Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Family Money: The Cost of Learning

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

For many, the cost of raising and educating children puts a tremendous strain on the family budget. These costs are rising faster than inflation, and in most cases income isn’t keeping pace. Most parents will do whatever they can to provide the best education for their children, but this often means sacrifices in other areas: fewer holidays, waiting to buy the new car, putting off home improvements.

Most parents would like to send their children to college. But even if the child is bright, the family finances may not stretch that far – especially when there are other younger children in the family that have to be fed and clothed as well.

Not only the poor have trouble at the start of every school term. Middle-class Thais and even the well-to-do also feel the pinch. As do many retired or semi-retired expatriates who have started a new family here. And even working expatriates who have children going to school ‘back home’ and who do not qualify for State grants or support.

How to find the large sums of money required to educate children is a perennial problem, and not just at the start of the school year.

So how can you make sure that you will be able to finance the ever-increasing cost of education? I would like to offer some simple suggestions as follows:

Step 1: Know the various options. Different schools offer different standards and programme options. Obviously, the state schools and universities are the cheapest. The numbers in the accompanying table are annual education expenses (in baht) that do not include entrance fees or room and board. Somewhat daunting figures, aren’t they?

Step 2: Project the future cost. Just when you think the numbers in the table seem astronomical, you have to realise that inflation will cause those costs to increase by the time your child reaches that level of education. And as mentioned earlier, education costs both here and internationally are increasing at a higher rate than inflation.

If you want to send your child to a college in the UK that currently charges an annual fee of ฃ25,000 (or roughly equivalent to 1.6 million baht), in 10 years these fees will probably have risen to around ฃ40,000 (or 2.5 million baht), assuming education cost rise at an annual UK inflation rate averaging only 5% p.a. This also assumes that the exchange rate in 10 years time is the same as now.

Step 3: Check the possibilities. Knowing that you will need to have roughly ฃ125,000 (or 8 million baht) available for your child’s three-year college education in the UK starting in 2013, calculate how much you need to have today, and how much that sum needs to grow to reach that target.

Here are a few scenarios that will give you 8 million baht in 2013:

*Your principal of ฃ48,125 (??3.1 million baht) annually earns an average of 10% net;

*Your principal of ฃ58,000 (? 3.7 million baht) annually earns an average of 8% net;

*Your principal of ฃ70,000 (??4.5 million baht) annually earns an average of 6% net.

Of course, there are other combinations. The point of this logic is that the less principal you start with, the higher the return it will have to generate.

But you shouldn’t be taking undue risks with your children’s education. Thus you shouldn’t be going into higher risk investments, which may dip and lose money just when you need it to pay the school fees. You should be projecting conservative growth figures on a conservatively-stanced portfolio rather than expecting higher returns on a higher-risk portfolio.

But even if you do not have a lump sum of capital to invest into your children’s education fund today, you may still be able to achieve the target of 8 million baht within the timeframe of your window of opportunity, by investing a regular amount every month or quarter for the next 10 years.

With a regular savings program you can in fact afford to take on a higher degree of risk to achieve a potentially higher rate of return, because the principle of unit-cost averaging is working to your advantage. When the markets are down you are buying more ‘cheap’ units in your chosen investments; when the market are high, you are buying fewer ‘expensive’ units. The price you pay for units over time averages out – and provided the unit price when you come to cash up your investments is higher than the average you paid for units, you will make a profit, no matter what the markets did in the meantime.

Step 4: Create the investment portfolio. Assuming you start with a principal of 3.5 million baht, you will need to construct a portfolio of investments that will give you the target yield for 10 years.

There is no way that the asset class with which you are most familiar – the bank deposit – can give you such a yield.

Appropriate proportions of various assets – cash, bonds, stocks, mutual funds, gold, properties – will be able to give you the target yield. However, you should realise that the annual returns will not be constant for 10 years: they will fluctuate from year to year.

You may even have a loss in some years if the proportion of more volatile (which means risky) assets such as stocks is sizeable in your portfolio.

In such cases, do not be alarmed. When you have time on your side, you can take on higher risk assets – e.g., stocks – to increase the return potential. I would argue that you will be better off in 10 years if you start adding stocks into your investment portfolio when the indices are comparatively low, as they still are now.


Personal Directions: How do we define Success?

By Christina Dodd,

Recently in my discussions with people about life direction and achievement, the subject of success and failure became one of passionate debate. Everyone holds their own definition of success, and today I would like to share some views that author Shiv Khera has on the subject, which are simple but very real, and perhaps they will hold some inspiration for you.

“How do we define success? What makes a person successful? How do we recognize success? To some people, success might mean wealth. To others, it is recognition, good health, good family, happiness, satisfaction, and peace of mind. What this really tells us is that success is subjective. It can mean different things to different people. The definition that I feel summarizes “success” well is: Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal. - Earl Nightingale

Let’s look at these definitions carefully. “Progressive” means that success is a journey, not a destination. We never arrive. After we reach one goal, we go on to the next and the next and the next. “Realization” means it is an experience. Outside forces cannot make me feel successful. I have to feel it within myself. It is internal not external. “Worthy” refers to our value system. Which way are we heading? Positive or negative? Worthiness determines the quality of the journey. That is what gives meaning and fulfillment. Success without fulfillment is empty.

Why are “Goals” important? Because they give us a sense of direction. Success does not mean being accepted by everyone. There are some groups that I would not want to be accepted by, out of choice. I would rather be criticized by fools than appreciated by unsavory characters. Success results from inspiration, aspiration, desperation and perspiration; and generally in that sequence. Success and happiness go hand in hand. Success is getting what you want and happiness is wanting what you get! Existence alone is not success! It is a lot more! Do more than exist – live, Do more than touch – feel, Do more than look – observe, Do more than read – absorb, Do more than hear – listen, Do more than listen – understand - John H. Rhoades.

Some Obstacles to Success (real or imagined)

Ego; fear of failure/success; lack of self-esteem; no plan and lack of formalized goals; life changes; procrastination; family responsibility; financial security issues; lack of focus – being in a muddle; doing too much alone; over-commitment; lack of commitment; lack of training; lack of persistence; lack pf priorities.

The Winning Edge

In order to get the winning edge, we need to strive for excellence, not perfection. Striving for perfection is neurotic; striving fro excellence is progress, because there is nothing that can’t be done better or improved.

All that we need is a little edge. The winning horse in the race wins 5-to-1 or 10-to-1. Do you think he is five or ten times faster than the other horses? Of course not. He may only be faster by a fraction, by a nose, but the rewards are five or ten times greater. Is it fair? Who cares? It doesn’t matter. Those are the rules of the game. That is the way the game is played. The same is true in our lives. Successful people are not ten times smarter than the people who fail. They may be better by a nose, but the rewards are ten times bigger.

We don’t need to improve 1,000% in any one area. All we need is to improve 1% in 1,000 different areas, which is a lot easier. That is the winning edge!

Struggle

Trials in life can be tragedies or triumphs, depending on how we handle them. Triumphs don’t come without effort. A biology teacher was teaching his students how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. He told the students that in the next couple of hours, the butterfly would struggle to come out of the cocoon, but no one should help the butterfly. Then he left. The students were waiting and it happened. The butterfly struggled to get out of the cocoon, and one of the students took pity on it and decided to help the butterfly out of the cocoon against the advice of his teacher. He broke the cocoon to help the butterfly so it didn’t have to struggle anymore. But shortly afterwards the butterfly died. When the teacher returned, he was told what happened. He explained to this student that by helping this butterfly, he had actually killed it because it is a law of nature that the struggle to come out of the cocoon actually helps develop and strengthen its wings. The boy had deprived the butterfly of its struggle and the butterfly died.

Apply this same principle to our lives. Nothing worthwhile in life comes without a struggle. As people and as parents we tend to hurt the ones we love most because we don’t allow them to struggle to gain strength.

Overcoming Obstacles

People who have overcome obstacles are more secure than those who have never faced them. We all have problems and we fell discouraged some time. Most people get disappointed; but winners don’t get disheartened. The answer is perseverance. An English proverb says, “A smooth sea never made a skilful mariner.” Everything is difficult before it becomes easy.

How Do We Measure Success?

True success is measured by the feeling of knowing you have done a job well and have achieved your objective. Success is not measured by our position in life but by the obstacles we overcame to get there.

Success in life is not determined by how we are doing compared with others, but by how we are doing with what we are capable of doing. Successful people compete against themselves. They better their own record and keep improving constantly. Success is not measured by how high we go up in life but by how many times we bounce back when we fall down. It is this bounce-back ability that determines success.”

If you would like to send me your thoughts on this subject or to contact me about personal life direction or indeed our professional training and executive coaching programs, please email me at Christina.dodd @asiatrainingassociates.com Until next time, have a wonderful week!


The Doctor's Consultation: How’s your liver these days? Still living?

by Dr. Iain Corness

Ask any man which is his most important organ and he will undoubtedly point to his bladder’s siphon hose. Perhaps the magic symbol of masculinity, but it is certainly not the be all and end all. (Though indiscriminate use can end everything!)

The liver is one of the more important organs you possess. Without it you will die, whereas you can get by without a kidney, or a lung or a thyroid, or even the willy for example. Yes, I’d rate my liver above my thyroid any day.

Think of your liver as a filtering and de-toxifying device. Chemicals are taken up by the liver, to be broken down into non-toxic chemicals, all to protect your system. Clever organ your liver.

The most well known liver toxin is our old friend Ethanol, more usually referred to as booze. That alcohol affects the liver is accepted, with the end result being called Cirrhosis, a fibrous hardening of the liver which then becomes unable to carry out its job correctly. Toxins build up. You feel unwell and it’s all downhill from there.

Some proprietary or prescription drugs can produce an inflammation of the liver tissues too. Or worse, produce a breakdown of the liver tissue itself. Amongst these is the headache medication paracetamol (the ubiquitous “Sara” tablets, for example), but before you throw them out of your bathroom cabinet, it requires some heavy and very frequent dosage of paracetamol to do this.

Other prescription items that may produce liver problems include Methyldopa, several penicillins, Simvastatin (the cholesterol lowering drug), Diclofenac (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) and Ketoconazole (anti-fungal).

Prescription drugs can be dangerous (even though you can get most of them over the counter in Thailand), that’s why they have a PI (patient information) leaflet inside the box, (the bit you throw away and don’t read).

However, what about “Health” food preparations? The purveyors of these all cite the fact that the ingredients are “natural” so everyone assumes that this means “safe”. Not so, I’m afraid. Lead, for example, is a naturally occurring compound, and not much good for young kidneys. However, since we are talking about liver problems, hands up all those of you who have heard of Echinacea? Supposedly fixes everything from falling hair to fallen arches - but is it “safe”? Well, Echinacea, along with Kombucha Tea are two of the commonest compounds showing a well documented history of being toxic to the liver. So if you’re sipping Kombucha tea because you’ve drunk too much alcohol, I would suggest that you change to water!

Others for sale in the Health Food shops with known toxic effects on the liver include Evening primrose oil, Valerian, Chaparral, Japanese Daisaiko-to (for dyspepsia), Chinese Jin-bu-huan and several forms of herbal teas such as those from Heliotroprium, Senecio crotalaria and Symphytum. Makes you think that the shops that sell them may be incorrectly named, doesn’t it!

But while the column this week seems to be spreading doom, gloom and disaster, it’s not quite that bad. The liver is a very powerful organ and is capable of regenerating itself quite quickly, so in most cases of toxicity following ingestion of chemical compounds, by stopping taking it the liver recovers and the patient feels well again.

So remember that if you are taking anything regularly and you feel unwell, it may be the liver - but tell your doctor everything you have been taking! And no thanks, I’ll give the herbal tea a miss today.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
I suffer from a ‘windy bottom’ if you’ll excuse the directness of my query to you. In the private confines of my own salon at home, this does not produce a problem, but at the office with the usual loo under the stairs, and the staff all queuing up after elevenses, it becomes very embarrassing. The office girls are already looking askance at me, and some have even begun spraying air-fresh after my visit. Have you any suggestions that can help?
Windy

Dear Windy,
The answer to your melodious but malodorous problem is not easy, my Petunia. It sounds (if you’ll excuse the pun) like you may have to take evasive rather than evacuative action here. Where is the closest large hotel relative to your office? When in desperation, Hillary has always found that by striding purposely through the foyer of the nearest hotel and heading towards the far right corner you will usually find a toilet. Whilst not in the privacy of your own ‘salon’ as you so nicely put it, at least no-one knows who is playing the bugle in the next stall. As far as a long term ‘cure’ is concerned, this is well out of my territory, but I would recommend you find a copy of the book Le Petomaine (long out of print, so try Amazon dot com) as the author had the same problem as you, but used it to his advantage to make a large amount of money. He is quoted as having farted his way to a fortune, so there is a noisy future ahead for you, my Petal. You will need to have some satin shorts made with allowance made for exhaust gas escape, but the book has the description you need.
Dear Hillary,
The other night in the bar we had a discussion whether Thai females are romantic. I say that they are, but my drinking buddies all say not. They said that all they are interested in are large amounts of gold, and the larger the better. Surely there are still some gals out there who appreciate roses and chocolates (apart from you, Hillary)? I need you to back me up here, Hillary.
Robert de Roses

Dear Robert de Roses,
Such a lovely name, especially if said in the French way, “Roberr de Rose”. Of course there are romantic ladies left in Thailand, other than myself. It sounds to me as if your drinking buddies are looking for ladies from the wrong watering holes. The professional ladies who come to the surface with the buffalos in tow are certainly only looking for gold. That is their business, their profession (and an old one at that). However, by looking in the universities, offices and even department stores, you will find ladies who appreciate being appreciated. You are correct, Robert. Your friends are taking too narrow a sample to base their findings.
Dear Hillary,
I have been invited to go and see an up country village with my girlfriend. I thought this was being very generous of her, but as the time to go up country gets closer, I am having some second thoughts. Far from the “we’ll go up by bus” it now seems that we will have to hire a car as I am told that she needs to take some things up to her mother. Things that are too large to carry on the bus! She is also saying that I should take up some money to give her mother, and numbers like $2,000 dollars are being given as an example. Is this usual? Or am I being used as a sucker?
Unsure

Dear Unsure,
This is very usual, in certain areas of Thailand, but Hillary does not mean geographical areas. I mean certain bar areas. You are not being played as a sucker, you are being viewed as a cash cow and as such are standing there waiting to be milked. It is high time to take off the blinkers, slip the noose, head on out of the stall and canter off to better pastures. You’re not a friend of Robert de Roses are you? You seem to be very limited in your experience of ‘real’ life.
Dear Hillary,
How do you pick the best girls? We see so many beautiful girls and yet hear so many horrific stories that we are just a little worried about getting involved with any of the local lasses. Have you any tips you could give a couple of likely lads from the UK on holidays?
The Lads.

Dear Lads,
Just what did you have in mind, Petals? Settling down with your long time girlfriends of several days and raising chickens? Honestly, you men these days are such wimps! What is wrong with just enjoying some lady’s company and behaving as you would in your own town back home? Would you buy some girl you just met in a pub in Battersea a motorbike, several ounces of gold and contract to send her children to school and look after her mother for ever? That is what all the “horrendous tales” are about, my lads. Keep your wits about you, behave properly and do as you would in your own country. There’s no secret to it all.


Camera Class: The Final Guide to Videography

by Harry Flashman

The biggest problem when looking at ‘home video’ is boredom. It is never boredom on the part of the videographer however, but boredom on the part of the audience! This week I have a few guidelines which will make your videos more appealing, and more interesting for your audience. Again I repeat that you should spend some time looking critically at TV and movies, as these are your readily available ‘text books’ and examples. Even the ‘soaps’ can teach you something, other than how to stop screaming at the awful acting.

Firstly, remember that your major goal as a videographer is to create moving images which will make your audience want to continue watching your programme. This does not mean that every video you shoot has to be something new, as most video productions are about ordinary people doing ordinary things with ordinary objects. , it is only your creative skill and talent which can make such events seem extra-ordinary and worth a viewer’s time.

One very common mistake made by all photographers, as well as videographers, is to only shoot from the most convenient or accessible location and point of view. Lazy photographers stand with their feet set in concrete and the camera at their eye level. This is not the way to do it.

The position of the camera relative to the subject makes an enormous difference in the shot and its impact. If the camera is higher than the subject, this creates a feeling of inferiority, helplessness or isolation between the viewer and the subject. In other words, you are literally, as well as metaphorically, ‘looking down’ on your subject.

Going to the other extreme, if the camera is lower than the subject, the audience will see the subject as superior, strong and overwhelming. You are now ‘looking up’ to the subject. The camera (the viewer) is inferior.

Keeping the camera level with the subject’s eyes makes the audience and the subject “eye-to-eye.” They are seen and felt as equals. Keep this in mind when shooting and be prepared to get down to the subject’s level. This is particularly important when shooting children. Get down to their level and become to see the world from their angle.

Despite the fact that all pro shoots entail the use of a tripod, it is still one of the least used pieces of equipment by the home videographer. Let’s be honest - most of you don’t even have one! And that goes for still photographers too. However, if you want to keep the audience’s attention, and not waste time and batteries, here are a few tips to produce ‘shake proof’ video tape with hand-held video cameras.

The first thing to do is to set the zoom lens at the maximum wide angle position and set the focus at around 2 metres. The wide lens position and focus setting gives you maximum depth of field with sharp focus from about 0.5 metres in front of the camera lens to infinity in bright sunlight. This range guarantees sharp focus no matter how close or far away you are from the subject.

By not using the zoom, this will make you become more aware of the position where you are shooting from, and make you walk into the action, instead of just standing there and ‘zooming’ in. It will also mean that you become more agile and start shooting from different angles as well. By shooting this way, you will end up with more footage to play with during final editing.

Of course, you should not forget to try and look for ways to steady the hand-held camera. Leaning against walls, trees, telegraph poles will help, as will sitting down if you need the lower point of view.

If you practice all the pointers given over the past couple of weeks you will notice an improvement in your video films, and even more importantly, so will your audience! Lots of luck. And lots of practice is the answer!!


Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums: The 12 days of Christmas from Dr. Byte

On the first day of Christmas, I will write to Santa and ask Santa to give me a SPAM Inhibitor.

On the second day of Christmas, I will pray for a secure firewall.

On the third day of Christmas, I hope that Santa will think of me and send me something that would sniff out Worms, Adware, Spyware, Cookies and Trojan Horses and provide real-time protection against them.

On the fourth day of Christmas, I will suggest to Santa that he give me a wide screen, LCD thin, 24 inch Display

On the fifth day of Christmas, I will tell Santa that he has to send me something to backup my favorite DVD movies to fit them on standard 700MB CD’s.

On the sixth day of Christmas, I will telephone Santa and get him to find a gadget that changes CD’s automatically.

On the seventh day of Christmas, I will speak to Thai Telephones and asked them to put me through urgently to Santa so I can tell him to drop everything and get me the fastest memory manager to enable my PC to work more efficiently.

On the eighth day of Christmas, I will send Santa an SMS to ask him for a utility to allow me to look up MS Windows error codes.

On the ninth day of Christmas, I will send Santa an email demanding a mail classification program that helps separate my spam from real email.

On the tenth day of Christmas, I will email all Santa’s elves asking them to make sure Santa brings me something that will accelerate my PC Internet speed up to 1000%.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, I will send a Voice-mail to Santa threatening him that he just has to send me the ONLY PC crash recovery program designed so anyone can get their PC back up and running in minutes.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, I just want to sit down with Santa, the Elves, Rudolf and all the Reindeers and enjoy a quiet day of Turkey, all the trimmings, roast potatoes, vegies, steaming pudding and custard.

There’s only one snag - I wonder if there really is a Santa Claus?

Good news for the last couple of weeks of the old year: Broadband Internet use is expected to grow significantly next year, however, lower prices alone will not stimulate the market, according to researchers. This means its coming soon.

Cable, Broadband....fast fast fast internet connections, just like they have back home.

A senior analyst for IDC, said the three major inhibitors to growth in broadband numbers here had been the coverage area, the relatively high price as well as a lack of content. Currently, the coverage area for broadband service is limited to 5 kilometres from a public telephone (digital) switching centre. As a result access is available in the city or commercial areas only and mostly used for business purposes or by those with a high disposable income.

One recent market driver is online gaming (and there may be legality problems). However, there must be continued content development for broadband, such as video streaming or webcasting, according to IDC. Last week, the ICT Ministry proposed a project that could see lower charges for residential broadband access in order to boost the market, suggesting a target of one million users next year.

TOT Corp is planning to charge 900 baht per month for a 256kbps link and 1,000 baht per month for a 512kbps during a trial period. It did not say how long the trial period would be. TelecomAsia (TA) chief executive Supachai Chearavanont said TA supported the ministry’s cheap broadband proposal, as it would give users more convenient access to global resources, but he would like the ministry to rethink international link costs, which make it hard for the private sector to respond to the plan.

In addition to lower access costs, ICT Minister Dr Surapong is negotiating with ADSL equipment providers - namely Ericsson, Siemens and Samsung - to sell the ADSL modems at not more than 1,000 baht next year if the sales volume could reach 100,000 for the year. The current price is 4,000-5,000 baht plus the cost of connection and ISP costs.

>From everyone here and from me, I wish all of you a wonderful New Year and pray that the New Year brings all that you dream and wish for. For me, the possibility of cheap and easy cable/broadband internet access almost sounds too good to be true.
Dr Byte