Father Sez

From and to parents - parental advice to our children on personal financial management and life.
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The 2 types of people to look out for at traffic lights

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Traffic lights are there for a reason. Principally because human beings cannot be trusted to do the right thing, our forefathers have thought up of traffic lights to coordinate traffic flows. And for those hard core humans who try to flout the traffic light rules, there are laws and regulations to deal with them.  

We are supposed to stop when the lights are red, go when green and get ready to stop when they are amber.  

Still, when we are at traffic lights, it is useful to remember to look out for the two types of people who may give us serious cause for worry. 

The Anticipators 

These guys floor the gas pedal not when their lights are green, but when the opposite lights turn red. They try to travel a couple of miles in the few split seconds it takes before their own lights turn green.  These guys are particularly potent when they are at the front of the queue. If stuck behind some cars, they become generally harmless. So if you are a pedestrian trying to cross a road at a junction (where there are no pedestrian lights), be especially careful and keep a sharp eye for these anticipators. 

The Stragglers who suddenly turn into F1 Drivers 

These guys can be seen from the way they react when they are still some distance away from the junction and the light has turned amber. A furious flooring of the gas pedal takes place and these guys try to speed their way through.  

Of course the worse is when Anticipators run into Stragglers, and together they can cause royal pile ups and screw up the daily lives of thousands. 

Let us be forewarned.    

Picture Credit: Wordcutter.com

Psst…..any of you know Christopher Nolan? I need to get in touch with him.

Friday, August 8th, 2008

The Dark Knight, a Batman movie directed by Mr. Nolan has broken all box office records, it seems. (Except for one still taken by the Titanic) 

Well, I have a story plot that should make Mr. Nolan drool. Hear some of the chapter headings: 

-         the riches of King Solomon at stake, 

-         a former Deputy Prime Minister is now accused and charged with sodomy, 

-         The present Deputy Prime Minister is alleged to be involved in a sensational murder of a Mongolian model. She was blown up with C4 explosives and had previously worked as a translator in a deal with this DPM’s Ministry of Defence worth more than a billion Ringgit.  

-         the present Prime Minister is often accused of sleeping through many meetings, hence allowing the various Ministers and local District officials to run their respective fiefdoms as, well, their respective fiefdoms, 

-         The alleged victim of the sodomy case was declared a total stranger by the present DPM. Then the DPM admitted that he had met the victim in his (DPM’s) house and earlier at his office, 

-         and this victim had met the DPM “before” he was sodomised, 

-         a doctor who examined the victim and wrote a medical report that he found no evidence of sodomy has released a Statutory Declaration to this effect and has left the country fearing for his life, 

-         A private investigator who once worked for the late Mongolian model issued a SD claiming the present DPM’s involvement with the lady. Two days later, he issued another SD (after meeting with the police) that his first SD was in error. This PI has also left the country, 

-         in the last General Elections of March 08, the ruling party received their worst ever blow from the people. 

Those of you who need a blow by blow account of this intense thriller as it develops can read some of the primary Malaysian political blogs. The ones that I read are Rocky’s Bru, written by a veteran former journalist, and Malaysia Today written by, I think, a really courageous and well informed Malaysian.

I never write about politics in my blog. This blog is dedicated to imparting the life lessons I have learnt to my children and to any others who may be interested. So please do not take this post as a political post.  Rather it is an offer to Mr. Nolan to get in touch with me, so that together we can put up a movie script that promises to have all the ingredients of a best seller. Of course, the late Mr. Ludlum would also have been most welcome (wonder who is his worthy successor).  

And to let my children know that I think we have very poor leaders who seem to think that there is little need for any accountability for the posts they hold. 

My beloved country is being buffeted by very strong winds. The people we have entrusted to hold the rudder steady seem to be distracted. I pray and hope that good sense and morality will prevail and that we will not be put into the depths of countries like Zimbabwe.  

It looks like I am not the only concerned person here. Some Malaysians are so upset by the unfolding events that they have declared our country to be in extreme distress and are flying our national flag upside down. A campaign to promote this sign of protest has been launched 

Harsh economic times and rising number of scams – let’s not lose our hard earned money

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

As the present harsh economic realities sink deeper and deeper into our lives, we are forced to look harder and harder for ways and means to make our Dollar (or Ringgit or Yen or Rupee or whatever) stretch further. Frugal ways of living become the norm. Wants are tossed aside as we struggle to meet our needs. 

This situation also forces us to look out for ways to improve our income. We look far and wide for such opportunities and our minds may become more susceptible to “get rich quick scams.” 

I am not sure if there are any scientifically proven relations between rising scams, fraud and con jobs during harsh economic times, but it sure feels like it. 

The world has already been exposed to the Nigerian scams, or what is commonly known as 419 schemesVariations of these scams are now circulating over the Internet, seeking the gullible amongst us to invest or to pay some sort of fee in the promise of some untold riches.  

We, Malaysians have been exposed to a variety of scams. And some of us are still falling for them. 

Like this lady who lost a total of RM200,000 (US$ 62,500) in the belief that she had won RM90,000. 

And this lady who tried to ward away bad luck and ended up getting a lot more than she bargained for 

And yet another lady who fell for the “I am from your bank and I need your credit card as there is a virus in the chip” line.  

It seems that certain types of people are more susceptible to fall for scams. The victims are usually: 

-         married men, (despite the examples above)

-         have college degrees, (so education does not seem to be a major diferentiator)

-         more optimistic about the future,

-         earn more than USD30,000 and

-         those who rely on themselves for investment decisions. 

I also think there has to be an element of greed involved, in that the victims expect returns that are ballistic.  

There is a lot of skill involved in scamming. Those of us who have seen scam themed movies like “The Sting” can appreciate the amount of planning and precision that was put into the whole exercise.  

These scam artists are now armed with technology and throw their nets far and wide at negligible costs. Even if one or two victims are caught in the net and reeled in, the ROI’s the scam artists gain are truly phenomenal. 

As fears of economic depression gather steam the scam artists are going to have a field day getting their victims.

Over the last six months, I have been approached by: 

- a person who called my mobile number and claimed to be calling from our High Courts on some offence that I was supposed to have committed. Luckily our local papers had been carrying stories about such scams so I was able to get off. (The scam is to frighten the victim that they were being charged by the Anti Narcotics police and that all their bank accounts would be frozen. They would then be “advised” to transfer their money to a “safe” account, which of course would be emptied soon after by persons unknown.  

- a person who emailed me claiming to be working for a reputable London jeweller. She claimed that the jeweller was buying some cleaning fluids which could be obtained from Malaysia at a fraction of the sales price. She wanted me to be her agent so that I could buy the stuff and export it to her. 

- a person who claimed that his client, a philanthropist had died leaving a fortune and his will required that the money be given to another philanthropist. And that my name had been selected! 

I urge each and everyone of us to be even more careful now. When approached by people we don’t know (these days the approached are usually by text messages and email) offering fantastic investment opportunities…..just stay away. 

As bloggers we can also do something about these scams. We, too, can spread the word around. We can tell ourselves, our family members and friends about any scam that we run into and remind them that opportunities that are too good to be true are usually just that.  

Additional useful readings: -

a) Former con victim, Annie McGuire’s web page to help prevent fraud 

b) The FBI’s page on some common fraud schemes. 

My grateful thanks to those of you who have Stumbled my posts

Friday, June 27th, 2008

                 

Image Credit: flickr.com 

Recently I have noticed spikes in traffic coming from Stumble Upon.

As I am still technically and technologically challenged, I have not been able to determine who Stumbled the posts.

I must admit that, as a new and inexperienced blogger, I feel a tremendous rush whenever I see this spike in traffic. Just like the baby…..you can’t get happier than a happy child, that’s for sure.

I just want to say many, many thanks to those of you who Stumbled the posts.

God bless you all!

Tagged!

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Amanda at Me vs. Debt tagged me for a meme.

The rules of this meme, if you are tagged or just want to join in are to:-

1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want
3. Link to the person who tagged you in your post
4. Tag at least 5 more blogs
5. Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play

First I had to make sure I understood the word “memoir”.

I liked this definition by Gore Vidal as stated in Wikipedia:-

 “A memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.”

“I have lived a full life.”

If I have to write a 6 word memoir, then this statement would be it.

I have been dirt poor (absolutely) and I have been rich (relatively). 

I have had some bad times, some very bad times, some good times, some very good times and some really, really great times.

In life, I have made small mistakes and big mistakes. I have corrected myself, only to repeat some of the mistakes and correct myself again.

I have traveled quite a bit and seen parts of the world people would love to be in and parts of the world people will give an arm and a leg to get away from.

I have married a wonderful woman and together we now have 5 wonderful children. We have raised them as well as we possibly could and with more than the children’s fair share of love and tolerance.

So, I have to say…… I have lived a full life.

I am not good at tagging others. So, though it is required of me under the rules of this meme, I have to excuse myself here from steps (4) and (5).

However, I do think that trying to summarize our life as we remember it is a good exercise for all of us to do. So if you want to try out this meme, please jump right in.

This is an open invitation.

A tribute to the teachers of the world

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

I read an interesting article in Yahoo Finance titled “A teacher’s lessons for Business Leaders.”  

Perhaps the title of the article did not do the teacher concerned sufficient justice, as the lessons seem applicable to lots of others, besides business people. I always feel gratified whenever I read articles about successful teachers.  

There was a time when teachers of young children held a very high post in the local community. This was befitting of the role these teachers played in shaping the minds and bodies of our young. These days the moneyed positions have taken over. Our position on the totem pole is dictated more by the earning statistics. The noble teaching profession has even been relegated to a job that one does because of a lack of any other. 

The ancient Hindu scriptures say, “Mother, Father, Teacher, God.” I am sure lots of thought went into the formulating and articulating of this statement, so it should not be taken lightly. 

Coming back to the Yahoo Article, the teacher concerned Mr. Ron Clark took a class of underperforming students in Harlem and lifted them out to a level higher than that of the gifted class. This must have called for lots of sacrifice and service beyond the call of duty. I can only imagine the deep gratitude the parents of the underperforming class children, will have for Mr. Ron Clark. And one can imagine the contribution Mr. Ron has made to American society by guiding these youngsters, rather than just releasing them as “underperformers.” 

I owe a lot to my teachers. They encouraged us, tolerated the usual pranks that school kids all over the world do, guided us and taught us. For this, I shall always carry a debt of gratitude, and try to pay it forward by teaching others what I can about the mistakes I have made in life.  

Sadly these days the teaching profession seems to have gone quite off tangent. Many teachers quit in frustration. You may read this post to appreciate this a little better.  

I hope one day, not too long from now, teaching will regain its rightful place in society. Society needs to place the right value on the role teachers play in shaping the most basic and fundamental building blocks of our world. And give the profession the total support, resources and recognition it needs to get the job done right. 

Please help me to help a friend advise his daughters on PF

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

BC is one my best friends at work. He is a civil engineer cum MBA who qualified after having worked as a general laborer, a brick layer, a plasterer and a site supervisor for a number of years. He is the one all of us look to for technical advice and what BC says is taken as the gospel truth. 

He converted to Christianity when he was in his twenties, I think. Since then he has lived life as a good Christian. He has two daughters, and he has dipped deep into his savings to ensure they got an excellent education.  The elder girl is a lawyer and presently works in one of our country’s leading legal firms. The younger girl is now in her final year of medical studies in one of the best medical schools in the UK. Both the girls are outstanding students and well behaved. The type that every mother would want their sons to bring home.  

The two girls have been very active in Church affairs since young. The elder girl is the Youth leader of her Church, and is very well versed in the Bible.  

BC and I have traveled often together and our work is often intertwined. Not surprisingly, we have discussed often our respective journeys in raising our children and doing what we could to ensure they get a better start at life than either of us did. Lately the talk turned to how to inculcate good pf habits in our children. And what BC told me took me aback. 

The elder girl gives her mother her entire pay check. (I am not sure if she has her own bank account). Her credit card is a supplementary card under BC’s name. (In all fairness, this has been the arrangement since her University days). She uses the card quite responsibly, for example to pay for a meal with her friends, when they go Dutch. The cash received from her friends as their share is given back to BC.  She collects a weekly allowance from BC.  

Though she lives below her means, a lot of her expenses are paid for by BC. She has no budget. In effect, BC is still paying for her upkeep. He does not begrudge this, but he is concerned that his daughter may be a little naïve when it comes to affairs of Dollars and Sense.  

Historically, BC has been her provider all her life. In a way, BC blames himself for not having given his children some grounding in PF when they were much younger.  

Now BC has a feeling that his elder girl seems unable or even unwilling to fit into this secular world. She does not express contentment as a lawyer, but she comes to life in serving the Church. BC feels that his daughter has taken it as a “calling” to serve. To do Theology and to devote her life in the cause of her faith seems to be what she has set her sights on.

BC is sure that she is just waiting for a sign before she embarks on the journey of her life’s calling.  As such, pf seems to be not too high in her list of priorities, and she is taking the view of “The Lord will provide”.  

Naturally, as a father, BC has no objections. He would be much happier if his daughter took it upon her to have a firmer grasp of pf before she embarks on this journey. 

I suggested that he should speak to his Pastor and maybe get the  Pastor to speak at a sermon on the need for us to manage ourselves as well as we can, and then seek the Lord’s blessings and provision. 

(BC had told me that his elder girl wanted to do Theology rather than Law. It was her Pastor who had suggested she should do Law first, and work. This would allow her to understand better the problems faced by working people. And if she chose to do Theology later, her experience would help her address these problems much better. Sound advice, I thought. ) 

For some reason, BC believes that approaching the Pastor may not be the best solution now. I remembered Lynnae’s post on “Discerning God’s Will”. I believe there are some similarities in the situation that my friend BC finds himself in.

I am sure that BC’s girls would sort themselves out somehow should push ever come to shove. However isn’t the main point of sound PFM to prepare ourselves ahead of time? 

I ask for your help now. I would really like to be able to suggest some ways he could talk to his wife and girls. Ways that weave verses from the Bible with the need for sound PF management. Verses that support the view that we should endeavor and help ourselves as much as we can and then seek the Lord’s blessings. 

Please help me to help my friend. 

PS:     In my earlier draft, I mentioned some names of bloggers whom I thought would be the best people to advise my friend. I have now taken off their names, based on a suggestion by one of the bloggers I contacted.  The draft has also been amended a little, after discussions with BC.  

My personal motivation and guide on “charity”

Monday, January 28th, 2008

All of us have our own reasons to contribute to charity.

How much should we give, how we should give and to whom we should give are matters which are quite personal to each and everyone of us.

In a world where spending less and less is become a mantra, charity is quite a misfit. What corresponding value do we see or get when we give to charity? How should we allocate scarce funds for charity?  When even paying down a punishing debt requires self discipline, what kind of motivation and self discipline does giving to charity need? 

I think my earliest introduction to charity was watching my eldest brother make donations to roadside beggars. My original motivations were, I suppose, also from the concept of “being good.” Being good means we should help people and one way is to make donations.  

As I grew older, my motivations changed. It changed from the vague concept of “just being good” to specific guidance from our Holy Book.

Though I am no religious expert, some verses from our Holy Book have really struck some chords in me.  My favorite guiding verses on charity are:- 

Verse 274 of Surah 2 

Those who (in charity),

Spend of their goods

By night and by day,

In secret and in public,

Have their reward

With their Lord:

On them shall be no fear,

Nor shall they grieve      

Verse 18 of Surah 57 

For those who give in charity,

men and women,

And loan to God,

a beautiful loan,

It shall be increased manifold,

(to their credit)

And they shall have (besides),

A generous reward.  

Verse 9 of Surah 76 

Saying, we feed you

For the sake of God alone

No reward do we desire

From you nor thanks. 

These 3 verses (I am sure there are many other verses extolling charity) are my favorites. They are my guiding lights and give me my strong motivation to give and to expect nothing in return from the recipient(s), not even a word of thanks.  

I am sure that all the great religions of the world, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, etc., have equally compelling messages on charity. 

For people with strong religious beliefs, the motivation for contributing to charity may probably come from religion.  

What about those without strong religious beliefs? Where does their motivation and discipline come from?

Tagged for the first time

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Kate of Experiments in Living, tagged me as a blogger of kindness. (Is this is a great way to be known, or what? Thanks, Kate.)

She has a goal to set up a home business for financial freedom and is working on saving the planet, cooking, yoga and knitting. Perhaps she’ll come up with a home business built around her interests.

This meme is a continuation of that started by Laura in her 25 Days to Make a Difference.  

Here goes.

1. In your opinion, what does it mean to make a difference?

This means “changing anyone’s feelings or thoughts at any one time.” A simple word of encouragement, a smile, a little help when they need it, a little help when they least expect it. All these are actions that would make a difference.

2. What is an example of a unique way to make a difference?

The major ones would be those life changing events that can be likened to “Teaching a man to fish and feeding him for the rest of his life.”

I particularly like cases of providing employment opportunities to the underprivileged. This uplifts their self esteem, and gives them a confidence that has to be seen and felt to be appreciated. I had opportunities to do this, whilst working in Ghana and in India.  

3. Who has made a difference in YOUR life this week?

This week, I started a ‘gratitude journal”, where I write daily 3 things to be grateful for. This is an idea I gleaned from a post by Lazy Man. Sorry, I could not track back the post.  So the vote for this week will be for Lazy Man.

4. If I didn’t have a blog, would you still be making a difference?

Yes, I would. The blog helps in one aspect of making a difference. Sharing one’s experiences with others is usually good. Some of these may come at just the right time for someone. The best way to learn would be from the mistakes made by others, don’t you think?

The other ways of making a difference like offering a “no strings attached smile”, a kind word, etc. are something I hope to practice for the rest of my life.

5. What is your favourite thing about the internet?

My favourite thing about the Internet is the ease of seeking information and the tremendous resources we can find on “good”, like Laura’s post on BookCrossing.com. 

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