April 20, 2012

“You want cheaper? No problem ...”

 I hear people complaining that things are getting so expensive nowadays … “Everything is so EXPENSIVE !”… they complained. Even coffee and tea are expensive now … and they say it is because of inflation.

OK, let’s do a bit of ‘kopi’ (coffee) economics … what is inflation? Recalling what I learned when I studied part time economics (many years ago) … inflation is “the cost measured against the value over a period of time” … correct? Any economics PhDs out there can clarify this? So if the cost of a cup of coffee and the actual value of the coffee both increase proportionately over time … you don’t call this inflation … it is just simple growth. But of course, those who complained will argue that the cost the coffee has increased exponentially compared to the value of the coffee (has it confuse you yet? If you are not confused, you are not paying attention … that’s economics). So they say it is inflation.

Inflation? Not  really … look, the cost of coffee has increased but the cost here doesn’t mean just the actual cost of the coffee alone … it includes other costs … like packaging, comfort, convenience, branding and other intangibles that were built in. So you are not paying more because of inflation … you are paying more than just the coffee. Those people who complained that coffee is expensive … well, stop drinking at Starbucks … go to the local “kopitiam” where a cup of coffee cost only RM1.80 … yes, even this cost has increased from several years ago … naturally, as the economy grows.

Then people say petrol is expensive … I agree … 100%. As a matter of fact, when my wife suggested that we go ‘somewhere expensive’ to celebrate her birthday … I was tempted to take her to the petrol station … IT IS an expensive place, don’t you think? So, petrol is expensive … simply because this natural resource is diminishing. Then how? Drive a smaller capacity car … that’s it. But hey, the irony is, those who are yelping that the petrol is expensive are actually those who drive the high end guzzlers … these monsters don’t just burn petrol … they practically gulp down liters by the seconds. If you want to buy an expensive, high capacity, top performance, ‘I look damn good in it’ car … don’t come tell me petrol is expensive.

I can accept the ice cream man running around in his three-wheeler earning a meagre income complain that the petrol is expensive … but not those who drive a monster 4WD with engine the size of my writing table.

Not so long ago, I was invited to a party at a huge modern 4-storey bungalow with state-of-the-art security system linked to some sort of electronic control gadgets and what not. I know the owner via a business acquaintance of mine and somehow I was invited along. When talking about the house, the owner told me that his house needs 22 air-conditioning systems to keep it cool and comfortable … almost all running 24 hours a day. WOW! That’s COOL … literally. The owner then said to me … “The electricity is so EXPENSIVE !!!  You know, it cost me RM16,000 a month”. I looked at him, kept quiet … but really, inside me was like ‘TIU NIA SING’ (for those who don’t know …. it means ‘WHAT THE F**K’) … a guy who owns a huge bungalow that cost a few millions bucks with 22 air-conditioning systems (not to mention other electric and electronic systems and gadgets) in the house complained that the electricity is expensive? What did he expect … a couple hundred of dollars???  I cannot understand these people … can afford to buy a cow but cannot afford the string?

YES, price of things are increasing but then at the end of the day it boils down to what do you want? You want the basic necessity or you want a bit of comfort or do you want luxury? Just pay accordingly. I once heard my regular mechanic (he is one cocky fellow) said to one of his customers who complained that the service charge of his BMW was expensive … the mechanic told the BMW owner … “You want cheaper, no problem … next time, bring a Proton!”

April 04, 2012

You think I am rich?

You think I am rich? Many people think so … they said to me “Wah! Shiek, you send your kids to private international school, you must have a lot of money stashed up”. Halo, let me clarify … I did not send my kids to a private international school (please note I highlighted ‘international school’ in bold) … I cannot afford a full scale private international school with huge football fields, big nice air-conditioned activity halls, international standard sports arena, Olympic size swimming pool and state-of–the-art computer facilities that spread over several acres of land where students wear expensive uniforms and have their breaks in alfresco styled cafeteria. Nope … I definitely cannot afford that.

I send my son (and my daughter too when she goes to secondary education) to a private education centre operated from a row of shops with a decent library, a nice eatery, small classrooms and an up-to-date computer room. And no need for fancy uniforms … smart and casual will do. That, is within my ability … that much I can do for my kid’s education. The important thing is, my kids get to study the same syllabus, sit for the same exams and exposed to the same learning skills as those who are enrolled in private international schools. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against private international schools … their facilities are definitely better. If you can afford to write a bigger cheque, go for it. I wish I could. And for that matter, I am also not saying that our national type schools are not good … just different learning exposure.

 The irony is, the same people who commented that I send my kids for private education actually earn a lot more than I do … but they say they cannot afford a different (if not better) education platform for their children … I wonder why? They have better houses (most have more than one house), they drive big cars (and change their cars every other year) and they definitely have higher incomes. They can afford twice yearly overseas holidays for the whole family, they don’t mind losing thousands of dollars (in depreciation) when they change their cars, they own luxury brands but somehow they tell me they can’t afford private education for their kids. They say I am rich and they are not … hmmm, strange.

So you think I am rich? Don’t think … I tell you now. I have a house, I have a car, I have savings, I have an income … really I have a lot. It doesn’t matter if it is a small house, it doesn’t matter if it is a cheap car, it doesn’t matter how much I saved, it doesn’t matter how much I earned … I have a lot more than many people in this world. YES, I can say I am rich, simply because I don’t measure myself in material value. I am rich simply because I don’t spend unnecessarily. I am rich, simply because I don’t spend more than I earn. And let me tell you what my late father (even though he died penniless) once told me … he said “I am rich because I don’t not owe anyone, anything”.