Did you know you can use your medisave in JB?

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For a long time, I thought that our CPF medisave could only be used in Singapore. But that’s not true…apparently, you can use your medisave for treatment in selected hospitals in Johor. There are currently 2 hospitals in Johor that you can use Medisave to pay for your treatment, and the best part of it is….1 of the 2 are located super near to HH!

Sorry, this probably might be old news to you, but I just discovered that Gleneagles Medini (which is just a 5min drive away) is 1 of the 2 medical centers that accepts medisave as payment!

Ok, what’s the big deal, I hear you say.

Initially, I didn’t think it was a big deal too. After all, I’m pretty healthy (I prefer to think I am fit, rather than just healthy actually, but that would be like boasting. haha!) and I’ve got pretty comprehensive medical insurance in place (for sure, since I am in the finance line and I have got to walk the talk right?) so the chance of me going to a hospital is relatively low, and if I did, I have a plan in place. But hear me out because this isn’t a sales pitch thing and I really do think you should (if you haven’t already) give some thought to this.

So like many Singaporeans and PRs, I’m on a comprehensive integrated shield plan that covers my inpatient stays and catastrophic medical treatment in Singapore. Generally, this does the trick in making sure that hospitalisation and big ticket medical treatment are covered and the bulk of the premium is serviced relatively painlessly by CPF medisave. The good thing with such plans is that not only am I covered for treatment in Singapore, but the plan also covers emergency treatment overseas. So say if I got into a car accident while in JB and ended up in a hospital in JB to treat my wounds, my bill would still be covered as this would constitute an emergency situation.

However, the fact remains that some illnesses and conditions (i.e. cancer) are chronic and don’t constitute as emergency treatment (and so cannot be claimed under the shield plan). Triggered mainly by my dog, Pepper’s, long illness, I started wondering if in the event that I am chronically ill and require medical treatment, what would I do? Generally speaking, I would prefer to seek medical treatment in Singapore as opposed to JB…so getting insured for treatment in Singapore makes sense. However, the problem is that I live in JB…and if it were a chronic condition, it would kinda suck to have to do the commute to Singapore every other day to see the doctor.

If it’s cancer, or dialysis, visits to the doctor/clinic would be a very regular thing. I mean, sitting in the car for 2 hours one way while healthy is a pain, can’t really imagine what it would be like if I were super sick. And what about those followup doctor visits that last only 15mins ? OMG, imagine driving out to see someone for just 15mins!! *faint*

So, that got me thinking more seriously about treatment in JB, and should the day come (choy!), what would I do? Yup, I’m neurotic like that. Maybe diagnosis and surgery can be done in Singapore, and the followup/outpatient treatment in JB? If so, where would be a good hospital in JB?

I checked out Columbia Asia, which is nearby, but it’s got some pretty bad reviews online so I’m striking it out. Public hospitals are out (conditions are abysmal) and other private hospitals are kind of far and old. So..Gleneagles Medini seems like is a decent choice in terms of hospital and facilities in JB, plus it’s really near where I live. Plus, it’s a familiar brand to me.

And the best part is…I can utilise my Medisave for treatment at Gleneagles Medini (subject to prior arrangement and approval), which also means I probably won’t have to come up with a big bunch of cash. Good, right?🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vets and Animal Hospitals in JB

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This post probably will only appeal to animal lovers/owners who live in JB, so if you are not one, you may want to skip this post as the contents of this post may literally bore you to death.😛

Recently, my dog Pepper, has been very sick. To make a very long story short, she suffered within a span of 2 months:

  1. MegaEsophagus
  2. Bronchopneumonia
  3. Chlyamdosis (a relatively rare disease spread by birds)
  4. Tick fever
  5. Autoimmune disease

If you are an animal lover, having your pet be so sick can be a super trying and stressful time. Since animals can’t talk, it’s really important to work with an experienced vet when the animal is sick. The thing about living in JB is that there is a dearth of good vets here.

Like, seriously…the veterinary field in JB is YEARS behind Singapore. For one thing, there is NO 24hr animal clinic; the latest any clinic opens here is till 830pm. This can be nerve wrecking especially if your pet starts displaying great distress at night and all you can do is to wait until the next morning for the clinic to open.

I can’t blame the vets though. It costs the same to get a degree in veterinary medicine as it does to be a human doctor. But in general, vets earn a lot less than human doctors even though their hours are just as long. So I guess, if I were a Malaysian vet, I would prefer to work in Singapore where compensation is much higher. I digress.

 

So anyway, considering that I’ve now accumulated a fair bit of experience in dealing with the veterinary services in JB, I thought I’d just share my findings with you.

  1. Global Pets – Good for minor ailments that are non-critical.
    It is the animal equivalent of Shenton/Raffles Medical. I generally bring my dogs there to get their vaccination done or if they are suffering from some minor ailment (i.e rash). As a member, your consultation fee is waived so that’s quite nice. Thing is, the vet turnover is quite high and I can’t say the vets are very experienced. The Nusa Bestari branch in general is the place to go if you want to seek treatment as they have the facilities for operation, hospitalisation, and bloodwork tests. However, I can’t say their facilities are super up to date as certain tests need to be sent to other labs and test kits need to be ordered. So far, if I were to bring my dogs for treatment at Global Pets, I always looks for Dr San (Bestari branch, but think she has resigned since), Dr Eddie (Bestari branch) and Dr Shiwa (Perling branch). These vets have a good bedside manner, decently experienced and are sincere in trying to cure your pet. My experience with some others felt more like I was part of the customer ferris wheel where I was just a statistic or case count.
  2. Koh Animal Clinic – For the REALLY sick and critical cases
    My clinic of choice, but the only problem is that there is ALWAYS a long wait. Be prepared to wait anywhere between 1.5 – 4hrs when you go. The vets are all experienced (nearly every single of them are qualified to operate), but the go to vet is, of course the boss, Dr Koh. He has over 40 years of experience and is extremely qualified. This is also the place to go if your pet has joint problems (i.e. luxating patella) or needs complicated and major surgery. Apart from the perpetual wait, the other downsides are that the place is rather run down (I think they are too busy saving animals to spend time to do up the place) and the manner can be rather brusque (because there is a long queue). I generally don’t go to Koh Clinic unless the illness is serious as I find the wait to be quite off-putting; no way I’m going to queue for 3 hours for my dog’s rash! LOL.

    That said, if you meet with an emergency situation (and I do mean critical) at night when the other clinics are closed, you can go bang on the side door of the clinic. The level of care may be limited (if the doc looks at the animal and thinks it can wait until tmr, he will ask you to go home and come back the next morning. Happened to me before, so apparently my idea of critical is not the same as the vets’) but if you are desperate, this is the only option available. Oh, and be patient and persistent when pressing on the intercomm…someone will come….eventually.

  3. Nusajaya Vet – Probably good for cats only. Run by a Malay doctor who, in addition to treating animals, seems to sell cats in his clinic. He can treat dogs I guess, but I think his specialty really lies in cats.
  4. Han Veterinary Clinic – Good for dogs, with the main vet specializing in skin illness
    Haven’t visited this clinic mainly because it’s kinda of far from where I live but have heard good things about it. Dr Han apparently is an authority on dermatology, not just in Malaysia but in the region. I guess this would be a good place to bring your pet if it has skin problems.
  5. Government vet clinic – Don’t even bother. At the most, bring the animal there for vaccination else you should avoid at all costs.

It seems, (in my opinion and not a statement of fact) that the vets in Singapore are more likely to run the entire gamut of tests before they arrive at a diagnosis. The benefit of this is that nothing is ambiguous, little is left to guesswork and treatment is prompt & accurate. The disadvantage of this is that running multiple tests is expensive and will leave you with a gaping hole in your pocket (been there and done that, so I know). On the other hand, the vets in JB tend to hold off on the tests more, and use an elimination (but may I say, old-fashioned) method which is more cost-effective (because less tests, less cost) but infinitely more nerve-wrecking. The elimination method means they might skip some tests that would double confirm the diagnosis/illness/bacteria and just prescribe a medication and adopt a wait-and-see attitude. If the animal gets better, good. If not, they will try Plan B.

For example, my dog would have benefited greatly and suffered less if a tracheal wash procedure (this is something to determine the type of bacteria in the lungs) was done at the onset. However, this course of action was delayed for 2 weeks and by the time the vet wanted to do the procedure, Pepper was physically too weak for it. As a result, we ended up having to make an educated guess on what was causing her malaise and the treatment for it. Sure, I saved some money (probably a couple of hundred RM) on the procedure but IMHO, the amount of stress that came with second guessing treatment is not worth the savings. >_<

So, I have found that prompting/encouraging the vet to run tests can be helpful in JB as they seem to go into auto cost-saving mode for their clients. Depending on the owner, this can be a good or not so good thing since cost needn’t always be the priority for the individual. Not saying I’m rich okay! But to me, my dog is more important than money.🙂

Ok, this seems to be a mammoth post, so I’ll end here for now. Ciao!

 

 

 

Better to invest in Singapore or JB property?

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Sorry for the lack of update folks. The last several months have been very crazy for me and the hubs because we’ve been house hunting in Singapore!

As you know, my hubs and I bought HH as our first home in 2011 due to the ridiculously high property prices in SG and have been staying here since. We’ve been really happy living in Malaysia, but with our family, friends and work in Singapore, we’ve always felt that it would be good to be able to own a piece of property in Singapore. Just in case, you know?

And so in December 2015, we finally bought an apartment in Singapore.

Initially, we thought we would move back to Singapore. Living in JB always felt like a temporary thing, and that we would eventually go back to Singapore to be closer to our friends and family. However, after doing some calculations (it’s a occupational hazard), we realised that we are by far better off staying in JB. Here’s why:

  1. It took us between 3 – 5 years to save up enough money for the downpayment of our private apartment in Singapore. We can’t buy a HDB without selling HH, in case you were wondering.
  2. Because we bought a super old apartment,the interior needs to be gutted out and be completely redone. Wiring, piping, flooring, ceiling….everything. Given the size of the place and the very extensive work required, renovation costs + furnishings + appliances will probably be upwards of S$150k to $200k. So, it will take us another 3 – 5 years to save up enough money to pay for the renovation.
  3. Adding the downpayment and reno costs together, we would have spent a total of 6 – 10 years to save up for, and buy, an apartment in Singapore.
  4. If we were to live in this apartment, this piece of property in Singapore then cannot be considered a true asset as it wouldn’t earn us any money. I know for a fact that I dislike moving, and downsizing my property when I’m older for cash isn’t an option that I want to entertain. I like my creature comforts now and I think I will only get fussier when I am older.
  5. Comparing the monthly mortgage instalment amount between HH and the SG Apt, the SG Apt costs 50% more. Ouch.
  6. Which also means that because I have to pay 50% more, I will be able to save less for my other financial goals and also have less to discretionary income to spend, affecting my lifestyle. Things are also more expensive in Singapore, thereby affecting my ability to save further.
  7. Property in Malaysia is hard to rent and the rent may not cover the mortgage loan instalment, which means that a part of our income will have to go into servicing the loan.

This has led us to the conclusion that if we choose to stay in a nice private apartment in Singapore, we would have pushed back saving for our retirement by at least 10 years. And the next earliest time we will only be able to do lump sum investment will be in 15 years time.

OMG…when looking at a SG property from this light, the opportunity cost to live in an apartment in Singapore is very high, right? Or is it just the occupational hazard/finance geeks in me and my husband talking? LOL.

My goal is to retire by 40 and my husband 45. And from our calculations, this can’t be done by living in a super expensive home in Singapore that literally eats up all our income. Glad to say, we’ve now built enough assets,  to be at the 50% mark and we managed to do this by living in JB and keeping our costs low.

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Have you read about Winnie Tseng and Jeremy Jacobson, the couple who retired in their 30s and who are now travelling the world? The article really resonated with me when I read it as I see a number of similarities between what they’ve done and what we are now doing. Are any of you doing the same too? If yes, I’d love to hear from you.

I suppose you might be wondering why did we choose to invest in a property in Singapore rather than Malaysia? There are a whole bunch of reasons in addition to the above, but I’ll save it for another post as this post has become rather epic already. Till then!🙂

House Painting

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Time really flies and we’ve been living in HH for about 3.5 years now. Wow. Who knew we’d stay for so long!🙂

Anyway, living in a landed property is not always a bed of roses. And it seems like the 3 year point is where things start to break down due to natural wear and tear. 3-4 years is also the duration that algae/moss needs to grow on external walls to the point of making the walls extremely unsightly and gross. Hah!

So, after deciding that we could no longer endure looking at greenish walls every time we came home, we decided to get our house painted. And boy, getting your house painted is an expensive business. A quote from the painters to paint the exterior of our 3 storey home came up to RM18,000. *faint*

I suspect the high price is because they need to get a scaffolding up to reach the top part of the house, but what do I know?

Anyway, we were supremely turned off by the 5 figure quote so we decided to skip the middleman (again) and hire workers to do the job for us directly.

We used 2 workers as well as bought our own paint and rollers. The paint came up to be about RM2k+ and that’s the cost of paint for walls and railings, basecoat, sealer, turpentine, remover, and extra waterproofing. We learnt that you should always buy your own paint because:

  1. There’s fake paint in the market
  2. Contractors often times give you inferior quality paint but charge you a premium
  3. Inferior quality paint doesn’t last

The wages for the workers came up to approximately $4k+, which brought our total cost to about $7k. Not too bad for the getting the entire exterior, garden walls, gate, railings and grills painted eh?🙂

Downside is that we had to spend quite some time supervising the workers.  Given our flexi schedules, we were able to save some money by going it alone and skipping the middleman, though I guess this isn’t a very viable option for everyone.

 

Build, and they will come?

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So, it’s finally started. The buildings are nearly done, but where’s the boom?

I hope that if you bought a unit in HH or JB, you will be staying in it, or at least intend to stay in it in the near future. It will be really difficult to sell units at a significant gain in the short/medium term for sure. To be honest, I’m pretty peeved with the Malaysian government’s lack of foresight – what kind of goondu will approve plans to build so many residential units at the same time? Like 6000 apartment units by a single developer and thousands more along the same stretch of road? And what place does a shoebox unit costing in excess of RM1million have in Johor Bahru?! JB is very far from being the capital of Malaysia. My friends, rationality has been totally thrown out of the window.

Anyway, here’s some news about how a major developer has shelved plans to build a trade hub. And here’s the PR company trying to do some media service recovery by calling a bursting bubble as “Plan B“.

The problem with investing in Malaysia is that the authorities keep changing their mind about how to develop and grow a particular area. Usually, they start off with a fantastic idea. They get people excited and pump a bunch of money into the project. Everything looks rosy, and more people buy into the idea. Halfway through, the folks on top get greedy and start veering off the original plan in view of faster and bigger profits. Corruption probably starts creeping in at this point, and the project starts going to the dogs.

Don’t get me wrong. I STILL think living in JB and working in Singapore is a great idea. With the exchange rate hitting 2.7 now, it’s even more shiok! Despite the stupid 6% GST (which I think was very badly implemented and probably half the establishments that charge the GST pocket the extra), and the increase in the tolls, life is still good here.

With the way things are going though, I just wish to warn folks who are thinking of buying to shop CAREFULLY. At this point, buying a completed unit probably would be more prudent due to the high vacancy and huge supply of units coming onto the market. It’s a rare thing in Singapore to have a developer go bust or stop building a project halfway, but it’s a very real thing here in Malaysia.

Happy hunting folks, I believe there should be some bargains coming onto the market really soon now.🙂

Learning to be a fix-it man

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It’s been slightly over 2 years since we moved into our place in HH and coming to 4 years since we signed our S&P. Time really flies! Especially so when there’s a big house to maintain on your own.

It’s kinda of funny that we actually manage our home without hired help. Considering that neither of us did much housework when we were living at our parents’ place previously. The trick, we’ve realized, is to put everything back exactly where we found it after we are done. I suppose this is pretty easy advice to follow since we don’t have kids. Lol.

Anyway, I’m writing this post because other than the mundane, there have been some more interesting things that’s happened which actually warrants a post.

So, the other day, big storm took down our TV antenna, which also smashed a couple of roof tiles in the process. Boo. Considering that we hardly watch local TV, I don’t really understand why we even bothered to install the TV antenna in the first place…but, well…I guess when it came to a new house, the general consensus was to install everything!😛

Yeah, so the wind blew the antenna down and we kind of left it dangling on the roof for a week or 2 before seriously looking into fixing it. In fact, we would just have left the blasted thing there for longer if not for the fear of it dragging more tiles off. It was the weekend when we finally found some time to look at it, and this being Malaysia, it’s REALLY hard to get a handyman to come by on the fly. It’s a near impossibility – the country is too big, and the people are not as money hungry pro business as the folks in Singapore.

That being the case, we ended up fixing the roof ourselves. It’s not as hard as you’d imagine, and it was good fun. Yes, climbing 3 stories up was scary, but that’s exactly what the roofers have to do, and they weren’t born different from you and I.

The cost to us was just a tube of silicon and 3 pieces of roof tile..which is also next to nothing.😛 If you EVER need to go up to your roof, be sure to do it in the early morning. If not, once the sun’s out, the roof tiles can literally cook the skin off your hands. Oh, and the corner tile shop along Nusa Bestari just after the flyover stocks the HH grey roof tiles. You need to get the right match for your tiles else they won’t fit.

Going up the roof

Going up the roof

Apart from replacing the tiles, we took down our antenna and decided not to install another one (we have astro anyway). From the way the antenna was secured to the roof, I am pretty sure that every house’s antenna will be blown down at some point. The equipment is just too big, and placed too precariously to be able to withstand multiple storms over a long period of time. Just disasters waiting to happen, IMHO.😛

In addition to the roof, our water tank also gave us some trouble. We got home after a long day at work (on a separate occasion) and within 30mins, we heard the pipes in our house creaking and cranking…and then wooooooossh…water gushing out from one of the pipes at the side of the house. And again, we couldn’t call anyone to come take a look because it was already past 10pm.

We ended up turning off the water mains for the night after climbing into the attic and checking there was no burst pipe. It was pretty dramatic to hear the pipes in your house creak like crazy in the middle of the night. Haha…luckily we are not superstitious people, if not I would have surely thought the house haunted. LOL!!!

Anyway, closer inspection of the water tank the next day indicated that the water float was broken. it’s kind of weird that the float would break since the house is pretty new (2 years) and neither me nor the hubs are OCD clean freaks (we bathe the average number of times as a normal person). The metal part connecting the float to the chain had just rusted off – maybe the water in JB is super acidic or something. The repair was really simple; just change the float! The float cost only rm3 and changing the float took less than 10mins!

Apart from these 2 instances, we’ve had to DIY our house a fair bit. Some of our friends thought we were crazy to try repair the house ourselves…but personally, I think most landed home owners do quite a bit of DIY themselves. And you probably should expect to have to get your hands dirty at some point if you want to live in a big space.

Our next project is to re-waterproof our RC roof. The flat top design of the roof is not great as it collects leaves and other organic debris which clogs up the pipe and prevents the outflow of water, which in turn affects the waterproofing. Wow..I think I sound like I’m a contractor after rereading what I just typed. Haha.

More home improvement projects to come!🙂

Penny wise, pound foolish and Najib’s broken promise

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So, it’s been nearly a week now since the Malaysian toll hike…and I am happy to report, the Causeway is VERY clear. I suppose this is the only positive thing that has come out from this whole ridiculous situation. Here are the new toll rates:

JB Custom tolls

JB Custom tolls

And the impact on our pocket?

Private cars – 469% price increase Small lorries – 453% price increase Heavy lorries – 446% price increase Taxis – 486% price increase Buses – 478% price increase

Honestly, Singaporeans are the LEAST affected by the hike, despite the hefty increase. Namely because most Singaporeans stay in Singapore and traveling into Malaysia is optional. 1 less shopping venue for the Singaporeans, but what does it really matter?

As for those who commute (like me), this price hike on the Causeway tolls is tolerable as it is approximately the same toll rate I pay when I travel through the 2nd Link anyway. That said, Singapore has made it known that they will ALSO raise their tolls to match Malaysia’s rate….so, I’m not sure how long my earlier statement can continue to hold true.

It is the Johorians who are truly bearing the brunt of this move by the State – Businesses in Johor will suffer with less Singaporeans, Malaysians who commute to Sg (namely on work permits and mostly blue collar workers) who already don’t earn a lot will end up with higher transport costs, and investments into Iskandar will stall.

Some people have argued that the reason for imposing the toll is fair. That there is nowhere on the EDL highway to install a tollbooth. That by imposing the toll at the customs will mean fewer Malaysians get taxed than if the toll was on the EDL highway itself. Bullshit. It is grossly unfair to make people pay for something they did not and do not use. And, isn’t it the job the of government to build and maintain roads – Isn’t a portion of existing taxes paid to the State used for this purpose?

Btw, for those who are not in the know, the recent hike in toll is just Najib backtracking on his 2012 promise (before the elections) on maintaining free use of the EDL. In 2012, after the Eastern Dispersal Highway was completed to link the Pasir Gudang side of JB to town, the private company who built the highway wanted to collect astronomical tolls to recoup their expenses. Following a huge public uproar, the highway was acquired by the Federal government who promised that no tolls would be collected for the use of the EDL. Well, I guess things always change after an election.😦

I suppose I should be happy that I don’t have to be stuck for hours in the commute anymore…but it is the way this change is implemented that scares me. When a country’s government gives scant regard to it’s own people and instead prefers to choose a quick route to line it’s coffers, it makes me wonder how much thought would they give in ensuring that foreign investors will get a fair deal. Najib better speak up and speak up quick, because I am pretty sure this (and the impending VEP) will have a large impact on how Singaporeans (who comprise of the largest group of investors in Malaysia) view the future of Iskandar.