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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Choosing The Right Savings Account For Your Children - Part 2

This is part 2 of a guest post by Joanne Lee who also wrote the very popular post on The Importance of Penmanship in SJKC. The post below was written due to her own research on what 10 different banks have to offer in terms of savings accounts for children. Thank you, Joanne for your time in doing this research and putting it down in writing to share with all of us on the Malaysia Primary School Parents On Facebook.

If you haven’t read Part 1 where we compared interest rates of 13 different junior savings accounts, do check that one out first before continuing with this post. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Back for Part 2 already? Let’s dive in.

What you need to know: Dormant accounts are bad for business!

It is important that you do not let your junior savings accounts go dormant. Going dormant means going through 12 months of no transactions (deposits or withdrawals) at all.

Most banks will make an attempt to send mail to your registered mailing address or to call you and inform you about this before it happens, provided you keep your contact details updated.

Once a bank account goes dormant, the money will still be in there, but banks will start charging a RM10 service fee for keeping your money with them.

This is chargeable annually, which means for every year your account is dormant, not only do you not reap any interest, you also get RM10.60 (GST 6%) deducted from your account (per year).

They will do this for 7 years before they send the remaining money to Bank Negara. You can still claim that money back but the bank will be of no part of the process -- even though, they had already taken RM74.20 (RM10.60 x 7) out of it first.

To reactivate your account, just bring your passbook and identification documents to your bank and ask for the account to be reactivated. There will be a penalty fee of RM10, but at least your account will be gathering interest instead of making losses from there on.

Apart from withdrawal fees and dormant account fees, there is another fee you should be aware of. If you have just recently opened a bank account and decided you want to switch your savings to another account, hold your horses because there are early closure fees.

These range between 3 months to 6 months, dependent on the bank. The fees will be no more than RM20, plus the RM1.20 GST. Before you make any move, wait out the stipulated period to avoid paying these fees.

Table 3 Early Closure fees and Dormant fees

Early Closure fees and Dormant fees

What you should know: Don’t ignore the game changers

You can call these gimmicks if you like but if it is there in black and white, you can always lay claim on these benefits if the chance pops up.

There are monetary rewards for the studious (requires a minimum balance in the account maintained in the year leading up to the submission, personal accident coverage (which is dependent on your balance, and always has a maximum amount you can claim), a point scoring system for redeeming goods, etc.

If you want to provide your teenager with some financial freedom, some of these products come with ATM cards, easy-to-reload debit cards, an online monitoring system so parents can track their kid’s spending, or a spending limit if teens prefer to have some privacy with their spending habits, and other features that can help you teach your kids financial literacy.

Table 4 Other offerings by the same junior savings products

Other offerings by the same junior savings products

What you should know: Don’t overlook FD as an alternative.

This particular section is for those who want to save for the long term and have no plans to withdraw money from their children’s savings. In this case, it is possible that a fixed deposit is a better option for your savings, compared to a junior savings account that comes with a lot of strings.

But before that...

Understanding Fixed Deposits

As the defining thing about Fixed Deposits is that they are fixed, once you put in the money, you can’t remove it until the end of the period you signed up for.

These periods could range from 1 month all the way to 12 months (1 year) and even up to 60 months (5 years). If you take it out before the FD matures (reach the end of the period or tenure), you forfeit the interest, either fully or by half, depending on the bank’s TnC.

As for the interest, you have the option to reinvest the interest or to shift it into a savings account where you can withdraw it for use.

For 1-month FD, most banks require at least RM5000 as an initial deposit. If you go for 2 months or more, this can drop to RM1000 or RM500. 

Alright, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at which banks offer better FD rates than their junior savings. 

  1. For easier comparison, I’m picking the basic FD product instead of listing all the different products banks are offering now (for working adults, for elderly etc) 
  2. For brevity, I will be listing 1 month rates, 12 month rates and 60 month rates. 
  3. To know the exact rate for tenures apart from these three, please check at the bank or their websites.
  4. A lot of the withdrawal options are gleaned from the Terms and Conditions attached to the products.

Table 5 FD rates vs Junior Savings rates

FD rates vs Junior Savings rates

**Withdrawal notes: 
  1. For 1-month, 2-months and 3-months FD, withdrawal before maturity automatically forfeits the interest.
  2. For tenures longer than 3 months, any withdrawal before the first 3 months is up also forfeits the interest.
  3. For longer tenures (for some banks 6 months, other banks 12 months), premature withdrawal will incur a loss of half the FD rate. This means you only get half of the FD rate x completed months.

Lastly, keep an eye out for promotional FD rates around Chinese New Year. Some banks offer rates of more than 4% e.g. HLB had a recent promotional 4.35% rate, while OCBC offers a 4.38% rate and Ambank offered a 4.03%. If you missed it this year, keep an eye out for it next year.

Note that these promotions require a higher deposit amount, usually RM10,000 as well as a 12-month FD commitment (although some can go for as short as 8 months only, check out Ambank for deals like this).


Phew, so there you have it. We hope this post will make it easier for you to make decisions and more importantly, it will open your eyes to how these bank products function. If you are in any doubt, please do not hesitate to speak to your banks before, not after, you sign up for any bank products.

If you want to look at a table that has all the information above grouped together, follow this link.

It has been suggested to me that I cover other investment options (unit trust, REITs, insurance, educational bonds) outside of junior savings. Whether this article will happen or not depends on your response to this post. Do let us know either way.

Final note: I’d like to thank Peachie Berry, KJB and other parents for their help in this article.

  1. The information above is not exhaustive. 
  2. Information inside may be changed down the road by the banks and their changes may not be reflected on this article. There is however an easy remedy to this -- ask your bank for details and confirmation before you sign up for anything.
  3. I am not trained financially or in legal speak. My interpretations of the terms and conditions as well as the information portrayed on the bank websites are only to the best of my abilities as a layperson. In my defence, the terms should be written with us, the laypersons, in mind.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

English Courses For Young Learners April 2018 Intake at British Council Malaysia

The April 2018 intake for Young Learners Courses at the British Council Malaysia is currently ongoing.

The Young Learners Courses are English courses for kids and teens aged 5 to 17. Some of the courses you can sign up for include the following:
  • Primary Plus for kids from 5 to 11
  • Upper Primary for kids from 10 to 12
  • Secondary for kids from 13 to 17
Classes are on every Saturday and Sunday, 2 hours per class for 10 weeks per term. The new term starts on 31st March 2018. All course modules are age appropriate and match specific child development needs for each level. 

How To Join A Young Learners Course At British Council.

The age group shown above is a guide. For example, your 10 year old child may join the Primary Plus or the Upper Primary class depending on his or her level. Every child learns at the most appropriate level at British Council. That's why your child will need to sit for an assessment test to determine his or her level. The placement test takes 60 minutes. You will then be advised on the best level and course for your child. This is to make sure he or she learns at the pace they are most comfortable at.

Did you know that you can book a placement test online to determine your child's level? Here's how you can register online early to secure a booking slot..

Go to this link to book a placement test.

When you enter the link, you will see the following. Select your preferred center and click on the green "Book" button.

Next, you will see the following. Select your preferred date and time.

If you can't find an available slot or if you have any questions before booking your placement test, you can complete the form on this page or alternatively, you can call 603 2723 7900 to find out more about the April 2018 intake. Remember to book early to secure a slot at a time most convenient to you.

Choosing The Right Savings Account For Your Children - Part 1

This guest post came about because of the discussion that was raised in our Facebook group: The Malaysia Primary School Parents On Facebook. We really appreciate active members who share generously like Joanne Lee who also wrote the very popular post on The Importance of Penmanship in SJKC. The post below was written due to her own research on what 10 different banks have to offer in terms of savings accounts for children. Thank you, Joanne for doing the research on behalf of parents who enquired.

As parents, we can’t help but worry about our children’s education and future. That’s why some of us started saving for our kids from the day they were born.

The obvious choice for most is a junior savings account. This refers to special bank products that are aimed at savers below the age of 18. These accounts enjoy higher interest rates, some as high as fixed deposit (FD) rates, but unlike FD you can still withdraw from these junior savings accounts.

That said, not all junior savings are created equal.

After a few parents started a discussion about which bank offers the best junior savings, I went through all the pros and cons, benefits and conditions of kids savings bank accounts offered by 10 different banks.

What started out as a fact-finding mission just to answer a few questions turned into a full-fledged research project. So if you’re looking for an answer to the question, “Which is the best bank for my children to open a savings account?”, this is the post for you.

What To Look Out For

If you are looking for the interest rates for comparison, I have grouped them all together in a table for easy viewing.

There are 13 products from 9 banks listed. I chose these due to their competitive rates. There are other banks out there but putting them into this table makes the comparison a bit lopsided.

You will be able to see info such as age eligibility, initial deposit required as well as the multi-tiered rates that are dependent on the balance in the account.

Note! These are the rates that turn up during the research for this article. By the time you read this, it is possible that the figures have been changed by the banks. Before you make any financial decisions, please take the time to check with your bank for their most updated and current rates.

Table 1 Interest rates of Junior Savings Bank Accounts

Interest rates of Junior Savings Bank Accounts

What You Need To Know: Junior savings products have much higher interest rates compared to what adult savings products get.

If you don’t already know, regular savings bank accounts have pitiful interest rates, hovering around 0.3 to 0.6% at best.

As you can see in Table 1, junior savings bank accounts offer 10 times the interest rate of their adult counterparts. If you’re not under the age of 18, the only way you can see those rates is if you put your money in FD, or if you put in a large amount.

If you are below the age of 18, most of these banks (bar 2 exceptions) are available to you. Some require as little as RM1 as an initial deposit; the highest amount is RM500 for OCBC Young Savers.

The age requirement is something important to take note of a good 10, 15 years from now, Because the moment the account holder turns 18, their junior savings account will be converted into conventional savings and their interest rates will drop to measly figures.

As a reminder, interest rates will change from bank to bank and they may even change more than once a year per bank.

What You Need To Know: Interest rates may come with conditions

If you grab a pamphlet from the counter in any bank, you will probably see the interest rate figures printed in large fonts, and if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll probably miss out on the conditions you have to fulfill in order to “earn” those rates.

The savings amount and withdrawal options both play important roles in helping one decide the right savings account for their children. Check out the table to find out why.

Table 2 How to keep or earn the Interest rates they print on the pamphlet

How to keep or earn the Interest rates they print on the pamphlet
* Watch out for the link to the comprehensive combined comparison chart in our next post

What To Consider: The amount of savings

As you can see, the interest rates I’ve listed here are broken down into 3 columns, for savings of less than RM50,000, for savings between RM50,000 and RM100,000 and for savings beyond RM100,000.

Notice how interest rates across the board, drop tremendously past the RM50,000 mark.

If you save diligently, do it almost entirely online and thus do not update your passbook on a yearly basis, there is a possibility that one day down the line you breach the RM50,000 limit without knowing.

When that happens, you’re seeing interest that can buy you a brand new PS4 drop down to clearing one month’s electricity bill.

In this scenario, you won’t be affected much if you bank with RHB Easy Junior because it still gives you 3.2% up to RM100,000.

Affin Bank Junior Saver also gives you a relatively healthy 2.5% compared to Maybank Yippie’s 1.3%, Ambank AmGenius and HLB 3-in-1 Junior (around 1%).

The other banks drop it down to regular conventional savings rates, post-RM50,000.

If you want to ensure that you are saving effectively for your children, you need to stay on top of your all your savings and investments constantly.

What To Consider: Withdrawal conditions that affect interest rates

Now I know that parents use these banks for savings purposes, but eventually down the road when their teenagers begin learning how to better manage their money, it’s possible that they need to make periodical withdrawals from “their” accounts.

Here’s where withdrawal conditions may mess up your interest rate privileges.

For Maybank’s Yippie, you only get the 3.15% per annum if you make a single withdrawal across 6 months. That’s (2) withdrawals in a year, 6 months apart.

So if you make (3) withdrawals in a year, you are not getting your 3.15% p.a. interest rate. The same thing happens if you make two withdrawals less than 6 months apart.

If you have to make monthly withdrawals from your kid’s account, this product is not for you.

What about the other banks then? Public Bank WISE is much wiser. It gives you 6 withdrawals over a 6 month period (an average of once per month) and even if you exceed that, it just charges you a RM2.12 fee per withdrawal.

Withdrawing from this account doesn’t harm your interest rate but remember that exceeding RM50,000 does: the rate drops to around 0.56%, which is a huge drop. In comparison, Maybank’s Yippie drops to 1.3%.

By the way, I have to mention that Public Bank WISE offers you an extra 5% interest on your monthly interest if you do not make any withdrawals. While that 5% sounds like a lot, do note that it is applied on your interest, not your capital. At most, this amount is no more than RM6.50 per month.

RHB Easy Junior also has a reward (instead of a penalty) for non-withdrawals, an additional 0.1% to their already high 3.2%. Plus, if you make regular monthly deposits they give you a bit more % p.a. i.e up to 0.4% if you bank in RM1000 every month.

So theoretically, if you bank in RM1000 per month into your RHB Easy Junior, and make no withdrawals for the whole year, you are enjoying 3.7% p.a

But that’s a lot of conditions to follow and with RM1000 savings per month (RM12,000 a year), you might get better returns from other investment options.

From Table 2, you can see that a few other bank products also offer 1 over-the-counter (OTC) free withdrawal every month, with no penalties that affect the interest rate. That said, this table of info is not exhaustive. Do make your enquiries at the bank of your choice for more details.

Wrapping Up Part 1

Alright, that’s enough info to keep you busy for the moment.

But if you want more, keep an eye out for our follow up post where we look at how bad dormant accounts cut back on your earnings as well as some of the benefits offered by these junior savings accounts that might be the deal-breaker you need.

Also, we pit these junior savings accounts against their Fixed Deposit counterparts to see which is the real deal you should be banking on.

To be continued..... Part 2 here

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Free 2-in-1 Taster Session For 4 Year-Olds At Lorna Whiston TTDI

Are you curious about how an actual lesson at Lorna Whiston TTDI is like? Do you think your kids will enjoy it? Why not come along to the Free Taster Session to be held on 15th March 2018 and give it a try?

Here are more details about the Free Taster Session to be help at Lorna Whiston TTDI on Thursday, 15th March 2018.

Who is the Free Taster Session for?

4 year old children and their parents

What to expect at the Free Taster Session?

This is a very unique two-in-one taster session. Your child will get to sample two different classes at the same time. These classes are conducted at the Lorna Whiston TTDI center for 4 year old children. They are the Language Development A class and the Speech & Drama A class for 4 year olds. 

During the session, children will be engaged in a variety of activities designed to help young learners express themselves better while learning the English language. Children will be motivated to speak up with confidence in English.

When is the Free Taster Session?

The Free Taster Session will be held on Thursday 15th March 2018 from 9.30am to 11.00am.

Where will the Free Taster Session be held?

The Free Taster Session will be held at the following address with the location map as shown below.

Lorna Whiston Taman Tun Dr Ismail Centre 
Units 8 & 10
Jalan Wan Kadir 1
Taman Tun Dr Ismail
60000 Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 03-7727 1909
Email: ttdi@lornawhiston.com.my

Places are limited on a first come first serve basis.
Click on the button below for details and to register for the Free Taster Session now.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Coding For Kids - The Benefits Of Starting Early

Kids can learn to code from age 6 and up at KidoCode

One of the most frequently asked question when it comes to kids learning how to code is "When should I start my kids on coding?" "At what age should I expose my child to coding?" You may be told that it is beneficial to start early but just how early is early?

Many centers like KidoCode a computer programming and mathematic school for primary, secondary and high school students, and even bachelor students, in Kuala Lumpur  have classes for kids as young as 6. The pre-primary school years are the best time to start because this is the time when their minds are most open. You may notice that this is the time when your children learn languages rapidly. In fact, learning coding is akin to learning an additional language. This is also the time when children are at their most creative selves. Contrary to what many people believe, coding requires a lot of creativity.

Learning Coding from a  young age has many benefits, in particularly gaining mathematical and computational thinking skills. Coding helps plants these skills for later life in school.

What Benefit does Pre-schoolers And Primary School Students get from learning Mathematical And Computational Thinking Skills

In a digital world run by apps and computer programmes, it is logical and inevitable that children should learn coding along with their ABCs and 123s. Children are spending a lot of screen time on gadgets and devices. Why not make the best use of the screen time on something educational which will help them learn and master new skills?

Coding exposes children to Mathematical and computational skills. These skills help children learn to think logically. This is an invaluable living skill to have. When kids learn coding they will learn to look at problems methodically. If (problem).... then (solution) ..... else....... (alternate solution).

Kids can use logical thinking and problem solving skills acquired from learning coding in other subjects. They will be able to analyze and break down a problem in order to come to a solution. This is useful in Math, Science, and many other subjects they learn in school. It also helps them in school projects which requires them to analyse, reflect, evaluate and present information in the classroom. All of these skills are useful when learned in early life using Coding.

Will My Child Be Bored Or Find Coding Difficult?

With more and more children learning coding from a young age and schools including coding in early education syllabuses in recent years, the way has been paved for coding education to be kid-friendly. Coding is taught in many ways that children can easily understand and relate to. Children can learn to create games, apps and sites in fun and creative ways. Once they discover the potential of what they can create, they will find it highly interesting and motivating, not boring at all.

Expose your child to coding by sending them to a free trial class organized by KidoCode. All kids from age 6 to 18 are welcome. Book your class here.

Parents can learn with kids too at KidoCode

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Penang Secret Avatar Garden Review And Visitor Tips

I went to the Penang Secret Avatar Garden in December 2017 quite by chance. We were having seafood dinner by the beach and then someone said "there's a secret garden here" and so after dinner, we walked over to the garden and was pleasantly surprised. At the time it had only been open to visitors for about 6 months so it is still fairly new and not everyone had heard of it.

Where Is The Park?

The Penang Secret Avatar Garden is located at 336, Jalan Tokong Thai Pak Koong, Tanjung Tokong, 11200 Tanjung Bungah, Pulau Pinang. The entrance to the garden is just behind the Thai Pak Koong (Tua Pek Kong) temple at Jalan Tanjung Tokong.

I went there again recently during the peak period of Chinese New Year so I will share with our blog readers my tips for visiting the garden.

As its name suggest, the garden is fashioned like what you see in the "Avatar" movie. However, what sets it apart from the Avatar movie is the fact that the hanging lights changes colour from blue to green to yellow, red etc.

What Is The Entrance Fee?

Entrance to the park is RM1 per person for visitors on foot or RM5 for car park fee for those who drive (in which case you won't be charged any entrance fee accept for car parking fees.)

The secret garden is slightly off the main Tanjung Tokong road. During off peak season, you can take a short drive through a narrow road to the car park. It is a mini fishing village. You will see fishing boats and if lucky you might even see some fishermen setting up their nets for fishing near the sea shore.

What Is The Best Time To Go?

In many reviews you may read that the best time to go is around 6.30pm to watch the sunset and wait for the lights to come on at 7.30pm. The lights are turned on from 7.30pm to 11.30pm. You may have to do that during peak season because of lack of parking facilities. The parking lot is not very big and the road leading to it narrow. However, I find that it is a rather long time to wait because apart from the walk in the park, there is not a lot of other activities there. Hopefully, in the future there will be.

The best time to enter the park is when the sun has totally set and the sky is dark. Don't enter when it is still bright or even slightly bright as then you will miss the magical impact of the lights. If you have been waiting a long time for the sun to set, don't spoil the fun by entering the garden while there's still light. The impact is not the same.

You can finish walking the garden in a couple of minutes.

Where Can You Eat Near The Avatar Garden?

Since the best time to visit is at Sunset which is around dinner time, this is something that is on all visitor's minds. Where and what to eat?

There is a seafood restaurant called the Pearl Garden Cafe at the foot of the garden. If you are not a fan of seafood, then make sure you have your dinner before or after you visit the attraction. Besides seafood, they also serve satay, various fried noodles and fried eggs with oyster BUT you will not be allowed to sit at the stalls to order any of that if you are not eating at least one kg of crabs! The seafood is decent enough but the attitude is not in my humble opinion.

Recap Of The Main Tips

  1. Park along the main Tanjung Tokong road during peak season (or go early), drive through a narrow road to park in the car park during off season.
  2. If you are not a fan of seafood, have your dinner before or after you visit the attraction
  3. If not for the car park problem, the best time to go would probably be just before the sun sets so you don't have to wait around too long. However, during peak season you may need to go earlier and spend some time hanging around the beach to wait for dusk.
  4. Enter the garden only when it is completely dark
  5. The secret garden is not disabled or elderly people friendly as it requires climbing dimly lit steps. 
Our Photos: On The Beach Before Sunset

Climbing rocks on the beach

Fisherman boats on the beach

Figurines and plants on the beach

Photos Of The Penang Avatar Secret Garden (After Sunset)

Entrance to the garden

From blue to purple

Changing Colours

Original Blue Avatar Garden

The back of the garden

A lookout point at the beach

Thursday, February 22, 2018

How Coding Helps Kids and Teens Develop Self Learning Skills

Coding - What It Is and What Do You Learn in Coding?

In recent years, you may have noticed that countries all over the world are now giving more recognition and importance to coding in education. What is Coding and what do kids learn in coding? Coding is the language of communicating with computers to get it to run apps, games, websites and more. It is no longer a task reserved for software engineers like before. With new ways for teachers to teach and learners to learn programming, anyone can learn to code whether at age 6 or 60.

What Do Students Learn in Coding?

One of the top skills a child who learns coding will pick up is logical computational thinking. When you learn to think logically and break problems down into smaller components, you will develop natural problem-solving skills.

Coding encourages problem-solving and self-learning skills. Not only that, it also requires persistence, team work, creativity and good communication skills.

How Coding Helps Kids and Teens Develop Self Learning Skills

Below are the self-learning skills kids pick up during coding and why.

1. Problem Solving Skills - Computational Skills is the art of collecting and analysing data to understand a problem, then breaking it down into simpler problems, looking for patterns and removing details and finally defining the steps (the algorithm) to solve the problem. This is a very important skill to have for students, one which they can use in life, school and work in the future.

2. Persistence - When you code, you will come across challenges, some of which can be quite complex. Kids and teens will learn persistence to keep on trying till they find the solution and breakthrough to a problem or challenge they encounter. When breakthrough comes, the self satisfaction will motivate and drive them towards even more self-directed learning.

3. Creativity - Contrary to general perception, coding actually encourages creativity. When you learn a new language, which is what coding is, you learn a new way to express yourself. Kids and teens can imagine  how they want an app or game to work or how a website should look and then work towards that goal.

4. Team Work and Communication Skills - Many coding classes for kids and teens require them to work independently as well as in teams. By collaborating with others, kids will learn the importance of team work in getting things done. Collaboration can be face-to-face or online. Participation in team projects gets kids to work together in a shared interest in technology and improves their communication.

To top it all, coding is also fun! New to Coding? You can let your kid or teen try out a class. KidoCode @ Solaris offers free trial 3-hour trial classes for kids and teens from age 6 to 18. Book your trial class here.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Free Trial English Language, Public Speaking And Speech and Drama Classes

Here's a Chinese New Year goodie from Lorna Whiston Taman Tun Dr Ismail to all parents. From now until 28th February 2018, you can claim a free trial lesson in any of the following categories for your child in any age category at Lorna Whiston TTDI

  • English Language (4-18 years old)
  • Public Speaking  (10-18 years old)
  • Speech and Drama Classes (4 - 18 years old)
Why a free trial class is useful

A free trial class helps you see for yourself how regular classes are normally conducted. It will give you and your child a chance to experience the class first hand and test the program before deciding to register. Free trial classes aren't always available all the time so you should make the most of opportunities like this one to try out a class or a program of your choice.

Which class should you choose?

Not sure whether to send your child to a regular English language class, speech and drama or public speaking course? Call Lorna Whiston Taman Tun Dr Ismail to get assistance on the right class for your child and schedule a trial class today. 

How to book your free trial class?

Click here to book a free trial class for your child. Classes are subject to availability and on a first come first serve basis, so book early to prevent disappointment. Select from one of the above category of classes for your free trial class. Free trials are open to kids of all ages as shown.

Gong xi fa cai! Happy Chinese New Year!

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