Monday, February 20, 2017

EPF declared 5.70% dividend for 2016

The Employees Provident Fund (EPF, a.k.a. KWSP) has just declared the dividend rate for financial year 2016 to be 5.70%, which is 11% lower than the 6.40% dividend declared for 2015 (last year).

Calculation: (5.70-6.40)/6.40 = -0.70/6.40 = -11%

This is the 2nd year of dividend decline since the historical highest dividend payout of 6.75% declared for 2014.

If you have already registered as an EPF i-Akaun member to access your EPF account detail with their online service, you can login to your online account now and check the actual amount of dividend in RM added to your EPF account by viewing your 2016 online statement.

With this dividend rate, it seems that those who have withdrawn their EPF Account II savings to reduce their housing loan during 2016 might be regreted to do so, as the effective mortgage rate is generally lower than 5.70% in 2016, due to a lower housing loan financing rate along the year (around 4.35% offered by most banks).

If you have withdrawn your EPF Account I savings for investment in unit trust or fund, your fund manager has outperformed EPF if your 2016 ROI in the fund is greater than 5.70%. Otherwise, you might want to meet up with your unit trust agent or fund manager to find out what's wrong.

Note that in 2016, EPF has recognized a net impairment amounting of RM8.17 billion, compared with RM3.07 billion in 2015 to reflect lower equity prices (meaning, paper lost in share market)!

If you had gain money (had positive return) in share market during 2016, you were indeed doing better than the fund managers of EPF in share market investing.

Monday, February 13, 2017

PTPTN announced 2016 dividend for SSPN-i and SSPN-i Plus

The Malaysia National Higher Education Fund (Perbadanan Tabung Pendidikan Tinggi Nasional, PTPTN) has just announced dividend for year 2016 for both the education savings schemes SSPN-i (Skim Simpanan Pendidikan Nasional) and SSPN-i Plus respectively on 13 February 2017.

The 2016 SSPN-i and SSPN-I Plus dividend payout rate is 4%, amounting to RM76.74 million. This rate is the same as previous payout for 2015.

According to PTPTN, the number of SSPN-i accounts opened to date is 2.7 million, with deposits amounting to above RM2.6 billion.

There are only 53 thousand SSPN-i Plus accounts opened since its launch on 8 June 2015, and the deposited amount is RM15.8 million.

Historical SSPN-i dividend payout rate is as below:

  • 2016: 4.00%
  • 2015: 4.00%
  • 2014: 4.25%
  • 2013: 4.25%
  • 2012: 4.25%
  • 2011: 3.75%
  • 2010: 3.25%
  • 2009: 2.50%
  • 2008: 4.00%
  • 2007: 4.00%
  • 2006: 4.00%
  • 2005: 4.00%
  • 2004: 3.00%

You can proceed to the Online SSPN-i Statement of Account website for checking of the transactions and amount of savings in your kid's SSPN-i account.

Friday, February 10, 2017

A family trip to Kuala Sepetang (Port Weld), Perak

Kuala Sepetang is a fishing village located just 16km at the west of Taiping, Perak, Malaysia. It is about 72km drive from Ipoh, and 99km drive from Penang. Nearer to the confluence is a Chinese village which most of the houses are wooden and built half on top of the water and half on the landside. There is also a Malay village (a.k.a. kampung) at the adjacent inner land.

The Chinese village is pretty traditional. Most of the houses are wooden. There are several temples around the village. There is also a private independent petrol station at its center.

There are quite a few homestays available in Kuala Sepetang, of which most are not advertised in the Internet and they prefer to be contacted for booking information by phone. There is also a larger scale one called The Happy 8 Retreat @ Sepetang which is well advertised in most of the major online hotel booking websites in the Internet.

Right before arriving the 2 villages of Kuala Sepetang, there is a small junction on the left of the main road, leading to several charcoal factories. The larger and famous one is owned by Khay Hor Holdings Sdn. Bhd, which is free for tourists visit. They can also arrange a guide to explain about the charcoal manufacturing process to the visitors if the crowd is keen to know more about their operations.

There are quite a number of charcoal kilns inside the factory. The entrance (which is sealed as bullet shape on the whiter lower part of the kiln in the photo below) is taller than an adult.

Beside the factory is a small river, which mostly dried out during our visit. Right at the entrance of the factory, you can buy some charcoal soveniors, and a kind of unique natural vinegar with multiple functions.

After visited the charcoal factory, we went straight to our accomodation, which was the Happy 8 Retreats.

This wooden building with an eagle figure in front has already become a famous landmark of Kuala Sepetang. It is a multifunction building, which in front of it is a fishery wholesaller. Inside ground floor is the Happy 8 Retreat receptionist, lobby and dining area.

Do you notice the "cage" outside the wall, on top of the blue signboard? It is actually a lift, accessible from inside the building.

Its 1st floor is a Chinese restaurant named as Makanan Laut Kang Kao. 2nd floor onwards are the rooms of Happy 8 Retreat.

The Happy 8 Retreat at Sepetang is very artistic with wooden theme. Below is the photo of one of its dining table surrounded with decorative wooden designs. We had our next morning breakfast there. The breakfast was included in the accomodation package. It is fixed for each day, instead of buffet style.

Despite its rustic wooden theme, you might be surprised to find out this retreat is well equipped with modern contactless keycard system similar to those used in 5 star hotels.

Our room was river facing with a queen size bed below and 2 more single beds on top, big enough for family stay. The room is equipped with modern electrical system and attached with a modern toilet. WiFi password was provided and its signal was pretty strong and stable.

After settling down, we went to walk around the village.

There is a KTM train station sign which is another famous landmark in Sepetang, which formerly known as Port Weld. In fact, this is the 1st train station in Malaysia which commenced operation in 1885, with a short railway track connected to Taiping. Notice that during those good old days, the sign has 4 languages on it. Today, the train station has already ceased operation and the railway track had been demolished, leaving this sign as memorial.

Nearby, there is a Chinese hawker stall selling the famous curry mee, laksa, red bean drink, ice kacang, etc.

The stall opened at 3pm, and always crowded with long order queue. Outside the stall is another hawker selling prawn crackers which is pretty famous too.

Beside the riverbank, there is one multi-storey brick house which is actually one of the homestays. The price per room per night is RM100 only.

There are houses on both side of the river. We were told by the villager that last time, there was no road linking the 2 sides. Villagers need to take water transport to go over to the other side. A few years ago, a new bridge was built linking the 2 sides. Now the villagers can cross over to the other side by walking or riding on motorcycle, which brings much convenience to them. The photo below was taken at the middle of the bridge.

There are 2 kinds of boat owned by the villagers in Sepetang. One is the fishing boat, and another is the tour boat. Each of the fishing boats is marked with a large alphabet, either A, B or C. The villagers informed that boats of type A are for fishing in the sea, and the boats normally went out for a few days before returning; B is for prawns and crabs catching, while C is for clams and cockles catching.

We went for river sight-seeing on one of the tour boat. Tickets were sold at counters near the jetty.

The first destination is eagles feeding. There are many eagles at the spot hunting for food.

Then, we went to a floating fish farm for fish feeding activity. The fishes are breed in nested cubicles. The workers on the fish farm also shown us some wild animals found there, including puffer fish and horseshoe crab, for photo shooting.

Then, the boat brought us went along the village before returning to the jetty.

At night, we took another tour boat for fireflies seeing at the mangrove forest researve area, which departed at 7.30pm. The tour was slightly more than 1 hour. There were many fireflies on the trees at both side of the riverbank. The fireflies blinked synchronously, which is different from the asynchronous fireflies we saw in Cherating few years back.

The next day, we visited the mangrove forest reserve in the Matang Mangrove Eco-Educational Centre, located diagonally opposite the junction to the charcoal factory. This mangrove forest reserve is said to be the largest of it kind in Malaysia.

Before entering the mangrove forest reserve, we need to purchase ticket at the guard house. We were given a passbook which we can stamp at each of the visiting stations inside the forest. There were quite a lot of monkeys outside the guard house.

Jungle tracking inside the forest is pretty easy and should not be getting lost, as we just need to follow the wooden bridge built on top of the swampy forest to complete our track.

Deep inside the forest, there are also huts and houses for homestays, as well as camping area for campers.

There is also a jetty beside the river, with tour boat service going to sight seeing activity similar to those offerred by the tour boats at the Sepetang village.

If you are interested to have a trip to Kuala Sepetang, you can download the tourist map below (click to enlarge) to plan for your itinerary.

This trip of my family did not cover all the attractions. We didn't visit the Matang Museum nearby, we didn't visit the cockles factory, we didn't visit the Kuala Sangga fishing village, which is a small village only accessible by boat. We also didn't go for dolphin watching, as we were told that dolphin is hardly seen at the season.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

REMAX RC-FC1 handphone/GPS/tablet holder mount stand with magnetic charging cable for car dash or table top

I have just purchased this REMAX RC-FC1 car dash or table top mount stand for handphone, GPS, tablet or other similar gadgets. Beside being a mount stand for the mobile device, it also comes with a magnetic charging mechanism to keep the battery of the mobile device charged.

I found this REMAX RC-FC1 to be very innovative and useful. Its non-slip silicone base can stay firm even on curved surface.

It is very flexible and fit for most mobile devices up to 10" size and not too thick after wearing their case. If the mobile device is too thick, then it might not be able to slot into the 2 holders, which consist of 4 legs each to be attached into the holes of the base.

The base consist of multiple holes to make it very flexible to configure the holder position for different size of mobile device, which you can make them closer for smaller device or for upright screen display, and to make them further apart to support for larger device in landscape display mode.

The magnetic charging cable consists of 2 charging connectors: micro-USB for most Android devices, and Lightning connector for iPhones. Therefore, this car holder is suitable for all mobile devices that use either one of these 2 charging connectors.

The cable is 24cm long, which might be too short to reach the USB port of large tablet in portrait position. It is designed to be magnetically attached to the charging base, so that you can lift your phone or device from the holder without worrying of dragging the whole thing, as the cable will be easily detached from the base if you pull it too far away from the base, to reach your ear, for example. This will ensure the base is still staying firmly on its place, and nothing will be dropped or harmed due to the pulling.

The charging mechanism is essential for your phone or other mobile device to keep its screen on (in "car mode", if possible) and not worrying about its battery being drained out.

Although its main use is for putting your mobile device on car dash, you can also use it to place your phone or tablet on your table top at home or office. In this way, you can make your phone or tablet to be your digital clock / calendar / photo frame, or any other creative display gadget.

You might be interested to watch the video below to know more about this product and its usage.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My Garmin DriveSmart 50LM GPS navigator

I planned to replace my 8 years old Garmin Nuvi 255W (which is still working fine, but just old and a bit slow compared with the new models nowadays) with the new Garmin DriveAssist 50LM which is a 2-in-1 device combining GPS navigator with driving cam recorder.

However, the Garmin DriveAssist 50LM cannot be easily found in local market yet, and I'm unable to get its price detail. I ended up purchased the Garmin DriveSmart 50LM, which is similar to the DriveAssist but without the driving cam recorder function. The price for this AECO set is slightly below RM950 with some free gifts (screen protector, carry case and home USB charger).

This Garmin DriveSmart 50LM GPS navigator contains most of the functions in my Garmin Nuvi 2565LM, and with quite a number of functions not found in the Nuvi 2565LM.

The main improvement found is its ability to integrate and work with smartphones (Android and iPhone) via Bluetooth connection. Apart from the normal Bluetooth hands-free calling and address book function which is already available in Nuvi 2565LM, after installing the 2 apps: Foursquare and Garmin Smartphone Link in the smartphone, you will gain these functions in the DriveSmart 50LM:
  • Getting notification from smartphone and popup on the GPS screen, including new SMS, Whatsapp, calendar alert, etc. There is also an option for the GPS to read out the notification message for you.
  • Searching of POIs to encompass the numerous up-to-date Foursquare POIs.
  • Viewing Foursquare location information including user ratings, restaurant pricing information, operation hours, etc.
  • Sync of favourites and travel history with the phone.
  • Display of weather information and temperature provided by the phone.

There are also some small functions not found in the Nuvi 2565LM available, including the fatique warning which will remind you to take a rest after 2-3 hours of continuous driving.

The search function has also been improved and easier to use.

This DriveSmart 50LM comes with 4GB internal storage, which is large enough to accomodate many maps, JCVs and other data. There is no need to put in micro-SD card for additional storage, although the micro-SD slot is still there.

This AECO set comes with lifetime free MalFreeMaps and City Navigator Singapore/Malaysia NT map, updatable from Garmin's website.

Similar with the Nuvi 2565LM, software update of this DriveSmart 50LM can be done using Garmin Express installed in the computer.

After connecting the Garmin GPS to the computer with USB cable, the Garmin Express can be used to:
  • Register the product for warranty.
  • Perform software update.
  • Install additional language files.
  • Backup favourites to PC.
  • Transfer favourites among different Garmin navigators own by you.
However, there are still things I don't like about this DriveSmart 50LM, including:
  • It is using mini-USB cable (same as the one used by 255W) and not micro-USB cable (the one used by 2565LM). As most of the smartphones and tablets nowadays are using micro-USB (and the latest such as HTC 10 is already using the new USB type-C), this means mini-USB cable is rarely used. This means the GPS cannot share the same USB cable with your smartphone as the connector is different.
  • When connected with smartphone using Smartphone Link, it is able to display new Whatsapp notification, but not until the Whatsapp message detail. When tap to read, it will just read out the sender's detail, but not the message content.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

myFreeview digital TV by MYTV has come and end of analog TV in Malaysia by 2018

If you have a television at your home in Malaysia and you are watching the free analog TV programmes (TV1, TV2, TV3, NTV7, 8TV, 9TV, ...) without subscribing to Astro satelite TV or HyppTV broadband TV, you must be aware that there will be no more analog signal broadcasting to your television from 2018 onwards.

In other words, your television will be unable to show any channel and will be pretty useless by 2018, unless you perform either one or more of the following actions:

  • Get a MYTV digital terrestrial television (DTTV) decoder box (DVB-T2 receiver) to receive the myFreeview digital TV programmes using your existing UHF aerial and send the DTTV signal to your television via HTMI cable or other compatible signal cables.
  • Buy a new television with built in DTTV decoder, certified by MCMC. This kind of television is called integrated digital television (IDTV) and will have a SIRIM approved DTTV sticker on it, which looks like the logo below. You can connect it directly to your existing UHF aerial to watch the TV programmes.

  • Just forget about myFreeview and subscribe to alternatives such as Astro (including Astro NJOI) or HyppTV. 
  • Buy an Internet TV box such as HiMedia to stream TV programmes using the Internet.

The existing free channels (TV1, TV2, TV3, NTV7, 8TV, 9TV, ...) are still free in myFreeview DTTV service. In future, there might be additional payable channels.

Under this DTTV initiative, the Malaysia government is giving away free decoder box to 2 million eligible families. The free decoder will be sent to them via Poslaju service.

The eligibility criteria for the free MYTV decoder box is:
  • Must be registered BR1M beneficiary in 2016.
  • Fall within the B40 income group.
  • Address is within the initial DTTV broadcast coverage area.
In fact, you can click on this link to check for your eligibility to receive this free MYTV decoder box.

Another way of checking is by sending SMS to 15888 with the following content: "MYTV DEKODER ".

The benefits for you to use myFreeview include:
  • Continue to watch the free TV channels after 2017.
  • There will be more upcoming TV channels available.
  • Better quality of picture and audio in digital format. HDTV is possible.
  • Personal video recording functions using the MYTV decoder box sold in the market.
The benefits for the Malaysia government to switch over from analog to DTTV:
  • The 700Mhz band currently occupied by the analog TV broadcasting will be freed up in 2018. This band can be reallocated for mobile LTE (4G & 5G) services.
  • It is easier to track your TV watching behaviour and pattern using the digital box, perhaps for big data analysis.
The benefits for Syed Mokhtar al-Bukhary in this initiative:
  • His company Puncak Semangat Sdn Bhd got the 15-years contract to operate MYTV.

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