Saturday, September 18, 2010

The mind boggling maths of mortgages

To learn mathematics is one of the core priority at school, and rightly so. You are bound to use your head to calculate whenever you make any purchases. The all-important gift to your love ones, the nasi bungkus for your lunch, the spanking new car parked at the porch, down to mortgages. The more expensive the item is, the more difference of 1% makes out to be!

Recognizing the fact that yours truly is not equipped with any advanced math or financial know-hows, I pore over the net for 2 nights trying to absorb as much as I can regarding mortgage. From MRTA vs MLTA, fixed rate VS floating rate, flexi VS non flexi, prepayment, early settlement penalty and other mortgage jargons to crucial questions to ask when meeting the loan officers. So as to appear less ignorant and dimwitted :P

If you are looking for the ideal housing loan, these are some of the points you might want to consider. Low interest rate is just one end of the whole spectrum. There are numerous articles online but this is sort of a summary I drawn from them.

Interest to be calculated based on daily rest
Most banks nowadays should offer daily rest instead of monthly rest. Daily rest means your total loan amount is deducted everyday, each time you made fresh installment or extra payment. As such you get to save on interest payment.

Allow to pay as much as you like (above minimal installment)
Its good to be able to pay more than the minimal required each month if you have extra cash and dont know where to put. You get to save on total interest paid or shorten your overall tenure. Alternately, you can just deposit into my account too! :P

Some banks offer housing loan paired with a current account. So you get to redraw your extra money anytime you like for your other commitments or emergencies. Also, it helps to offset part of your interest incurred. But some banks will charge RM 10 every month for  the current account. Always ask for the fine details!

Allow to pay as often as you like
Goes without saying the more often you put in money, the faster you settle your loan and save on interest.

No hidden charges or fees
Ask whether any additional charges apply. Need to pay bank loan processing fee or not. Several banks I asked offer redrawal facilities that will charge you RM50 per transaction.

Low interest rate
Obviously.. see latest BLR of Malaysian banks here

Minimal lock-in period
Lock in period means the number of years your loan is being 'lock' to the bank. Most banks offer lock-in period of 3 years currently, but Maybank is 5 years. If you choose to fully settle your loan within the 3 or 5 years, you will be faced with early settlement penalty, ranging from 2-4% of your total loan. Most banks current penalty rate is 3%. Of course the shorter the lock-in period the better.

Also, demand the lock in period commencement on the first draw down date (the first time the bank disburses the payment to the developer for property under-construction.
So beware.

Easy accessibility and online payment
Must be easy to find the bank outlets, preferably with option of online payment. Surely you dont enjoy the hassle of spending time looking for parking, paying your parking ticket, risk getting summons just to pay the bank!

Competent and reliable customer service
First impression counts, at least for me. There is this petite lady from C**B bank who rattles abit on her housing loan interest rate, maximum loan amount/tenure then straight to documents required to apply loan. Either she is too desperate to go for lunch rather than explaining her product to me or she just can't be bothered. Well, i can't be bothered to ask more too, in view of unattractive rates and atrocious customer service :)

Well, thats about all I could gather on the ideal housing loan. Do share more if you have ideas or your experience!

Also, thanks to Koala for pointing out about fixed housing loan vs floating rate. BLR is currently at all time low and thus floating rate offers lower interest compare to fixed for now. Last I checked, its roughly 4.1% floating VS 4.85% Fixed. There is some discussion about the rising BLR which makes fixed loan much more attractive than before and the benefit is you know exactly how much you got to pay each month, rather than relying on BLR-X.

Historical BLR rates 1980 to 2005

So as you can see, there is a risk of you paying mortgage rate in excess of 10% when the BLR hits 12%. Over the last 20 years, there were 2 periods when the BLR peaks. Once during the 80s economic depression where lots of people "jump aeroplane" (going abroad to work due to unemployment) and the 1998 financial crisis. They dont happen very often but im not god so I cant predict how the trend will go from now. Personally I think the BLR will rise but probably not exponentially in the very near future given the uncertainty in our present economic climate. 

So the question is Fixed or Floating? Frankly I don't know. It really depends on what you are planning to do with the house. Also, if you feel the interest rates are going up for most the time of your entire loan tenure, the fixed would be more suitable. My uneducated opinion is that:

If the house is for own stay and plan to settle the loan long term, saying 20-30 years. Go for fixed now to lock the lower interest offered currently.

If the house is for investment, go for floating. Take advantage of the 0% interest 1st year perks etc. Then sell it off shortly for a profit.

If the house is for own stay but you plan to settle loan within 10 years, then it doesn't make much difference between floating or fixed. But i would prefer floating for the sheer flexibility.

Just my humble opinion. What you think? Happy weekend from Bluey!! 

Monday, September 13, 2010


Freshly plucked jackfruit (nangka) from my garden. Well actually not MY garden essentially since im not the one taking care of it :P 

See the whitish goo spewing out from the 'batang'? Yummy! LOL...

Im not a big fan of jackfruit myself. Do you know that despite the hardy shell it has, it actually becomes soft when its ripe? As in when you press the shell, the shell actually indents inside a little bit. 

You want somemore? Here you go.

See how 'fertile' the jackfruit tree is! Yat dai cao dangling there! (A whole bunch dangling). Its kinda fun. I don't mean fun in things dangling, but its fun to pluck fruits with your bare hands on a fresh weekend morning :)

By the way, see the new header pic with sunlight-backlit leave? Its taken from the a ciku tree, right beside the jackfruit tree. That is how ciku leaves looks like. Sorry for the poor quality picture because I just snap with my phone. A little description on ciku:

The ciku fruits

The ciku tree is evergreen, has a conical crown and can grow up to 30 m in height. Its bark is light-grey and becomes fissured with age. The plant with all its parts has a white latex. Young twigs of the plant are covered in a woolly layer. Its leaves are spirally arranged, dark green and pointed. It has a stalk measuring between one to three cm. Ciku flowers are white, fragrant, solitary and bisexual. They have six free sepals in two whorls on the outside. The petals are joined in a corolla tube with six lobes and six stamens and six staminodes. The ovary is superior and it has a single style. The flowers remain open even at night. The major flowering period for sapodilla in Singapore is in the month of May. Ciku fruits are brown, round or oblong, with a thin skin. The flesh is sweet, soft and reddish-brown. The fruits have very few seeds in them that are hard, black, elongated, flattened and shiny.

Interesting right? :P

Sis Mary has been lamenting about her work again. She is tired of working and living in the big city apparently. Tired of demanding job, tired of horrendous traffic jams, tired of being lonely, tired of losing herself in the midst of it all, I supposed. Her plan is to resign some time next year and get some time off. Does that even constitute a plan? I would advise her to at least find another more suitable job before handling out the letter. Or she could startup some low cost business or something. 

Im kinda fed up with my work too. Perhaps I should join her rank after another year of being cheap labour to the Malaysian gomen. Any low cost business idea, anyone? Gardening??? What would you do? Come shoot me with ideas!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thuan Chye Responds to “Orang Cina Malaysia, apa lagi yang anda mahu?”(Utusan Malaysia article)

This is too good to be missed. It portrays the exact sentiment of current Malaysian Chinese! Let us study it with an open mind. Article by Mr. Kee Thuan Chye.

Thuan Chye Responds to “Orang Cina Malaysia, apa lagi yang anda mahu?”(Utusan Malaysia article)

By Kee Thuan Chye  

Every time the Barisan National gets less than the expected support from Chinese voters at an election, the question invariably pops up among the petty-minded: Why are the Chinese ungrateful? 

So now, after the Hulu Selangor by-election, it’s not surprising to read in Utusan Malaysia a piece that asks: “Orang Cina Malaysia, apa lagi yang anda mahu?” (Trans. Chinese of Malaysia, what more do you want?) Normally, something intentionally provocative and propagandistic as this doesn’t deserve to be honored with a reply. But even though I’m fed up with such disruptive and ethnocentric polemics, this time I feel obliged to reply – partly because the article has also been published, in an English translation, in the Straits Times of Singapore. I wish to emphasize here that I am replying not as a Chinese Malaysian but, simply, as a Malaysian. Let me say at the outset that the Chinese have got nothing more than what any citizen should get. So to ask “what more” it is they want, is misguided. A correct question would be, “What do the Chinese want?” 

All our lives, we Chinese have held to the belief that no one owes us a living. We have to work for it. Most of us have got where we are by the sweat of our brow, not by handouts or the policies of the government. We have come to expect nothing – not awards, not accolades, not gifts from official sources. (Let’s not lump in Datukships, that’s a different ball game.) We know that no Chinese who writes in the Chinese language will ever be bestowed the title of Sasterawan Negara, unlike in Singapore where the literatures of all the main language streams are recognized and honored with the Cultural Medallion, etc. 

We have learned we can’t expect the government to grant us scholarships. Some will get those, but countless others won’t. We’ve learned to live with that and to work extra hard in order to support our children to attain higher education – because education is very important to us. We experience a lot of daily pressure to achieve that. Unfortunately, not many non-Chinese realise or understand that. In fact, many Chinese had no choice but to emigrate for the sake of their children’s further education. Or to accept scholarships from abroad, many from Singapore, which has inevitably led to a brain drain. 

The writer of the Utusan article says the Chinese “account for most of the students” enrolled in “the best private colleges in Malaysia”. Even so, the Chinese still have to pay a lot of money to have their children study in these colleges. And to earn that money, the parents have to work very hard. The money does not fall from the sky. 

The writer goes on to add: “The Malays can gain admission into only government-owned colleges of ordinary reputation.” That is utter nonsense. Some of these colleges are meant for the cream of the Malay crop of students and are endowed with the best facilities. They are given elite treatment. 

The writer also fails to acknowledge that the Chinese are barred from being admitted to some of these colleges. As a result, the Chinese are forced to pay more money to go to private colleges. Furthermore, the Malays are also welcome to enroll in the private colleges, and many of them do. It’s, after all, a free enterprise. 

Plain and simple reason

The writer claims that the Chinese live “in the lap of luxury” and lead lives that are “more than ordinary” whereas the Malays in Singapore , their minority-race counterparts there, lead “ordinary lives”. Such sweeping statements sound inane especially when they are not backed up by definitions of “lap of luxury” and “ordinary lives”. They sound hysterical, if not hilarious as well, when they are not backed up by evidence. It’s surprising that a national daily like Utusan Malaysia would publish something as idiosyncratic as that. And the Straits Times too. 

The writer quotes from a survey that said eight of the 10 richest people in Malaysia are Chinese. Well, if these people are where they are, it must have also come from hard work and prudent business sense. Is that something to be faulted? 

If the writer had said that some of them achieved greater wealth through being given crony privileges and lucrative contracts by the government, there might be a point, but even then, it would still take hard work and business acumen to secure success. Certainly, Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, who is one of the 10, would take exception if it were said that he has not worked hard and lacks business savvy. Most important, it should be noted that the eight Chinese tycoons mentioned in the survey represent but a minuscule percentage of the wider Chinese Malaysian population. To extrapolate that because eight Chinese are filthy rich, the rest of the Chinese must therefore live in the lap of luxury and lead more than ordinary lives would be a mockery of the truth. The writer has obviously not met the vast numbers of very poor Chinese. 

The crux of the writer’s article is that the Chinese are not grateful to the government by not voting for Barisan National at the Hulu Selangor by-election. But this demonstrates the thinking of either a simple mind or a closed one. 

Why did the Chinese by and large not vote for BN? Because it’s corrupt. Plain and simple. Let’s call a spade a spade. And BN showed how corrupt it was during the campaign by throwing bribes to the electorate, including baiting a Chinese school in Rasa by promising RM3 million should it wins the by-election. 

The Chinese were not alone in seeing this corruption. The figures are unofficial but one could assume that at least 40 per cent of Malays and 45 per cent of Indians who voted against BN in that by-election also had their eyes open. So, what’s wrong with not supporting a government that is corrupt? If the government is corrupt, do we continue to support it? 

To answer the question then, what do the Chinese want?

They want a government… 

a.     that is not corrupt; 

b.     that can govern well and proves to have done so; 

c.      that tells the truth rather than lies;

d.     that follows the rule of law; 

e.     that upholds rather than abuses the country’s sacred institutions.  

Because BN does not fit that description, the Chinese have learned not to vote for it. This is not what only the Chinese want. It is something every sensible Malaysian, regardless of race, wants. Is that something that is too difficult to understand? 

Some people think that the government is to be equated with the country, and therefore if someone does not support the government, they are being disloyal to the country. This is a complete fallacy. BN is not Malaysia . It is merely a political coalition that is the government of the day. Rejecting BN is not rejecting the country. 

A sense of belonging

Let’s be clear about this important distinction. In America, the people sometimes vote for the Democrats and sometimes for the Republicans. Voting against the one that is in government at the time is not considered disloyalty to the country. 

By the same token, voting against UMNO is also voting against a party, not against a race. And if the Chinese or whoever criticize UMNO, they are criticizing the party; they are not criticizing Malays. It just happens that UMNO’s leaders are Malay. 

It is time all Malaysians realized this so that we can once and for all dispel the confusion. Let us no longer confuse country with government. We can love our country and at the same time hate the government. It is perfectly all right. 

I should add here what the Chinese don’t want: 

a.     We don’t want to be insulted, 

b.     We don’t want to be called pendatang 

c.      We don’t want to be told to be grateful for our citizenship.  

We have been loyal citizens; we duly and dutifully pay taxes; we respect the country’s constitution and its institutions. Our forefathers came to this country many generations ago and helped it to prosper. We are continuing to contribute to the country’s growth and development. 

Would anyone like to be disparaged, made to feel unwelcome or unwanted? For the benefit of the writer of the Utusan article, what MCA president Chua Soi Lek means when he says the MCA needs to be more vocal is that it needs to speak up whenever the Chinese community is disparaged? For too long, the MCA has not spoken up strongly enough when UMNO politicians and associates like Ahmad Ismail, Nasir Safar, Ahmad Noh and others before them insulted the Chinese and made them feel like they don’t belong. That’s why the Chinese have largely rejected the MCA. You see, the Chinese, like all human beings, want self-respect. And a sense of belonging in this country they call home. That is all the Chinese want, and has always wanted. Nothing more. 

The Utusan Malaysia article: Orang Cina Malaysia , apa lagi yang anda mahu?

Dramatist and journalist Kee Thuan Chye is the author of ‘March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up’. He is a contributor to Free Malaysia Today. 

"To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of people” - Emily Cox

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them" - Walt Disney  


p.s. Like to wish all Muslim readers Selamat Hari Raya and have a safe journey balik kampung! Happy holiday!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Giant leap begins with a small step

Its no easy feat for all three of us to agree unanimously to something. That's me and my fastidious parents. But this one is pretty fast. Three visits was all it needed to sign on the dotted line for booking. Im surprised by their concerted taste, surprised by my own intrepidity.

The idea had actually been lingering in my mind for a year before finally settle on what I consider as attractive proposition. Its a natural thing to do anyway, sooner or later. What is more important than a roof above the head, a home sweet home?

*For illustration purpose*

On the other hand, this very milestone also marks the days when I have to start chomping on bread everyday...

Recap on a conversation in a park on a saturday morning:

Mum: The developer agent was quite a friendly guy. He agreed to the minor changes we requested at no extra cost. And he looks quite young too...

Bluey: Should be older than me right?

Mum: Of course la...He has worked abroad for years before coming back here...I think he is around 40+ years old...

Bluey: I thought you said he is young?

Mum: 40s not young meh? You also gonna be 30 soon lah...


It felt like thousand needles piercing through my heart at the speed of bullet train.