Father Sez

From and to parents - parental advice to our children on personal financial management and life.
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Scammers – beware the curse of the cheated old lady!

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Scammers have been around for ages, and the sophistication and variety of their scams grow by the day.  

Not too long ago, a Malaysian paper carried a story about a lady lecturer who lost money in one of what has now been termed the “overseas parcel scams”. I must admit, however, that when I read about this victim, the overriding thought was how could she have fallen for this. Not too much pity, I must honestly admit. 

Lately I was told about yet another type of scam. And this is 100% home grown.  

In the area where our goat farm is located, the Malaysian Railways is undertaking an expansion. Yes, we are finally moving to a double track system. The MR has been acquiring land in the area, paying compensation to the landowners and getting them to move out. 

Now this is a rural area, where most of the inhabitants are old and barely literate. Mostly living alone or with their aged spouses. Many have children who have now moved out of the village and are working in the cities and towns.  

One such old lady recently got her compensation. She had planned to buy a small house as her “home of, God knows, how many generations” was about to be torn down, and with the balance, give some to her kids and use the rest for her living expenses. 

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One of the demolished houses in Kampung Hilir. No, this was not the old lady’s house.  

On a visit to a hospital to visit her sick grandchild, she was met by a smooth talking local guy who convinced her that the MR had underpaid her compensation. And this guy and his friend (who was supposed to be a senior official in MR) were going around quietly ensuring that the kampung folks got their rightful compensation.  

She met up with this “senior official” who in turn convinced her to withdraw RM70,000 from her savings account and handed it over to him. He assured her that he would be depositing RM100,000 into her account within a week.  Only God knows why she listened to this guy, but she claims that he told her about how he had performed the Haj 4 times and he would never ever stoop to cheating a fellow Muslim! What a slimeball! 

Now the guy is gone and so has the money! 

The old lady can only cry her eyes out now. She does not have enough to buy her house, much less living expenses.  The other kampung folks have helped her to make a police report and obtained copies of the grainy CCTV recordings at the Bank branch where she withdrew the money. But the chances of recovery are very slim. 

Now all the old lady can do is to cry, and pray to God to punish those guys who cheated her. (It is clear that some insiders are involved, as those guys knew exactly how much she had received). Cases like this make me so sad. This case seems so ruthless. These conmen have just made an old lady homeless. 

But they should fear the prayers of the old lady, for surely her prayers will be heard and answered!

I must really guard my multiplier effect. After all, it all starts at a micro level first.

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Recently a friend sent me a link to an International Herald Tribune article that talked about Dubai spiralling downwards. Not too long ago, Dubai was more in the news for the highest and the most posh buildings. And it was unthinkable that the party would ever end.  

Now the IHT reports that cars are being abandoned at the airports as the owners flee the country leaving a trail of debts. Property prices dropping 30% in 2 – 3 months. Well, the party seems to be coming to an end.  

I read this IHT story not long after reading Brip Blap’s “Trickle Down”. BB wrote about how as the heavy hitters got laid off or had to tighten their belts, they would in turn let go others lower down the food chain like nannies and maids. Small business gets hurt and so on. The Trickle Down effect. 

Almost 90% of Dubai’s population are foreigners. Indians, Malaysians, Europeans and God knows who else. I expect that many of the Indians and Malaysians working in Dubai could be considered relatively “upper middle class”. Getting paid in Dirhams and in amounts far higher than those working at comparative jobs back home. They and their families might or might not have adjusted to this upper middle class life.  

I think most Asians working in Dubai would gave lived a fairly frugal life, and not extravagant lives. But some might have been unable to save because of having to support a large extended family back home. These people will be badly affected by this “trickle down” effect if they lost their jobs. On the other hand some of these families might have stashed away significant amounts of this income in the form of savings. Some might have invested in property or businesses back home. When they are sent back, there might likely be a “trickle up” effect as they start small businesses back home. 

The Fathersez family also has this responsibility. We have 3 people earning their livelihood from our goat farm. Two are Indonesians whilst the third is Malaysian, my partner. I am sure the lives of my two Indonesian workers’ families have improved many fold since they started working with us.  

I must try my level best and guard the business of our farm.  

One for reasons of getting a return on our investment.  

And two, more humanly and more importantly, to prevent a “trickle down” effect being caused by me.

Let’s read the Quran!

Friday, February 6th, 2009

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Last month a quartet of Malaysian bloggers launched a “Let us Read the Quran campaign”.  

The idea was for more people to know what the Quran says and what the Quran does not say and to match it what is really said in our daily lives.  This makes a lot of sense for us Malaysians. Many of our fellow citizens are non Muslims, and I sincerely believe that a large majority of them might express great shock if they knew what the Al Quran, the authoritative manual for a Muslim’s life really says.  

As part of my contribution to this campaign, I would like to talk about Verse 135 of Surah An Nisaa.  This verse talks about the burden that is placed on those in whose hands the dispensing of justice rests.   

O ye who believe!

Stand out firmly

For justice, as witnesses

To Allah, even as against

Yourselves, or your parents,

Or your kin, and whether

It be (against) rich or poor

For Allah can best protect both.

Follow not the lusts

(Of your hearts), lest ye

Swerve, and if ye

Distort (justice) or decline

To do justice, verily

Allah is well acquainted

With all that ye do.   

              Surah An Nisaa Ayat 135 

Man! This says it all.  

When we have to make a decision on justice, even if it involves our own parents, the option available is only one. To decide justly, to judge based on what is right and what is wrong.  

I am no expert on the Quran, but I believe there are no exceptions, as the Quran does not contradict itself at all.  

This is the code that has to be followed in Islam, and this is what I have tried my level best to follow during the years I held positions of power and authority.   

When I read some of the decisions made by those in power in Malaysia, I do get the feeling that this code has been disregarded. As a Muslim, I believe that we will be held accountable for every good and bad that we have done during the days we spend on earth, living our daily lives. One day, I shall most certainly face my Maker and shall be judged, and so shall everyone else. And His judgement will be most fair! 

I seek to remind myself and those of us in positions of authority and those of us who make judgements on others, those who decide on award of licenses, contracts, scholarships etc., to reflect on this verse as they make their decisions.  

It has been put in the Quran for a reason.

Kong Hee Fat Choy!!!! Happy Chinese New Year!!!

Monday, January 26th, 2009

It’s the year of the Ox again, one of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac. It last made its presence from February 1997 till January 1998. It was a tough year for us Asians, with the Asian Currency crisis blowing through Asia like a tsunami.   

There are already tons of predictions for 2009. From the Feng Shui angle, from the vastu angle, alignment of stars angle, from your birth date angles etc. Quite a number of them are bad and foreboding.  Still the world has gone though and survived the 30’s Depression, the two World Wars, countless other periods of devastating plagues, disasters natural and man-made. We should see through the present period of gloom and doom, too. 

To all our fellow Chinese celebrating their New Year, the Fathersez family wishes you all a blessed, happy, healthy and prosperous Year. May all your dreams come true, if they are good for you. And may you be protected and sheltered from all that is not good for you.  

Kong Hee Fatt Choy!!!

Photo Credit: BBC News

Can bloggers do more for world peace than politicians have ever done?

Monday, January 19th, 2009

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I ask this question because most politicians get elected on the premise that they represent certain groups. By definition this might result in having to oppose the requirements of other groups, even if it is the right thing to do.  

And there is no country in this world which is made up of one group. Hence politics is not going to resolve the so important issue of world peace and understanding.  

So what can be the best mechanism to promote peace and tolerance in this world? I suppose though there cannot be any single answer, a better understanding of each other might do a lot of help.  A major factor creating these schisms is religion. So why not every world citizen who wants peace and better understanding try to understand his fellow human being better by trying to understand their religious beliefs.  

Malaysia is a multi cultural and multi religious country. Despite growing up with friends from other religions, many of us do not have a real clue about the religious beliefs of their neighbours, fellow colleagues and friends. What if followers of every religion took it upon themselves to, at least, try to gather an understanding of other religions? Would this act help in promoting better understanding? I don’t really know, but my feeling is that it would. 

I believe that the blogging community is set to take its rightful place (if not already) as the strongest influencer of people’s opinions. Thus can bloggers take it upon themselves to promote a movement on this?  After all bloggers have done this before. People like Leo have promoted the “Pay it forward” movement. Tim Ferriss is promoting his “4 hour Workweek” to his considerable following. Lynnae is forging ahead with her mission to impart the habit of frugality to the rest of the world.  

I am all for this movement started by some Malaysian bloggers, here and also here on “Reading the Quran”. Yes, it may seem biased that I am a Muslim. 

Still I am an avid follower and admirer of Gather Little by Little, Free Money Finance, and lots of other blogs that are run by fine Christians. While their principal messages are on personal financial management, they make no bones about their spiritual leanings and how this helps them in strengthening their resolve in meeting their life goals. 

So what say you? I have joined the “Read the Quran” movement. Can one of the other blogs out there start a “Read the Bible”, “Read the Guru Granth Sahib” or “Read the Tao te Ching” movement? 

I, for one, shall certainly join these movements And I dare say that if these movements gather traction, we would have done more towards promoting world peace and understanding than any politician has ever done.  

When facing hardship, smile, breathe, go slow and reflect on this advice

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

My daughters who have just entered the working world, seem a little too stressed up over matters I would consider relatively trivial. But then I have many more years under my belt and I am speaking with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. 

I have had times in my life when I thought the world as I knew it was coming to an end. Yet we have survived and by the Grace of the All Mighty, thrived.  

2008 has been tough, and 2009 looks even tougher. Hard times are ahead. At times like these, it is good to have a pillar of support to cling on to. I have had mine for many years. And I want to impart this practice that I follow to my daughters on this 29th of December 2008 which also coincides with the first day of the Muslim calendar, Awal Muharram.  

Also today I read an excellent article by Zen Habits on his secret weapon that helped him in running and completing the Hawaii marathon and achieve all the goals he had set for himself. I think Leo has some splendid advice and thus I want to add his to what I have been practicing all these while.  

When I have to deal with hard times, difficulties or tough decisions my source of guidance, support and inspiration is the Quran. And this is what our Holy Book has to say about difficulties. Not once but thrice in 3 different verses. 

“On no soul doth Allah place a burden greater than it can bear.”                                

Surah Al Baqarah, Verse 286 

“No burden do We place on any soul, but that which it can bear.”                    

Surah Al Araf, Verse 42 

“On no soul do we place a burden greater than it can bear.”                                

Surah Al Muminum, Verse 62 

It simply says that hardships are shelled out in such a manner that the recipient can certainly bear and overcome them.  And Leo’s secret is in the words of a wise Vietnamese Buddhist monk, “Smile, breathe and go slowly”. 

I ask my children to reflect on these words of God. The All Mighty has Himself said that we can bear and overcome any difficulty that is thrust upon us, so what is the problem? And the Buddhist monk also sets an excellent perspective.  

So, my girls, remember …Smile, breathe, go slowly and go forth and face the world with the conviction that whatever the world throws at you, it can only be something that you can handle. Be assured that whatever the outcome, it would be one better than the one that you presently have. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

I found this lovely picture in  Johnny Ong’s blog. He is an Art Director from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and has quite an interesting blog.

2008 has sorely tested many of us. At least it is coming to an end now.  Let’s all look forward to a much better 2009.

My family and I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

May we all have a beautiful holiday season and a new year of good health, peace, happiness and an abundance of all that is good for us!

Happy Holidays! 

A great resource for part time jobs

Monday, November 24th, 2008

A part time job can be a real God send. With prices of daily necessities rising and income levels dropping, a part time or a second job is what that saves the day. Then there are the more industrious amongst the students who use their spare time to do some part time work to line their pockets and to reduce the financial burden on their parents.  

Finding a part time job wasn’t all that easy. You had to know who was hiring. Some businesses advertised in the local classified and others just placed some banners around their shops or offices.  

The Internet has changed this.  Now we can search for part time opportunities by browsing the web, where there are a number of part time jobs / opportunities advertised.  

And one such portal is www.parttime.com.my.  You can log on and browse a number of advertisements. Many are for sales promoters, others are cashiers and sales assistants for the bigger supermarkets, and yet others are for trainers and tutors. And as can be expected some are for direct selling opportunities.   

The moderator / owner? seems to accept that some bums might use this portal to advertise non existent jobs either for scams or for some other dubious purposes. He (she?) has sought his readers and users to advise should such cases be detected.  

For a retired person, student, housewife or househusband with time on his or her hands, www.PartTime.com.my is a great place to start looking for something to do for additional income. 

My eldest daughter who is waiting to do her Masters would find this site very useful.

I think the owner has done a great job in creating this portal to link those looking for part time jobs and others looking for part timers.  I don’t know how his business model works but he should be earning more than his fair share of blessings from many.

Unexpected words of inspiration – they always help

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

I am one of those who love receiving emails which contain words of inspiration. In fact I even save them and now I have a considerable collection. These unexpected words of inspiration never fail to lift up my spirits. 

I don’t believe in chain mails though, you know, the ones that require the reader to forward the mail to another 5 or 10 or 20 people. Whatever dire consequences the mail may me with for not forwarding, I still just hit the delete key.   

So it should be no surprise that I love Brian Kim’s MIT of the day, a daily email which is short, to the point and has a great inspirational message. I have forgotten how I stumbled upon this blog, but I love it.  

Some of my friends are also advocates of forwarding emails that contain such inspirational messages. Some may be in the form of a power point slide, others are just words. I received one last week from a dear friend which I particularly enjoyed. As I think it may be of use to my readers, it is reproduced below. It was headed “Butterfly”. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Enjoy! 

Quote: 

A man was walking in the park one day when he came upon a cocoon with a small opening. He sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It looked like it had gotten as far as it could, so the man decided to help the butterfly. He used his pocketknife and snipped the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily, but something was strange. The butterfly had a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected at any moment the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened. In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and deformed wings.

It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to emerge was natural. It was nature’s way of forcing fluid from its body into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our lives. If we were allowed to go through life without any obstacles, we would be crippled. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.

History has shown us that the most celebrated winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.

My good friend, Lou Holtz, football coach of the University of South Carolina, once told me, “Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.” Beethoven composed his greatest works after becoming deaf. George Washington was snowed in through a treacherous winter at Valley Forge . Abraham Lincoln was raised in poverty. Albert Einstein was called a slow learner, retarded and uneducable.

If Christopher Columbus had turned back, no one could have blamed him, considering the constant adversity he endured. As an elementary student, actor James Earl Jones (a.k.a. Darth Vader) stuttered so badly he communicated with friends and teachers using written notes.

Itzhak Perlman, the incomparable concert violinist, was born to parents who survived a Nazi concentration camp and has been paralyzed from the waist down since the age of four.Chester Carlson, a young inventor, took his idea to 20 big corporations in the 1940s.

After seven years of rejections, he was able to persuade Haloid, a small company in Rochester , N.Y. , to purchase the rights to his electrostatic paper- copying process. Haloid has since become Xerox Corporation. Thomas Edison tried over 2,000 experiments before he was able to get his light bulb to work. Upon being asked how he felt about failing so many times, he replied, “I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2,000-step process.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, elected President of the United States for four terms, had been stricken with polio at the age of 39.

Persistence paid off for General Douglas MacArthur. After applying for admission to West Point twice, he applied a third time and was accepted. The rest is history.

In 1927 the head instructor of the John Murray Anderson Drama School , instructed student Lucille Ball, to “Try any other profession. Any other.”

Buddy Holly was fired from the Decca record label in 1956 by Paul Cohen, Nashville “Artists and Repertoire Man. ” Cohen called Holly “the biggest no-talent I ever worked with.”

Academy Award-winning writer, producer and director Woody Allen failed motion picture production at New York University (NYU) and City College of New York. He also flunked English at NYU.

Helen Keller, the famous blind author and speaker, said: “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved. Silver is purified in fire and so are we. It is in the most trying times that our real character is shaped and revealed.”  

Unquote

Can just seeing poverty give us a frugal outlook to life?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Well that is what I thought. 

I was born into a relatively poor family in India. Though we were not really impoverished. (I don’t remember ever starving). My father brought me to Malaysia in search of a better life. Whilst growing up, I made do without many of the trappings my classmates had.  I am grateful for this as I strongly believe that this was what gave me my present frugal outlook to life. It was not something read from personal finance books, rather the whole aspect of just having grown up in an environment that just did not have the trappings. 

Our children are a different story. Like parents the world over, we wanted to give a better life to our kids. As they started growing up with seemingly no feelings for or inclination to frugality, my wife and I got a little worried.

And I thought I had the perfect solution. 

We were due to go to India to visit my mother and other relatives and I thought that this would afford me an opportunity to show my children the need for frugality. A shock treatment, so to speak. whilst in Chennai (our village is about 400 kms away), we went for a tour, and I asked the driver to drive us around the banks of the river Koovum, where whole communities of the impoverished live. I thought that if my children saw these sights and the many, many children as street beggars(I don’t think we have anything like this in Malaysia, not on this scale anyway), there might be some impact. 

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Hovels

My children, bless them, felt tremendous pity for these people. I don’t think (at least for now) that any of them might take on a Mother Theresa role in their future, but, I think, they’ll never ever forget the sights they saw. 

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A street beggar

Whilst this has not had a dramatic effect in their outlook to life, I think the thoughts will linger and when the time comes (as I am sure it will), the effects will kick in. I am hoping (actually expecting) that the effects will be for them to help others, be charitable and to do their part in alleviating poverty, Insya’Allah. 

But an immediate jump to a frugal lifestyle has not happened……yet.  

Pictures: Google

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