Friday, December 14, 2012

New Funding for Social Enterprise Startups!

Dear all

Please take note of two up and coming seed funding available to new Social Enterprise startups in Singapore:

1. NVPC administered - Jump Start Fund (Link)
Information guide about the funds: Click here

2. MSF administered - Youth Social Entrepreneurship Program for Startups (Link)

Eligible young social enterprise start-ups can receive up to 80% of the total project cost, capped at $50,000. The cost refers to start-up and operating costs for up to the first two years. The youth social enterprise start-ups should have:
1. A compelling social objective 
The start-up should have a social impact, helping solve a problem or meet a need in an innovative way.
2. A viable business proposition 
The start-up should have a strong business model and feasible business plans. It must have reasonable organisational capabilities and capacity to run a sustainable business.
3. A committed team with relevant experience and expertise 
The team should preferably know the industry well enough to run the business. The team should also possess some experience in working with the target beneficiaries. The business should be geared towards results, accountability and both sound business and social principles.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Support SEA! and Vote for your favorite social enterprise!

Copyright © *2012 Social Enterprise Association Ltd*, All rights reserved.


Social enterprises are businesses that focus on creating social impact.Organised by Social Enterprise Association, the ‘Vote for your Favourite Social Enterprise’ contest aims to create awareness of social enterprises in Singapore. The 6 participating social enterprises are Bliss Restaurant & Catering, Bridge Learning, Laksania, NTUC Eldercare, Social Creatives, Social Innovation Park.
Please click here to learn more about their work.

Three voters will walk away with cash prizes. The social enterprise with the most votes will also win S$4000.

First Prize: S$500 cash
Second Prize: S$300 cash
Third Prize: S$200 cash
Social Enterprise with the Most Votes: S$4000

The contest is open to all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.

Step 1: Like our
 Facebook page
Step 2: Browse our 6 participating social enterprises and vote for your favourite.
Step 3: Double your votes by sharing the contest on your timeline.

The contest will run from 22 November 2012 to 20 December 2012. Results will be announced on 24 December 2012.

Please help us spread the word! Send this mailer to your friends and colleagues. Thank you!
Copyright © *2012 Social Enterprise Association Ltd*, All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Personal Reflections of the DFC Exposition

Personal sharing and reflections of the Design for Change Exposition (Singapore), held on 8th November 2012. Special thanks to Madhu and her team for setting up the inspiring event!
(For more information on SoCh, visit

“Hi Sir, will you like to visit our booth?!” exclaimed an earnest looking group of students from Pasir Ris Primary School.

The passionate group of students had put up an impressive booth; presenting the entire process of needs analysis, ideation, research, planning and execution of the social projects which they have implemented earlier this year.

It was a sight to behold, on how they have passionately shared with me their intimate level of involvement and personal reflections from the project. Looking beyond the huge amount of effort invested by the students (Which is definitely remarkable), it was an added encouragement to realize that there were much deeper, humane and personal motivations behind each student involved in the project, which is their simple desire to show greater appreciation for the elderly within their own families and also to be able to better communicate with other elderly in the elder care centers which they have also visited.

With that, the social project implemented, not only included volunteering at the elder care center, and documenting their day outs with their grandparents, but even more notably, their innovative initiative of consolidating translations of commonly used dialect wordings into the form of QR codes printed on cards that may be distributed to other children from the school or left at elder care centers for future use by visitors. By doing so, they wish that others may easily scan the QR code, obtain their consolidated translations and more effectively communicate with the elderly whenever such opportunities arise.

This project was just one of the many others ran by students from the age range of 8 to 14 years old, under the inspiring Social Change by Children movement, which hopes to encourage all children in believing that they can become positive social change-agents through a design thinking and experiential learning approach.

As one of SoCh partners and a committee member of OSC, I was also given the opportunity to set up an activity booth where we invited students to illustrate their vision of a newspaper article which will appear on “THE SINGAPORE TIMES” in 8th November 2030.

Among many of the colorful and creative productions contributed by the students, some of the outstanding news headline includes one which says, “Too much care!” Followed by a short sentence explaining how businesses are facing manpower shortage due to large number of youths involved in volunteering at old folks home.
Another news headline cries out “NO BOOKS!” with a drawing of students caring only their tablets to school with all their textbooks displayed over multi-media gadgets.

With a mix of witty humor, innocence and many aspirations shared by the students’ hope of what they envision Singapore to become in 2030, I was greatly inspired by the creativity and positivity our children have for our country. I too hope that more children will have the desire to become positive contributor of our society, grow up as active citizens who believe that they “CAN!” become social change-makers and have the courage to do what they must to create a more compassionate and inclusive society that we can call HOME.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

From Paperboy to Property Magnate

I'm earnestly sharing this extremely interesting event that will feature Mr Mohd Ismail of PropNex.

Come to get inspired by how a Paperboy became a property magnate! The following information is as shared by the dedicated team of Enspire!

For many, entrepreneurship remains an exclusive and elusive purview for those who have the right connections or are tech whizzes. Entrepid believes that entrepreneurship should be inclusive for all.

Entrepid is a community of entrepreneurs who believe that given the right resources, anyone can be successful. Aiming to refresh Singapore’s exciting enterprise scene by helping entrepreneurs acquire knowledge capital, social capital and financial capital – all of which are necessary prerequisites to the
start-up process.

Opening their doors to everyone next Sunday (18 Nov) for a networking brunch, they wish to provide a platform for all to find out how taking the first step out and being your own boss isn’t as difficult as it seems.

The event will feature guest speaker – Mohd Ismail of PropNex, Singapore’s most successful real estate company. Mohd Ismail will share with guests about his past entrepreneurial experiences and how he came from humble beginnings (yes, he was a paperboy before!) to making his first million at the tender age of 28.

The brunch will also feature some of Enspire’s – a 26 day entrepreneurial course which promises that students leave with a fully operating business at the end of the program – graduates who will talk about their experiences as brand new entrepreneurs.

It will be a day of sharing and learning, head on down to mingle with likeminded individuals over a casual brunch next Sunday, 18 November from 11:30am to 4:30pm and learn from each other’s experiences!

You can find out more information about Entrepid and Enspire here.

As there will be limited spaces available, please RSVP as soon as possible. To reserve your places, please visit the invitation page.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

We need more HEROES online!

The evolution of technology and innovations such as social media have radically changed the way we communicate.

These changes permeate throughout almost every aspect of our lives. From how we obtain entertainment to how we study/work, from how we receive information to how we send them, from how we make purchases to how we “Shout out” to others what are the best deals in town!

Nevertheless, above all the benefits of an increasingly connected world, I have come to realize a worrisome trend of how social media have inappropriately lent strength and credibility to baseless rumors or allow negative emotional opinions to spread around like wild fire.

One observation was how some online trolls apathetically poured their good dose of skepticism on the various profiles posted by Yahoo! on the social entrepreneurs nominees featured on Singapore 9.  They resorted to accusing many of our passionate social change-makers, hypocrites or money-minded individuals who uses their “Social causes” to simply profit from the public without a genuine cause at heart. Although, many social entrepreneurs do aim to profit, one ought to understand that the entire idea about social entrepreneurship is really to not just “do good” but to do it sustainably. As such, profits are a must have, and that in many cases, rather than struggle to sacrifice profits for social good, we struggle more on trying to stay economically feasible due to our over altruistic hearts! (In Envisage, we often ended up doing a lot of “free service” whenever called to do so)

In addition, I have also witnessed how some Netizens have shot-down positive news articles about how the government plans to improve philanthropy or our education in Singapore, or the general skepticism surrounding the “National Conversations” shared over Facebook. I sincerely hope that these views are not representative of the "Silent majority". (I have discovered that statistics does show that my hopes are luckily not unfounded)

Nevertheless, I do fear that the potential of how social media influences us nowadays, have made it difficult for us to defend our hearts/minds/souls from the negativity shared by some "Loud minorities" that increasingly spreads their baseless and sometimes illogical views around us.

As we have evolved away from the “Information age”, to the “Age of choices”, we are now empowered with the liberty to learn what we want to learn, hear what we want to hear, see what we want to see, and do almost whatever we want to do, by our own "choices". However, this also puts us in a precarious position of thinking that when we choose what we want to believe in, we are “right!” This thought rationally does not stand, as we all know that not every piece of information provided to us are reflective of the “truth” and at times even entirely “false” and baseless!

Therefore, I do sincerely hope that Singaporeans can be more discerning in reviewing the rumors/opinions shared over our social media, and if required, have the courage to “Step Up” and refute comments which may be illogical, racist, non-compassionate or in general non-reflective of what a truly inclusive society should behave like.

As online TROLLS grow in number, We need more online HEROES to fight them! :D

Sharing by Martin Tan, published by We are SG!

An Inspiring Sharing by Martin Tan, published by We are SG!

"So we’re not trying to rectify a problem. We’re trying to show these young people possibilities. We’re trying to tell them that leaders make a difference, and it’s not just about their aspirations, but a shared aspiration. We’re trying to inspire possibilities." - Martin

Love his perspective on how youths can become the leaders of change! Our part to inspire them and become good role-models! :D

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Need For A More Compassionate and Gracious Society (Our Singapore Conversation)

Hi guys, my humble perspective on the need for us to create a more compassionate and gracious society. Appreciate if you can drop in some of your personal comments through the FB link! ^^

By Stanley Chia, OSC member

I am heartened by the sharing of Yeo Yue Ann on how we as a country should come together and “do our part to make Singapore a nation for everyone whose heart is here”.

I also agree with Ann Lee that “We (Singaporeans) need to be a more caring society showing compassion towards the less fortunate, the less able, the handicap and the lower income group.”

Based on the Individual Giving Survey 2010 and past reports from NVPC, Singapore’s volunteerism rate has been increasing every year, reaching 23.3% (2010), which is a significant increase from the previous results of 16.9% (2009).

Although this is something that we can be proud of, we should note that there is still a long way to go. The volunteerism rates in many western countries are commonly above 40%, with active participation by citizenry of all walks of life.

Another worrisome trend to note is also the huge drop in volunteerism by fresh graduates as they transit into their careers. Seeking to understand the reasons behind this problem, I realized that there are two common schools of thought:

1. Making student volunteerism compulsory in our education system has failed to help most youths develop a genuine desire and willingness to contribute back to the community when it is no longer required of them.

2. Due to work stress and intensive work load, we are no longer able to derive time for active civic engagement and/or volunteerism.

This got me thinking. Since many of us do sincerely recognize the need to be a more gracious and compassionate society, what else can we do to ensure that our graciousness extends beyond giving up our seats on public transports, donating a few cents during flag days, or proclaiming the need for the government to do more? We ourselves are not doing enough! I recently reminded a group of youths that social-change is not the sole responsibility of the government, but also that of the community, and of each and every individual! 

True volunteerism arises from the attitude of “Genuine Giving”. Giving without any expectations of rewards, awards or recognition for doing so.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

SIFE's re-branding to Enactus

It has just been officially announced on 30 September that SIFE will now be re-branded to "Enactus".

6 years with SIFE has certainly made no small impact in my live. It is the first club which introduced to me the entire concept of Social Entrepreneurship (Although, it does encompass an even greater scope beyond SE), the first club in which I met and worked with a truly close-knit high performance team, and most importantly the place where I have found my live's calling.

The people, the culture, and the entire organization had taught me so much, and I am thankful for all the opportunities granted to me to grow as a servant leader.

For in SIFE, the very emphasis of engaging and empowering the disadvantaged to create sustainable enterprises or initiatives, to help enable better quality of life and standard of living, was certainly one of the most inspiring mission I have ever encountered. And one which requires those who believes in this mission, to seek to serve all those around him/her. From the beneficiaries to the student members, from the corporate sponsors to all other stakeholders.
Through service, I have attained great appreciation of how fortunate I am as a Singaporean living in such comforts. Through service, I have attained great satisfaction from seeing our beneficiaries or student members grow as value-adding members of society.

Conclusively, I will like to shout out, and thank God and SIFE for this live-changing experience.

Even as it is re-branded to Enactus, which aims to drive the importance of "Entrepreneurial Action in/by Us", I believe that the organization will continue to change even more lives, and touch even more hearts!

A Head for Business, A Heart for the World!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Income inequality in Singapore

Article on Income Inequality

‎"...Income inequality in Singapore has risen significantly in the last decade. 

Whether measured by the Gini coefficient, or by the ratio of incomes between the top and bottom deciles, the evidence points to an incontrovertible fact: Singapore has become more unequal in the last ten years or so..."


Singapore household income statistics for 2011 (Including employer cpf contribution)

No working persons: 9.3% (Retiree households 5.8%)

Below 1k: 3.2%
1k to 1.99k: 6.5%
Subtotal (A): 19% (13.2%; excluding retiree households)

2k to 2.99k: 7.1%

3k to 3.99k: 7.6%
Subtotal (B): 14.7%

A + B: 33.7% (27.9%; excluding retiree households)

Households that earns 12k and above: 22.2% (12.6%; 15k and above)

Additional statistics on Singapore income levels:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thinking of Social Entrepreneurship as a career? Make sure you know what you are doing.

Dear all

This is an insightful piece by Lara Galinsky, senior vice president of Echoing Green.

"In order to harness this generation's desire to create change, we must move away from the antiquated concept of vocation, which emphasizes what's in it for the individual: whether it will sustain their interest or bring them fame or fortune.
Instead, we need to help young people start their professional lives by asking questions. What issues, ideas, people, and projects move them deeply? What problems are theirs to own? How can they combine their heads and hearts to address those problems? What is their unique genius and how can it be of use to the world beyond themselves?
They needn't be founders of new organizations to have an impact on the world. But they should be founders of their careers." - Lara Galinsky

Monday, August 13, 2012

Derek Sivers on "Pushing and Expanding your comfort zone."

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Push, push, push. Expanding your comfort zone.

I’m 40 meters underwater. It’s getting cold and dark. It’s only the third dive in my life, but I’m taking the advanced training course, and the Caribbean teacher was a little reckless, dashing ahead, leaving me alone.
The next day I’m in a government office, answering an interview, raising my right hand, becoming a citizen of Dominica.
I’m in a Muslim Indian family’s house in Staten Island, washing my feet, with the Imam waiting for my conversion ceremony. Next week they will be my family in-law. The Muslim wedding will make her extended family happy. I’ve memorized the syllables I need to say. “Ash hadu alla ilaha illallah. Ash hadu anna muhammadar rasulullah.”
We’re on a rooftop in Rio de Janiero on New Year’s Eve, celebrating with some Brazilians we met the day before. Down below on the beach, a million people are wearing all white.
I’m alone on a bicycle in a forest in Sweden. I left from Stockholm 6 hours ago, headed south, with only 50 Krona, and I’m getting hungry. I don’t know the way back.
We’re in a filthy dorm-room apartment in Guilin, China, studying at the local university. At the local grocery store, we choose from a bin of live frogs.
The India Embassy official hands me a pseudo-passport that says I am now officially a “Person of Indian Origin” - a pseudo-citizen of India.
I’m the back of a truck in Cambodia, soaking wet, hitching a ride back to Phnom Penh after an all day bike ride. The roads were flooded but we rode our bikes through anyway, Mekong River water chest-high.
That week I speak at four conferences in Cambodia, Singapore, Brunei, and Indonesia. By the 4th one, my American accent has started to morph into something kind of Asian.
We’re in a hospital in Singapore, having a baby. It’s a boy, which means he’ll serve 2 years in the Singapore military in 2030. The birth certificate says his race is Eurasian, a word I’ve never heard.
I’m on a diplomatic mission in Mongolia, with the Singapore Business Federation, talking with the Mongolian government’s head of business development, walking with the next mayor of Ulaanbaatar.
I suppress a laugh at the ridiculousless of this situation.
I’m just a musician from California! What the hell am I doing here?
But that feeling lets me know I’m on the right track. This is exactly what I wanted.
Some people push themselves physically, to see how far they can go. I’ve been doing the same thing culturally, trying to expand my California-boy perspective.
I love that when we push push push, we expand our comfort zone. Things that used to feel intimidating now are as comfortable as home.
I remember how scary New York City felt when I moved there in 1990, just 20 years old. Two years later it was “my” city - my comfort zone.
Now previously-exotic Singapore is my long-term comfortable home, while I push myself into exploring foreign places, new businesses, and different perspectives.
After years of stage fright, performing over 1000 shows, I have a strong case of “stage comfort”. Being the lead singer or speaker on stage is now my comfort zone.
A lot of my musician friends feel this when playing on stage with their legendary heroes. You push push push, then one day find yourself on the very stage you used to dream about. And it feels so natural - almost relaxing. It’s your new comfort zone.
The question is - what scares you now? What’s intimidating? What’s the great unknown?
I keep using that question to guide my next move.

Jeffrey Paine's Sharing on the Entrepreneur Environment in Singapore

Must read for all who are interested to become an entrepreneur or are concern about the growth of the country in the aspect of entrepreneurship.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Celebration of Social Entrepreneurs in Singapore!

Hi all!

If you know of any passionate social entrepreneurs in Singapore, please nominate them on Singapore 9!

Thanks Alodie for nominating myself up on it.

I believe that many of those recommended are certainly worthy causes and their works are certainly commendable! Hence, do support any that interest you!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"Everything I Thought I knew about Leadership Is Wrong!"

Sharing by Diana Yusoff, NTU-SIFE Alumni, Founder of Gourmet Guru Academy

Read this article about leadership, very insightful. And I only realised this after leaving NTU SIFE.

Key learning points:
- Being a leader is not about knowing what decisions to make, or where the company should go. It's not about having all the answers.
- Being a leader is about knowing what the organisation stands for (values), picking the right people and coaching them to succeed together, and being accessible to everyone in your organisation (human touch). 

Took out the key highlights:

Everything I Thought I Knew about Leadership Is Wrong

To get rich, do you have to be miserable? To be successful, do you have to punish your customers? Tough questions from a CEO who's smart enough to admit he doesn't have all the answers.
So what is my job as a leader? The essence of leadership today is to make sure that the organization knows itself. There are certain durable principles that underlie an organization. The leader should embody those values. They're fundamental. But they have nothing to do with business strategy, tactics, or market share. They have to do with human relationships and the obligation of the organization to its individual members and its customers. For example, our most controversial value --the one that was narrowly approved -- speaks to our commitment to the community. It was also the one I argued most heatedly for. And today, it's one our entire organization supports fervently.
The second job of the leader is to pick the right people to be part of the organization and to create an environment where those people can succeed. That means encouraging others to help develop the strategy and grow the philosophy of the company. It means more collaboration and teamwork among people at every level of the company. I am now a coach, not an executive. When people ask me for a decision, I pick up a mirror, hold it up for them to look into, and tell them: Look to yourselves and look to the team, don't look to me.
The third job of the leader is to be accessible. I want to be open to people in a broad range of their experiences in life if they need it, and I want to be accessible for two-way communication that's honest, open, and direct. During my years at EDS I communicated the way most CEOs do: I showed up on stage every six months and delivered a pep rally speech. I wrote memos that went to the top dozen people in the company and had meetings with them every two weeks.
Today I travel with my laptop and get e-mail from all over the company. I get thousands of messages per month, some of them trivial, many important. Everyone in Perot Systems knows they can e-mail me and I'll read it -- me, not my secretary. Electronic mail is the single most important tool I have to break through the old organization and the old mind-set. E-mail says that I'm accessible to anyone in our company in real time, anywhere. I am an instant participant in any part of the organization. No more dictating memos that get scrubbed before their formal distribution to the corporate hierarchy. Now, when I hear about a win in a hotly contested competition, within an hour of the victory I'm sending out congratulatory e-mails to our team members around the world. The impact from that kind of direct communication is enormous.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Entrepreneurship Foolish Beginnings

Read this interesting article from Forbes about entrepreneurship.

Really truthful in reflecting that entrepreneurship is neither really about "The great idea" or "Whether I have enough Capital", but really about people who are "Foolish" enough to believe in their dreams and turn them into reality.

Its never really about how great your idea is, how much capital you have or whether it can be done?

It is often more about "How can I make it happen?!" through trial and error, through sweat, blood and your soul invested into making your start-up a success.

I personally feel that it simply starts with "Believe", "Passion", and most importantly "Action!"

Monday, May 28, 2012

Gourmet Guru featured in multiple news and media

Kudos to GG for bringing real tangible benefits to homemakers from low-income families!

To get to know more about how GG empower homemakers to become income earners or to support GG in anyway you can, please visit:

These are some of the media articles which they have been featured on:
Business Times on 18th June 2012
Lian He Zhao Bao on 4th March 2012 (Most read Chinese Newspaper in Singapore)
Straits Times on 3rd March 2012 (Most read English Newspaper in Singapore)
Wine and Dine on January 2012
Expat Living on December 2011
Central Singapore CDC Magazine - Voices on December 2011
NTU Tribune
Berita Harian on 25th June 2011 (Most read Malay Newspaper in Singapore)

Press on!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

FINEX Gym Session 4: The Investment Engine

FINEX Gym Sessions are regular gatherings of individuals extremely passionate about learning how to manage their own finances through sharing by invited experts and the participants themselves. It is by invitation only! Hence, if you are interested, drop me a message, and I will invite you to the next session!

Blog Post of the FINEX Gym Session Session 4: The Investment Engine

In layman terms, Budgeting is about knowing where your money goes, Financial Planning is about Wealth Protection, and Investment would be about Wealth Creation/Growth.

The investment engine helps investors grow their wealth, with the additional resources they might have, after accounting for their daily needs, liabilities and wealth protection expenses.

However, many individuals are often afraid of investing, or even go so far as to equate it to gambling. Hence, the question, what is the difference between gambling and investing?

Well, Bryan our speaker for the day, made a great distinction between the two. He says, “It all comes down to Purpose.”
While in Gambling, we do it for fun; in Investing we do it to grow our wealth.

Therefore, it is critically important that investment decisions, ought to be backed by a sound decision making process.

As such, we should first and foremost be aware that we ought not all to aspire to become experts in investing. But accept this fact, and seek out professionals to help you out in making decisions, if you do not have the interest or the time to monitor your own investments.

That being said, we still ought to have the knowledge and awareness of economic conditions, so to be asking the right questions and help make better decisions of the type/mix of investments we want to have. As even if you engage a financial advisor, the onus of making final decisions should be rested upon yourself, as the success or failures of your investments will eventually affect you the most, and not that of any other parties.

How do you know whether your financial advisor knows what he is doing?
3 basic questions to help you identify if your financial advisor has your interest at heart, and is sufficiently competent in handling your wealth:

1. Where are we in the market today?
·         If your financial advisor is unable to answer this, then he may not be your best choice to work with.
·         Financial advisors must be aware of the economic conditions, so to know the risks and rewards that are presented to each investment vehicle, in order to make sound advises on what the client should do with their money.
2. Given my investment objective, what should I do?
·         Our investment decisions should be backed by our investment objective.
·         Know your risk appetite and time-horizon of how long/short you plan to hold your assets in each investment vehicle.
3. What will perform well under these economic conditions?
·         Certain investment products may perform better in certain economic conditions (Cycle).
·         Be aware of the drivers of different investment vehicles, so to make better judgment on the prospects of your investment decisions.

Different ways to participate in different investment vehicles
  1. Vanilla investments: Through most banks and/or brokerage firms
  2. Funds: Investment Banks
  3. Derivative: Trading of CFDs through banks and/or brokerage firms (Beware of margin call risks)

If we want to be conservative and yet still profit from the stock market, should we simply invest in Blue-Chips?
No. Blue chips are expensive, but stable. However, although dividends may be relatively consistent, their stock price fluctuations have historically proven to be unable to provide great returns.

In finance, diversification means reducing risk by investing in a variety of assets. If the asset values do not move up and down in perfect synchrony, a diversified portfolio will have less risk than the weighted average risk of its constituent assets, and often less risk than the least risky of its constituents.

Diversification helps you to balance your portfolios, and enable you to possess a variety of asset classes that have different risks/rewards potentials.

Following general trends for making investment decisions
Generally works with a long time-horizon.
S&P index trends have historically reflected to be on an upward trend.
However, historical trends are not definite prove of future trends.
For example, the 10-year horizon for Japan’s stock prices has yet to ever reach a new high since 10-years ago.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Singapore Retirement Statistics

According to a survey released last month, Singaporeans want to retire before 60 but many feel they do not have the means to do so.

The Nielsen Company's Global Ageing Report found that 35 per cent of Singaporeans plan to or have already retired before the age of 60 - two years before the official retirement age of 62.

However, only 14 per cent believed they were financially ready for retirement while 47 per cent were uncertain if they had enough money to retire on, the report found.

Another 40 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed that they were financially ready for retirement.

Friday, April 27, 2012

RFLOI: Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (Round 2)

From the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

RFLOI: Reinvent the Toilet Challenge (Round 2)

SOL: 1063751
Open Date: April 23, 2012
Proposals Due: May 10, 2012
Apply here with a one page LOI, by May 10th 2012The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announces the second round of its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge designed to prototype a means of dealing effectively and cost-efficiently with human waste for the 2 billion people on earth who currently lack access to safe and affordable sanitation.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.
We concentrate on areas with the potential for high-impact—sustainable solutions that can reach millions of people. We work closely with our partners to support innovative approaches and expand existing ones so they reach the people who need them most. We also support policy and advocacy efforts to accelerate progress against the world’s most acute poverty.

Global Development

Nearly 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day. For one person in eight, hunger is a constant, potentially deadly companion. The vast majority of the poor also lack access to the most basic financial services, and only a tiny minority have access to the Internet. The foundation's Global Development Program is working with motivated partners to create opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. Our strategy is focused. Because most of the world's poorest people rely directly on agriculture, we support efforts to help small farmers improve crop production and market access. Because loans, insurance, and savings can help people weather setbacks and build assets, we facilitate access to financial services for the poor. In addition, because information can change lives, we support free public access to computers connected to the Internet. The newest Global Development program area — Water, Sanitation & Hygiene—focuses on sanitation that works for the poor.

The Sanitation Challenge

 A large share of the solids and liquids people eat and drink are passed on in urine and feces. Human waste contains potentially valuable and recyclable resources such as water, energy, urea, salts, and minerals. It also consists of large amounts of useful as well as harmful microorganisms, mostly bacteria, as well as pathogens ranging in size from viruses to helminthes. Many diseases are passed on from person to person through the fecal-oral pathway—pathogens in one person’s waste end up ingested by another. For some diseases, this is the primary transmission pathway; for others, it is one of several transmission pathways.  Human waste also contains residues of the many complex, engineered chemicals people use, such as food additives, antibiotics, hormones, and nutritional supplements, some of which remain in the environment and result in unsafe accumulation in waste sinks.

Water,Sanitation & Hygiene Program

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works with a wide range of partners through its Water, Sanitation & Hygiene program to reduce the burden of excreta-related disease and improve the lives of the poor. Our approach aims to expand the use of toilet and sanitation technologies that do not connect to a sewer, as this is by far the most common type used by the poor. We invest in effective approaches that help end open defecation and unsafe sanitation in rural communities, and we help develop the tools and technologies that will allow the urban poor access sustainable non-piped sanitation.

Request for Letters of Inquiry

The Water, Sanitation & Hygiene Program will be disbursing a set of new grants to support its Reinvent the Toilet Challenge.  These grants are intended for exceptionally highly-qualified research groups interested in contributing to major advances in sanitation and hygiene in the developing world.
Successful applicants will participate in the next phase of the Reinvent the Toilet Challenge: designing, prototyping and testing  entirely stand-alone, self-containedpractical sanitation modules which intake bodily wastes and swiftly dispose of them  without any incoming water piping, outgoing sewer piping or electric or gas utility services.  These modules must intake all outputs of the serviced population – ultimately at single-residence scales – with minimal module footprints and assured biosafety. Thus, chemical and mechanical engineering approaches are preferred.
At present, the Foundation is soliciting letters of inquiry and capability declarations from groups, primarily in the academic sector and from for-profit organizations, who are well qualified to undertake R&D and execute pertinent program plans. Full proposals for grant awards are not being solicited at the present, but submission of proposals may be invited in the near future from those whose letters of inquiry and capability declarationsare of extraordinary quality.

How to Apply

single-page typed-or-printed letter of inquiry and capability declaration should be submitted no later thanMay 10th 2012 in order to be assured of consideration.  This should concisely declare the nature of interest, relevant backgrounds and salient qualifications of Principal Investigator(s) and key group members, cite pertinent publications and the date by which a grant-supported effort could commence (after August 31, 2012 and before January 1, 2013), and the basic architecture, scale and key milestones of the contemplated effort to be proposed for grant consideration.  Please note that submission of a letter of inquiry or capability declaration does not imply, directly or indirectly, that any such submission will result in an award of a grant or any other funding.
Non-Confidential Application Process. The Foundation does not guarantee that any information submitted will be maintained as confidential.
Apply for this LOI

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

FINEX Gym Session 3: Risk Management

FINEX Gym Sessions are regular gatherings of individuals hugely passionate about learning how to manage their own finances through sharing by invited experts and the participants themselves. It is by invitation only! Hence, if you are interested, drop me a message, and I will invite you to the next session!

Blog Post of the FINEX Gym Session

Wow! Sounds like it is either going to be a really scary or a really dry topic huh?!

Why Scary?
Risk Management is by definition, the Identification, Assessment and Prioritization of risks. In layman terms, it is about the management of uncertainties, and to put it into financial context, it would be the management of our financial uncertainties.
And that would certainly be a scary thing to do, because many of us simply hate uncertainties, not to mention managing it!

Yet, it is very much a truly important activity which we ought to do or at least be involved in, on a regular basis.

In Financial Risk Management, every individual ought to first ask themselves these few questions (Not exhaustive):
  1. What is my risk appetite? – Relates to your personal comfort with potential losses.
  2. What are my current and potential liabilities?
  3. What are the current and potential liabilities of my family?

These few basic questions would help us realize that it is important to identify the financial risks in our life, so to be adequately prepared for them.
However, it is important to note that financial risk management is often found done not for yourself, but for the people around you; for the people you love. Especially so, if you are an important financial provider in your family, where the absence of your income could make financial burdens derived by the family liabilities and lifestyle unbearable, leading to downsizing or other financial hardships.

To assess a risk, we have to estimate the likelihood and impact of each “risk event”.
For the likelihood of a risk event, “Age” would likely be a major factor among others. This is because the likelihood of an aged man falling ill would normally be higher than a youth, and hence the greater the likelihood of potential shortfall in income to support the liabilities and daily needs of the family.
For the impact of risk events, it may be contributed by many factors, such as the number of dependants, the amount of financial liabilities, or even the lifestyle of the individual/family which determines their daily needs, etc.

Thus, from the looks of it, we will realize that risk assessment varies from individual to individual. And hence, it is truly important for us all to take time to assess our individual risks, or even seek out a reliable financial advisor to help us gain better perspectives of these risks.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, it is critically important to note that we should always be actively involved in assessing our own risks and to be firm in making our own decisions after consulting our financial advisors; simply because we are the best masters of our own fears and uncertainties, and that there are certain confidential information that we might not wish to share with our advisers that may lead to improper estimations.

Some may ask, “Why is it important to prioritize?”
Well simple. It’s because there are just too many things we want in life! And we just can’t afford to have them all! Simply due to scarcity, we have to decide:
  1. What are our wants and what are our needs?
  2. How much to spent, how much to save and how much to invest?
  3. What does wealth means to me? What does success means to me? What will allow me to attain self-actualization?
  4. For each aspiration, what is my time allowance to achieve it? Besides time, how much will it cost? And hence, which is more feasible to strive for?

These are important questions to be answered, so to lead you in making decisions that will determine the life you want to live.

Questions asked and answered in the Gym

  1. Difference between Limited Pay, Investment linked and Term Plans

Cash Value
Premium Holiday
Linked to investment
Limited Pay

Investment Linked

Yes – Get to select investment fund
Generally cheapest

  1. Should we just buy term and invest the rest instead of buying an investment linked product?

Investing ourselves would be a better option for those who are:
i.                     Disciplined to save and invest regularly
ii.                   Knowledgeable and ability to make rational investment decisions as oppose to gambling
iii.                  Have the risk appetite to invest

However, if you do not have the time, ability or risk appetite to invest by yourself, it would be a better option to consider an investment linked plan.

  1.  What are the qualities of a Financial Advisor we should look out for?

i.                     Takes effort to understand your needs and risk appetite.
ii.                   Educates you on your “financial needs” and “liabilities”, without scaring you to buy their products.
iii.                  Knowledge of the products they are selling; such as the portfolio held by the investment linked plans or the real underlying costs behind each product, etc.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The horrors of hyperconnectivity—and how to restore a degree of freedom

Mar 10th 2012 | from the print edition

“THE SERVANT” (1963) is one of those films that it is impossible to forget—a merciless dissection of the relationship between a scheming valet (played by Dirk Bogarde) and his dissolute master (James Fox). The valet exploits his master’s weaknesses until he turns the tables: the story ends with a cringing Fox ministering to a lordly Bogarde. The film was an indictment of the class structure of Harold Macmillan’s Britain. But it is hard to watch it today without thinking of another fraught relationship—the one between businessfolk and their smartphones.

Smart devices are sometimes empowering. They put a world of information at our fingertips. They free people to work from home instead of squeezing onto a train with malodorous strangers. That is a huge boon for parents seeking flexible work hours. Smartphones and tablets can also promote efficiency by allowing people to get things done in spare moments that would otherwise be wasted, such as while queuing for coffee. They can even help slackers create the illusion that they are working around the clock, by programming their e-mail to be sent at 1am.

But for most people the servant has become the master. Not long ago only doctors were on call all the time. Now everybody is. Bosses think nothing of invading their employees’ free time. Work invades the home far more than domestic chores invade the office. Otherwise-sane people check their smartphones obsessively, even during pre-dinner drinks, and send e-mails first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
This is partly because smartphones are addictive: when Martin Lindstrom, a branding guru, tried to identify the ten sounds that affect people most powerfully, he found that a vibrating phone came third, after the Intel chime and a giggling baby. BlackBerrys and iPhones provide relentless stimuli interspersed with rewards. Whenever you check the glowing rectangle, there is a fair chance you will see a message from a client, a herogram from your boss or at least an e-mail from a Nigerian gentleman offering you $1m if you share your bank details with him. Smartphones are the best excuse yet devised for procrastination. How many people can honestly say that they have never pruned their e-mails to put off tackling more demanding tasks?

Hyperconnectivity exaggerates some of the most destabilising trends in the modern workplace: the decline of certainty (as organisations abandon bureaucracy in favour of adhocracy), the rise of global supply chains and the general cult of flexibility. Smartphones make it easier for managers to change their minds at the last moment: for example, to e-mail a minion at 11pm to tell him he must fly to Pittsburgh tomorrow. The dratted devices also make it easier for managers in one time zone to spoil the evenings of managers in another.

Employees find it ever harder to distinguish between “on-time” and “off-time”—and indeed between real work and make-work. Executives are lumbered with two overlapping workdays: a formal one full of meetings and an informal one spent trying to keep up with the torrent of e-mails and messages.

None of this is good for businesspeople’s marriages or mental health. It may be bad for business, too. When bosses change their minds at the last minute, it is hard to plan for the future. And several studies have shown what ought to be common sense: that people think more deeply if they are not constantly distracted.

What can be done to keep smartphones in their place? How can we reap the benefits of connectivity without becoming its slaves? One solution is digital dieting. Just as the abundance of junk food means that people have to be more disciplined about their eating habits, so the abundance of junk information means they have to be more disciplined about their browsing habits. Banning browsing before breakfast can reintroduce a modicum of civilisation. Banning texting at weekends or, say, on Thursdays, can really show the iPhone who is boss.

Together we can outsmart our phones
The problem with this approach is that it works only if you live on a desert island or at the bottom of a lake. In “Sleeping with Your Smartphone”, a forthcoming book, Leslie Perlow of Harvard Business School argues that for most people the only way to break the 24/7 habit is to act collectively rather than individually. She tells the story of how one of the world’s most hard-working organisations, the Boston Consulting Group, learned to manage hyperconnectivity better. The firm introduced rules about when people were expected to be offline, and encouraged them to work together to make this possible. Many macho consultants mocked the exercise at first—surely only wimps switch off their smartphones? But eventually it forced people to work more productively while reducing burnout.

Ms Perlow’s advice should be taken seriously. The problem of hyperconnectivity will only get worse, as smartphones become smarter and young digital natives take over the workforce. People are handing ever more of their lives over to their phones, just as James Fox handed ever more of his life over to Dirk Bogarde. You can now download personal assistants (such as Apple’s Siri) that tell you what is on your schedule, and virtual personal trainers that urge you take more exercise. Ofcom, Britain’s telecommunications regulator, says that a startling 60% of teenagers who use smartphones describe themselves as “highly addicted” to their devices. So do 37% of adults.

The faster smartphones become and the more alluring the apps that are devised for them, the stronger the addiction will grow. Spouses can help by tossing the darned devices out of a window or into a bucket of water. But ultimately it is up to companies to outsmart the smartphones by insisting that everyone turn them off from time to time.