class and stay in budget hotels. Backpacking can be fun with the right company. I have always thought it's a sin to see good money go wasted on expensive hotel rooms when most of the time you are out sightseeing. A clean comfortable room should do just fine for a good night's repose.

Switch to public transport. If maintaining a car eats into your funds, opt for public transport. I got rid of my car 20 years ago. It wasn't easy initially to adjust to doing without wheels. Thank goodness, those days of terror rides on stuffy, overcrowded pink mini-buses are long gone. Today, taking a ride on the Rapid KL air-con buses or LRT is cheap and comfortable. For senior citizens aged 60 and above, get a Kad Rabbit Touch & Go for Warga Emas. It entitles you to 50% off all rides on Rapid KL buses, LRT (Putra Line and Ampang Line) as well as the monorail. You can apply for the free card at the Pasar Seni LRT station.

Buy bulk or economy-size. Do the maths before you make a purchase especially at the supermarket. It makes more sense to buy economy-size than small or regular. A 200-gm pack of coffee gives you more value per cup than a 100-gm pack. Likewise, buying a 3 in 1 pack of toothbrushes makes for more savings than buying individually packed toothbrushes. While on the subject of toothbrushes, would you pay RM179 for an electric toothbrush when you can keep your teeth just as clean with an ordinary one for around RM6, and a RM10 pack of dental floss?

Over 3 million books up for grabs at rock bottom prices at the annual Big Bad Wolf Sale last December

Look for special offers and sales. Hypermarkets like TESCO, GIANT and AEON advertise great savings every weekend. It's a consumers market as businesses compete for customers. Compare prices before you shop. Wait for the big sales like the MATTA Fair for special offers on vacations and air tickets, and the PIKOM Fair for discounts on computers and electronic gadgets. If you enjoy reading, check out warehouse book sales, especially the annual BIG BAD WOLF sale or the POPULAR BOOK FAIR. You can get a trolley full of good reads at unbelievably low prices. I always make sure to visit these sales to get great bargains.

Make your reservations for this 6 Feb to celebrate 'Everybody's Birthday' according to the Lunar calendar

Before you part with your money, don’t be embarrassed to ask if there is any special concession for senior citizens. I pay only RM7 to see a movie at Golden Screen cinemas at MidValley. Guardian Pharmacy issues Golden Privilege cards for senior citizens that enable them to pay 10% less for pharmaceutical products and health foods. You can enjoy lunch or high-tea at some hotel restaurants at 30%-50%off. You can enroll for a degree course at Open University Malaysia at a 75% discount, or catch a play or musical at less than the normal ticket price. The list goes on. No harm in just inquiring about seniors discount. I have enjoyed special rates for seminars and conferences simply by asking if I could get a senior citizen's discount.

Free inner city transport. Saves you the hassle of finding parking. A good option if you plan to go shopping in the city.

Opt for freebies. Better to be called a cheapskate than to waste good money unnecessarily when something you need is available for free. Planning a trip downtown? Take the Go KL shuttle bus. It is free, and takes you to all the main shopping centres in the city, including KLCC, Pavilion, Bukit Bintang and Pasar Seni. Looking for entertainment? Go to YouTube for free movies and music videos. Want to contact family and friends? Connect on Skype, Facetime or use What's App or Viber - all free. Interested in lifelong learning? Sign up online with Coursera, There are over 600 courses for you to choose from, all free and offered by some of the world's top universities like Yale and Johns Hopkins.

Maintenance fees cover pool and gym facilities, so make use of them and save on fitness club membership

Keeping fit doesn't have to cost a cent. Most exercises like tai-chi, qigong, and yoga can be done at home for free or in a group with an instructor for a token fee. Using the stairs several times a day at my walk-up apartment on the third floor gives me a good workout. So does the daily 15-minute brisk walk to the neighbourhood supermarket. Carrying the bags of groceries home is strength-training for my muscles. If you live in a condo, make full use of the gym and pool rather than pay a hefty monthly fee to join a fitness club.

Membership does have its privileges

Limit your credit cards to one or two. Get rid of the others. This will curb excesses in spending. It’s a good idea to collect privilege cards like those issued by hypermarkets, departmental stores, book chains, hotels and restaurants. The cards allow you to accumulate points with your purchases that you can exchange for gifts or cash vouchers. I have quite a number of these cards, but limit myself to only two credit cards - one for use in Malaysia, the other for Singapore. That way I have better control over my spending. I also make it a point to always pay the full amount due on time to avoid late payment charges.

One of the world's richest men says it best - keep a rein on your spending, or end up in debt. 

The more fortunate among us may have access to multiple sources of income or enjoy generous financial support from their children. But when your only source of funds is your monthly pension or EPF savings, every ringgit counts. Keep a record of every purchase you make, and total the numbers at the end of the month. You will be amazed at how much you have spent, and where all the money went.

There’s no need to make big sacrifices or put a lid on our favourite pastimes. We can still have our cake and eat it – but without the icing, which isn’t good for our health, anyway.