Category Archives: Health

Articles on health

How I buy medical insurance

I am buying medical insurance for my parent and having a lot of discussion with my sister about which policy should we buy and which company should we buy the policy from.

We met a few financial adviser after done our own research and filter down to medical insurance from two companies. Both policies are medical insurance with deductible option, and the premium of these policies is lower than  medical insurance that cover medical charges from the first dollar.

One of the reason we chosen the plan is because we have saved up certain amount of money and I think we can bear minimum level of risk. Going forward my plan will be increase the amount of deductible in the policy and can better manage the policy premium.

For younger people, I think can choose the combination of term life insurance, personal accident insurance and medical insurance to have adequate coverage. Quickly build a pool of saving is much more important because it give you more flexibility and freedom in handling many personal life issue.

 

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3 Things I Learnt When I Was Researching Medical Insurance

Over the past week, I was busy researching medical insurance for my family. It was a tedious project because there are so many companies offering so many different policies. Contacting the insurance company and study the information provided pose a big challenge to me since I am not in the financial industry. There is something I learnt during the process that I like to share with you all here.

1. Deductible

Deductible is a fixed amount of money you must pay out of your own pocket before you can claim from the medical insurance. That means you take up some risks onto yourself and not pass it all to the insurance company. The incentive for you to do this is lower premium for the medical insurance (sometimes much lower).

2. Co-insurance

Similar to deductible, co-insurance is a percentage of medical bill you need to bear when claiming from insurance company, it could be 10%, 20% depend on the plan you choose. As expected, higher percentage of co-insurance offer lower premium for the insurance policy

3. Cashless VS non cashless

In Malaysia, there are 2 type of medical claim, namely cashless and non-cashless. In the cashless option, you are given a medical card and you probably have no need to pay cash out of pocket if any medical condition/emergency come up. In the non-cashless option, you will have to fork out the money first to pay the bill and then claim them from the insurance company.

Cashless option is not only an option of convenience because it actually helps you to manage your personal finance in a more flexible manner because you do not have to keep a certain amount of money (after co-insurance and deductible) to handle medical condition or emergency. This convenience and flexibility also costs you money, with cashless option came higher premium.

Summary

Although you can enjoy lower premium by taking up the risks and lock up certain amount of money (to handle deductible, co-insurance and non cashless option), but you need to consider how much risk can you take. Things you need to consider here:

– Your current saving

– Your parent health condition

– The long-term cost of the insurance policy

– The long term expected return if you invest your saved premium

Everyone situation is different, and you have to decide for yourself which factor affect you more.

For example, if your parent is healthy and you have a pile of saving, maybe you can consider a higher deductible, co-insurance percentage or even non-cashless option. Another person who just starting to build his saving might need to consider other option instead of the suggestion above.

All being said, the first thing to do before taking up insurance policy would be does some research. There are so many insurance companies around and they all offered different policy. A simple Google search return me with more than 10 companies offering medical insurance and they are all different in price and benefits. I think it will never be a perfect policy but a most suitable policy for your current situation. There is nothing wrong to compare price and benefits offered by various insurance companies in the market now because this is your money and health we are talking about here.

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My Eyesight Improvement Program (Part 1)

I have been shortsighted since the age of 12 and I must I am a bit sick of it and like to have perfect eyesight again. Friends and colleague did recommend the Lasik procedure to me after they went through the procedure. But somehow I am not convinced because I think it make no sense to hurt my eyes again when they are already weaker than eye of people with perfect eyesight.

Recently I came across an eyesight improvement program without using glass and surgery, it is supposed to help improve eyesight with some simple action over long time. A friend of mine introduced it. I am going to start the program tomorrow and record down my progress over the few weeks.

If the program helps in improve my eyesight, I will put up my record here and provide the instructions to help you readers whose eyes are tired from reading all my post in this blog. ^^

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How I free up more time for myself

Time, the only element in our live that has an uncertain and finite supply. Nobody know how many time we have on earth and we all glad to have more free time for ourselves to relax, gather with our loved one or complete some personal project.

I finished the book “4 hours work week” few weeks ago and I am hooked with the idea of “information diet” explained in the book. The idea of information diet is that we as modern human has access to overwhelming source of information, and we are capable to search millions of related information source with Google. With information overload came stress and inaction, we need to spend time and energy to filter this huge source of information and we are not taking action because we thought there will be always another better source of information floating around the web. Then we continue to surf the web for few more hours for more information before we realized the first few are enough for us. By the time we had enough of information, we are exhausted and lazy to take any action.

How to reduce your information diet? It works about the same way how we should plan our diet if we want to eat healthy.

1. Don’t starve yourself

Like how a healthy diet should be, when you start to taking care of your information diet, you don’t starve yourself from every single source of information. I don’t know about you, but that didn’t work for me. When I start to take note of what information I consume daily, I realized I spent quite a bit of time on newspaper,email and Facebook post every day. And I shut myself from all those source from second day onward. By third day I already craving for all those information I used to consume every few minute. So, reduce gradually, don’t go for the extreme the first day.

2. Avoid the junk information

Junk information not only refer to those giving you wrong fact but also those provide you no value to improve your life. Everyone has different definition what is junk information means to them. For me, I am not interested in some celebrity wear a new clothes for the new season or some star starting a new relationship with another star. I also not very interested in those “offer” available either in real world or online(think groupon).

Information that means junk to me might not apply to other people. For someone working in showbiz/magazine business, celebrity gossip could mean very different thing to them. That is their job to report every single little thing of celebrity to boost readership.

So, find out what information is junk to your life and avoid them like crazy.

 

3. Have a schedule

Batch processing is a good way to use your time more efficiently. I deleted my gmail and Facebook account from my smart phone to preserve my attention currency. Without Gmail or Facebook notification every few minutes, I can focus more on the things on hand and complete it in shorter time.

Nowadays I process my email at the end of the day. I normally delete those useless spam or promotional ads, archive those email that does not need my attention immediately( and unlikely need my attention too in the future). I normally keep less than 10 email in my inbox and sometime less than 5 email.

 

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A Running Experiment

In preparation to the free travel coming up in the June 2013, I am thinking can I reduce my transportation expense to the extreme, zero. So, my zero transportation cost plan run like this:

1. Wake up as usual time around 6 to 6.30am
2. Instead of doing my run in the morning, I switch it to early MRT ride. Cost incur: $0
3. Move my running schedule to evening time when I am off from work.
4. Run from office to home in the evening. Cost incur: $0

So, I opened up my internet browser and type in google maps to check the distance from my home to my office. The number came up to 14.2km, not bad but it is a bit out of my usual running distance. My usual running distance is about 3 to 5km and it took me about 25 to 40 minutes to complete that distance. I started to have doubt on this distance….

I started my experiment yesterday when I was going back home from the office. With just wallet, phone and water in my bag, I started my running journey home. The result was not great, I am almost punctured after 30 odd minutes of running. And it is close to impossible to run at Little India area because there is simply too many people there. After Little India, came a smooth journey from Boon Keng to Potong Pasir.

The up and down slope from Potong Pasir all the way till Serangoon slowed me down a lot. I was not out of breadth, my leg were too tired to carry on the journey. Every MRT station suddenly look so tempting and attractive every time I ran pass them. I keep thinking to myself, “what a stupid idea to conduct this kind of experiment, I should just take out my Ez link and take the bus or ride the MRT.” Luckily there is another voice keep reminding me that I should finish this goal since there is no pain or discomfort encountered.

So, step by step I ran through that 14.2km from office to my home, it took me 1 hour and 56 minutes to complete the journey. Surprisingly, I was not very thirsty when I completed the journey, I guessed that 500ml water I brought along with me for the 14.2km was enough to hydrate my body. I drank 2 more glass of plain water last night to make sure the body have enough water.

Another thing I noticed when I woke up this morning is my body and leg was pretty much recovered. There is still a bit tiredness and laziness to get up (who isn’t?) but it was very much manageable. I clocked another 4.27km this evening so I think I am pretty much on my way to complete my 150km ran by the end of the year goal (actually I think I can increase this goal).

While it was manageable for me, I don’t recommend everyone go try this experiment, I for one will reduce the size of the experiment. My future plan for this will be:

1. Wake up as usual time around 6 to 6.30am
2. Instead of doing my run in the morning, I switch it to early MRT ride. Cost incur: $0
3. Move my running schedule to evening time when I am off from work.
4. Run about 5km in the evening, either align earlier or run 5km first. Cost incur: $some

This plan will not reduce the transportation cost to $0, it will cut at least 50% and more so when my fitness level increase. My main concern still with the time spent on this activity, with normal transportation, I spent about 1 hour to get home by bus/MRT. I was thinking if I can get home by leg in 1 hour and 30 minutes, it might worthwhile to do this because I usually spend about half an hour exercise anyway. Hopefully this plan will eventually build up my stamina and strength to improve my timing.

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How To Simplify Your Life

I was walking home from bus stop just now, and because of the time, there are not many people walking on the street. So I start brainstorming what can I put onto my blog tonight. But I didn’t manage to come up with any brilliant idea during the journey home. So, I just keep walking while enjoy the mild breeze along the street. Then an idea struck me, why don’t I just write about simplifying our life. I realized one of the things we need to do regularly on our journey to early retirement is simplify our life. Our time and energy are limited, it will be unsustainable for us to pursue too many thing in life and the best thing in life normally just a few and won’t cost you much money to get them. So how do we organize our life?

 

Identify Core Activities

First of all, we need to identify that few core activities that contribute to most of our happiness. This should be easy because we tend to spend most of our time doing this few activities. For me it will be reading, badminton, basketball, and meet up with friend/colleague for meal.

Try not to list your TV watching habit as one of the activity, because this activity really does not bring much benefit to you in my view. When you sit down in front of the TV, your body shut down, your mind slow down, and you start to engage yourself into the TV drama that showing some fake life of those actor/actress. In between the drama you get to “enjoy” those free commercial by various company that try to sell you things you don’t need. With all the 0% installment plan shown on the TV and those free credit that lying around your house, you will stack up your debt bill till 2 buildings high in no time.

Also, based on a research done on the Australia population, compare to a person who don’t watch TV, a person who watch 6 hours of TV a day can expect to have 5 years cut off from their life. It literally meant you will live 5 years less and we are not ever counting the time and money you spent while watching TV.

 

Choose A Few

Make your choice from the list above; choose a few activities that match your expected return (happiness, cost, time). In this phase, you might want to cut down a few that cost you too much but without much return. For example, I seldom attend gathering that involved drinking unless it is a company event. To me, drinking is not an activity that brings me a lot of enjoyment; it is always the attending crowd that interests me. Interesting people are more important than expensive wine. But by all means choose that one that cost you the most if it brings you the most value because you are supposed to enjoy life in your journey to early retirement and not suffer along the way.

 

Review

If you cannot let go any of the activities you listed, then don’t do it. You just need to cut down on those with lower return to you. For example, maybe you enjoy playing squash but playing it 3-4 days week is too much of a commitment either to your body or to your time. So, maybe you want to consider cut it down to once or twice a week. Also, you can review the list in term of money needed for each activity. Although happiness is the number one consideration during your review, you can still consider making some adjustment to each activity on the list to cut down on your spending.

Consider add in one exercise into your daily routine, it will not need to be an intense workout, just a slow walk with you dog (if you have one) will do. And the time needed is just 20 minutes to half an hour. I think a daily half hour investment into your health should be a reasonable and wise choice for you.

Lastly, check out this video below, it contain some interesting information you might be interested to know:

 

How many hours have you walked today?

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How To Wake Up Early

No, I am not going to tell you to sleep earlier (although that helps). I want to tell you if you want to wake up early, sleep when you are tired. What do I mean?

I seldom have wake up problem, I am always an early riser by many standard. I think the reason why most of the people cannot wake up early is because they cannot get into good sleep. So what should we do to get into a good sleep to start off?

Over the year, I have never been a good sleeper, I meant early sleeper. My sleeping time is very irregular. Sometimes I sleep at 9pm or even 8.30pm, sometimes I sleep at 3.30am. But I seldom have the problem to wake up at 6.30am or 7am the next morning without feeling tired.

 

Don’t Skip Your Sleep
One thing I noted from my past sleeping pattern is if I skip sleep for one night, for the next 2-3 days, I will feel tired all the day no matter how many hours I put in to recover my lost sleep, so first principle is don’t ever skip the night without sleep. It is damaging your body and you definitely won’t feel great for the next few days. Using 2-3 days of productivity to gain 8 hours of productive time is definitely does not sound like a good investment to me, so I try my best to avoid this.

 

Sleep When You Are Tired
We have been taught to be sleep early and wake up early to have a healthy body since small. I believe this make certain sense to that small growing body of ours when we are still few feet tall. What I discovered is if I go to sleep when my body tell me to, it is a good investment most of the time. Why I say so? Because I realized if my body says he is tired at 11pm, and I follow his call and go to bed, normally before 6am I am already awake. Then start from 6am in the morning till the night my mind will remain alert and have no need to buy few cups of coffee throughout the day to help me get through the day, my productivity at work also higher because I can focus better now.

 

Eat Before You Sleep
This is tricky, because I don’t you to become obese with this suggestion. What I found in my experience is a break in sleep is really not very good and hunger is one of the key indicators that wake me up in the middle of the night. It sure does not feel good when you know if you ignore that hunger that wake you up at 3.30am, you will end up with and hungry and tired body the next day.

I read something like the food we eat take 4 hours to digest, that’s why the popular advice where we should eat 4 hours before sleep to avoid become fat. But I think if your normal sleeping time is 11pm, and you still very alert at 10.45pm, you should eat something. Of course have some common sense, don’t order a Big Mac meal at 10.45pm because I say you should fill yourself up before sleep. Eat something light like banana. Banana is rich in potassium, which help you sleep better. It also provides certain amount of carbohydrate that should help you get through the sleep without a break.

 

But I Need To Wake Up Early!
Ok, I heard you. You don’t have the luxury to sleep till 11am because you have a 9am meeting or you need to send your child to school at 7.15am. In this case, maybe you can modify a bit of what I suggested above. You still sleep when you are tired after you put your child to sleep if you have any, but you set your alarm clock to wake you up the same time next day.

There are people successfully use this sleeping pattern and improve their sleep quality and increase their productivity because they now have more time to produce. You can always invent your own sleeping pattern as your schedule allows. If you want to try some extreme sleeping schedule people have tried and maintain, you can read another post, which talk about some alternative sleeping schedule.

 

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Why I Like The Idea Of Early Retirement Extreme

When I was searching for tips and ideas to retire early, to retire in less than 10 years, I found a growing community who embrace the idea of early retirement extreme. A guy called Jacob founded this idea. He uses his Renaissance Man concept to live for a year by spending only USD 7,000. To me, his life style is simply amazing and I admired his skill to produce some much for his daily use.

I took some numbers from his site, earlyretirementextreme.com to show his spending in year 2011 compare to mine:

Categories

Jacob

Me

Rent + utilities

USD 270

USD 200

Health insurance

USD 95

USD 10

Accident Insurance

USD 0

USD 10

Life insurance

USD 0

USD 2

Food

USD 100

USD 350

Martial art

USD 95

USD 0

Car

USD 50

USD 100 (Bus, MRT)

Dog

USD 50

USD 0

Internet

USD 20

USD 35

Student loan

USD 0

USD 83

Entertainment

USD 0

USD 180 (Books, movie, eat out)

Product installment plan

USD 0

USD 150

Medical

USD 0

USD 100

Parent

USD 0

USD 180

Total:

USD 680

USD 1,400

 

This is why I am a fan of the early retirement extreme. I have always considered myself as a frugal person and know how to use my money wisely most of the time. But seeing the table above, Jacob easily surpass me in supporting his life style (my typical spending is more than two fold of his).

Doubts
So, next come the doubts where how can a person surviving on this amount of money without going through a lot of hardship? I have the same doubts initially and I decided to find out from his blog and his books what is his life like post retirement.

It turns his life was not as hard as I initially thought it would be. He still owns things, meet friend, entertain him himself through some hobbies and having a healthy body. How can it be, you may ask. It is through the idea of Renaissance man. Instead of spend money on buying solution to the problems he encountered in daily life, he spend time learning that skill to solve the problem himself and free himself from dependence on other people if the problems occurs again in future.

His extremely low food cost sometimes bring concern from people whether can they obtain delicious and nutritional food with such a low budget. Also, with such a low budget, people think that they will miss out a lot of delicious food from the restaurant. I forgot the exact words he uses in his book, but the idea here instead of spend so much money to buy the solution (delicious food in this case) from the restaurant, why don’t we just learn the cooking skill that enable us to cook that delicious food we like?

Needs vs Wants
He also talks about the ideas of needs and want in his book. In his view, there is no needs or want; there is only people value. For example, let’s talk about food here. There are many choices (in ascending order according to price) exists to fill up our stomach:

  1. Dumpster diving.
  2. Heavily processed food.
  3. Home cooked food from pre-packed ingredient.
  4. Home cooked food from fresh ingredient.
  5. Food from hawker center.
  6. Food from food court.
  7. Gourmet meal from restaurant.
  8. Fine dining

It could be argued that eating from dumps will be too extreme and too dangerous (I agree with that too) for a life style. But I think there will be less argument that home cooked food from fresh ingredient under a good chef (hopefully is you) can provides a delicious and nutritional meal with a much lower cost compare to items 5,6,7,8.

Summary
In summary, early retirement extreme is achievable if you are willing to make the necessary life style choice and constantly improve yourself by learning more life skill.

Data Source: Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence

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4 Things You Will Need To Consider If You Are Cycling To Work

I started cycling to work back in 2007. The average cycling journey to office took about 30-40 minutes. I stopped for a year when I went back to school to further my study. Moving to the Hougang does make the distance from my house to school longer and the hectic study schedule just make it impossible for me to cycling to school.

After graduated from NUS, I found a job near Raffles Place; I started to cycle to work again December 2010, this time it last about 5 months. These were few challenges I think worth mentioned if you want to cycle to work:

Distance: 13.94km

This is the distance I need to travel if I want to cycle to work from my house at Hougang to office. From the number, it seems really big, but it’s those slope and traffic that really post a challenge at your cycling journey.

There are one steep slope and several other minor slopes along my way to office. Steep slope plus large number of cars producing exhaust does not give you the breezing feeling you have been seeing on the news paper or blog.

Traffic: A big mix of friendly and unfriendly people

When talk about driver in Singapore, me as a cyclist have a mix of feeling. I met very polite driver who will slow down when they saw me cycling on the road and give me enough space when overtake me, I also met driver who will try all their means to squeeze me on the road or horn at me for being too slow.

Another concern for potential cyclist is safety. Because of the speed and size, cyclists are a group of disadvantaged traveller on the road, and with the absent of bike lane in Singapore, cyclist will have to learn how to cycle defensively and take care of their safety.

 Weather: Unpredictable

After cycling for a while, you will appreciate hot sunny day more than a “refreshing” rainy day. If it is a hot day, moving faster on a bike certainly helps brings me some wind to cool me down.

But if it is a rainy day, there is nothing I can do about it beside put on my poncho raincoat (But that is just me, if you have some serious interest to keep yourself dry under all circumstance, you can try getting one of those breathable rain coat).

Shower facility: Very important

Out of all the challenges I mentioned, this is the only one you can have some control, and you should plan for some serious control on this. Cycling distance is more or less the same even you have chosen the shortest route, you can’t really tell the driver to give up one lane for you, and I assume you don’t possess supernatural power that can control the weather.

Unless your working place is really very near to your house, a proper shower facility is crucial to your cycling journey.

Conclusion

Cycling to work in Singapore was not easy. Evaluate your choice and make plan if you are serious on cycling to work.

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How To Retire Early By Setting The Correct Goals

Goals are important to us, it helps us to focus our energy to achieve the things we want to achieve. Everyone has something they want to achieve/get in life, countless of books have been written to teach us the tactic to set goals (set goals, make plan, motivate yourself, etc.…) so I won’t be repeating those tactics here.

 

Linea Goals

Usually we set what I call linear goal that only go one direction in a predetermined career path or detach from life. For example become the department manager by next year or earn a certain amount of money in 5 years. The shortcomings of this type of goals is it only improve one area of your life and does not contribute the overall happiness of your life, what is worse is sometimes it consumes values created from other area of your life

What I want to say is the “What” component in the goal setting activity that helps in achieving early retirement. The concept here is easy, focus on learning productive skills rather than owning stuff, finding the things that blend your work and life, doing the activity that increase value in you life be it health, social network or better skill. What you need to take note is that activity should not consume value created by other activity.

 

Cancellation Effect

For example, your goal of earning more money should not be cancel out by your desire to own more stuff or your goal to become manager should not cancel out by hurting your social network. Each goal you set should be increasingly helps to provide value to your overall happiness and speed up your ultimate goal we are talking about here, your early retirement.

When you receive a promotion and a raise in the salary, do not go out and spend those additional money you have now. More stuff does not make you happy for long term. When you learn how to cook a delicious meal on shoestring budget, do not buy everything from the market and cook a meal that enough to feed 5 persons when you only have 3 person in your household. Throwing the leftover to rubbish bin is a waste of your new learnt skill and it is hurting the planet.

 

Be Creative

Be creative in sharing your new skill. Let’s talk about the same example above; cook a delicious meal on shoestring budget. You can use your new skill to cook a big meal, invite your family and friends over to your house, enjoy a night of laughter and fun, and ended the night with better bond among the members. With the raise you are getting now, you are able to save more percentage of your income now and you should be happy because that helps speed up your retirement and give you more options.

 

 

 

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