Saturday, March 30, 2013

Don’t Rely on Numbers to Determine Your Happiness

sage of happiness

I just read an article at BBC “Why Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

BBC points to a study by Christopher Hsee of the Chicago School of Business:

[P]articipants were offered the option of working at a 6-minute task for a gallon of vanilla ice cream reward, or a 7-minute task for a gallon of pistachio ice cream. Under normal conditions, less than 30% of people chose the 7-minute task, mainly because they liked pistachio ice cream more than vanilla. For happiness scholars, this isn't hard to interpret –those who preferred pistachio ice cream had enough motivation to choose the longer task. But the experiment had a vital extra comparison. Another group of participants were offered the same choice, but with an intervening points system: the choice was between working for 6 minutes to earn 60 points, or 7 minutes to earn 100 points. With 50-99 points, participants were told they could receive a gallon of vanilla ice cream. For 100 points they could receive a gallon of pistachio ice cream. Although the actions and the effects are the same, introducing the points system dramatically affected the choices people made. Now, the majority chose the longer task and earn the 100 points, which they could spend on the pistachio reward—even though the same proportion (about 70%) still said they preferred vanilla.

The participants in the study were focusing on getting the most points although it does not maximize their happiness.

How often do we make the same mistake?

  • We want the highest number of salary possible although it comes from the job that we hate
  • We want the latest and most expensive gadget although using it frustrates us
  • We eat at an expensive restaurant, order the most exquisite cuisine that we do not like at all

We often think that the higher the number, the happier we become…well, it does not work that way. So what should we do?

So next time you are buying a lottery ticket because of the amount it is paying out, or choosing wine by looking at the price, or comparing jobs by looking at the salaries, you might do well to remember to think hard about how much the bet, wine, or job will really promote your happiness, rather than simply relying on the numbers to do the comparison. Money doesn't buy you happiness, and part of the reason for that might be that money itself distracts us from what we really enjoy.

If you have the money, use it wisely to promote your happiness.

More often, the things that make us happy do not involve money all all, like:

  • spending time with your friends at home,
  • listening to your music collection, watching DVDs, reading books
  • enjoying the quietness and solitude at home
  • watching endless waves breaking at the beach (I really miss Cottesloe beach, WA)

Choose your own happiness! Do not let the numbers dictate you!

Learn and Grow!

Inge Santoso, B Com, CFP®

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fun Activities for Long Weekend – Treasure Hunt


Do you still have a piggy bank? I do. I have a money jar to put all the coins that I get during the day. 100, 200 or 500 rupiah coins are coming our way almost everyday, and many of us think that they are just small money and we put or even throw them all over the place.

Have you ever counted how much money in form of coins that you have in your house and car right now? Have you every tried going on a treasure hunt in your house and car and just collect all the coins and put them in a jar? You should try it sometime. I knew someone who did it and she was really surprise to find more than Rp 100,000 in form of coins all over her house and cars.

Tomorrow is long weekend. If you have children, instead of going to the mall and spend money, why don’t you go on a treasure hunt around the house with your children? It’s free and fun – moreover you may be surprised with the amount of money you find. 

Wishing you a happy long weekend!

Learn and Grow!

Inge Santoso, B Com, CFP®

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Positive Thinking Can Ruin Your Financial Life

soup positive perception

We often hear that positive thinking is essential for our happiness. In finance however, positive thinking can also lead us to financial disaster. When does this occur?

Some examples:

1. Instead of starting to prepare for your children's education fund, you tell yourself to have faith that when the time comes, you will have enough money to pay for it without ruining other financial needs.

2. Instead of starting to prepare your retirement fund, you rely on your employer to prepare it for you. You think positively that they will keep you forever and provide for you.

3. Instead of starting to learn how to invest your money well, you just think positively that the market is just going to go up and up, doubling your money every few years.

In finance and perhaps even in general life, it is better to have realistic thinking than positive thinking. Realistic thinking does not mean negative thinking either. Realistic thinking is understanding that conditions and situations will change all the time. The market may go up or go down. You may change job or even get fired. Your business may hit rough patches. There are inherent uncertainties in life.

What can we do? Be prepared!

  • Make sure that you have enough emergency fund
  • Make sure that you have enough insurance to cover for death, sickness or any other eventualities
  • Make sure you prepare funds for your children's education need as early as possible
  • Make sure you start saving and investing for your retirement fund
  • Make sure you learn new skills to keep you relevant in your company
  • Make sure to maintain and expand your network

Be realistic to changes in life.

Keep learning! Keep growing!

Inge Santoso, B Com, CFP®

Saturday, March 23, 2013

In Remembrance of My Grandfather

Grandpa 88 cake

A photo of my grandfather on his 88th birthday. He passed away because of old age, exactly two years ago at 90 years old.

My grandfather was a frugal man and very money savvy. Even in his old age, he was still going from bank to bank looking for the best interest rate for his retirement saving account. Most of the customer service people in the banks knew and welcomed him whenever he came to the banks.

He was also very organized and he kept good records of his money. He always knew how much money he had in each bank account and the interest he was getting on that account. His financial profile was very conservative because of his age. He only put money in term deposit and saving accounts.

He was also very healthy and he almost never had any medical cost. He had lived a very healthy lifestyle, eating healthy food, doing regular exercise, having enough sleep and rest. 

Although he had other shortcomings, but when it comes to finances – we can always learn from him.

  1. be frugal
  2. keep good records
  3. make your money work hard for you
  4. as you get older, be more conservative with your investment
  5. have a healthy lifestyle – less medical and care cost

Learn and Grow

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gadget NOW or Cash LATER?

things or money

If you have Rp 209,000,000 right now, and somebody offers to give you:

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note II (Rp 7,499,000) NOW
  2. Rp 8,300,000 ONE YEAR LATER

Which one would you choose?

These kinds of advertisements and offers from financial institutions can be very tempting. Since you have the money in the bank anyway, why don’t you delay using it for one year and in exchange you get a gadget of your choice? You are still earning a small interest on your money too.

When you start calculating the interest or return that you can make by putting the same amount of money in term deposit or other investment, then you can see that you would end up paying more for the gadget. However, most people can’t be bothered calculating the future value of their money, so they won’t realize this.

So when you are making a money decision;

Do you gravitate towards INSTANT or DELAYED GRATIFICATION?

Do you want to have something NOW or have more money LATER?

We all wish we can have something now and also have more money later, but it does not work that way. What we enjoy now, will cost us something in the future. Choose wisely!

Learn and Grow!

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®

Monday, March 18, 2013

One Degree

If you walk 1 km a day, deviating 1° from your original destination, how far would you be from your original destination in 1 year if you keep on that course?

It seems like a math question for high school students and you may forget how to calculate it or you just can’t be bothered to calculate the distance. If I ask you to guess the answer roughly, which one would you choose?

  • A 1 km
  • B 6 km
  • C 30 km
  • D 72 km

If you choose B, 6km, you are right.

Now, next question…

If you save $1 a day for a year and you invest it monthly with a return of 12% a year for 30 years, approximately how much money would you have at the end of 30 years? Have a rough guess.

  • A $10,000
  • B $30,000
  • C $60,000
  • D $100,000

If you choose D, $100,000, you are right! What if you save $10 instead of $1?

You can be a millionaire just by saving $10 a day!


1° may not be much, but over time, it can make quite a big difference.

$1 a day may not be much, but over time, it can make a big difference.

If you want your financial life to get better, just make one small change today. A small change that you do today, over time, can make a big difference in you life.

What 1° change are you going to do today? Please share in the comment.


Learn and Grow!

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®

Friday, March 15, 2013

Mind Before Matter

mind before matter

Train the mind and the matter will follow.

We’ve heard a lot of stories about people winning lottery and ended up with nothing after a few short years. Why? Because the mind is not ready!

A lot of people make the mistake of chasing the matter, such as money and possessions, but they forget to train the mind, building it with knowledge, understanding and wisdom. Thus even when they get the matter, they won’t be able to master it, and end up losing it.

It is important to keep learning. There are so many financial products that can help you to achieve your financial goals. You can’t afford to be ignorant. In finance, ignorance is NOT bliss, but a road to anguish and suffering.

If you do not have the time to learn on your own, then you can ask the help of a financial planner that you can trust. But at the end, it is YOUR money. It is your responsibility to manage it well.

Some people make excuses saying that they only have a small amount of money and it is too troublesome to track and manage it. Well, if you do not manage the small amount that you already have, why do you think you are ready to manage a bigger amount of money?

Before investing your money into financial products that you are not familiar with, invest in yourself by learning and asking questions. Remember to gather information about the product, the return as well as the risk.

Invest in your mind, then and only then invest your money!

Learn and Grow!

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®

Helping Elderly Parents to Manage Their Finances


When I went to the bank this morning, I saw a lady in her 50s trying to withdraw some money from her mother’s saving account. Unfortunately she could not withdraw the money because the signature on the form did not match the signatures on her ID card and bank book. Her mother was sick and she was unable to come to the bank herself. Her ability to write had deteriorated considerably so she could not sign legibly anymore. She also lost her ATM card, so there was no other way she could withdraw the money from the bank.

The teller was quite helpful in explaining what could be done in this situation.

  • If she had had an ATM card, it would have been easy because she could withdraw the money through ATM.
  • If she still could come to the bank, she could sign the form in front of the teller and they could use the photo ID to ensure that she was the person
  • If she could not come to the bank, then she could arrange to have a bank officer to come over to the house

I did not know what happened next, but there were lessons to be learned here.

We cannot avoid old age. It is important to be prepared before the time comes.

One option is to have a joint account with one of your children, so that he or she can help to manage the money if you are unable to do so.

  • Choose the right child to have joint account with. Not all of your children can be trusted with your money nor willing to help you.
  • The joint account should be solely used for your benefit, not to be mixed with your child’s money
  • There should be some regular reporting to other siblings to avoid negative accusations or disputes in the future

Do you have any experience in this matter? If you do, please share in the comments.

Learn and Grow!

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

One Minute Can Make a Big Difference

parking ticket

The parking ticket on the left: 2 hours 1 minute, on the right: 59 minutes

When I saw the parking ticket on the left, my mind was filled with thoughts such as:

I should have walked faster just now

I should not have gone to the toilet

I could have driven the car a bit faster to get to the locket

I wished the car in front of me paid for the parking just a bit faster

One extra minute costing Rp 3,000 and a lot of anguish!


When I got the parking ticket on the right, my mind was filled with thoughts such as:

I was so glad that I had walked faster and not stopping at any other stores

I was so glad I bought things quickly and efficiently

I was glad that we parked close to the door

One spare minute saved Rp 3,000 and a lot of gratitude!

Sometimes I wonder how one minute can create so much difference, so different feelings and reactions.

The amount of money involved here is the same, Rp 3,000 (USD 0.30), but we tend to be more concerned with the value instead of the amount. In the first instance, it was paying Rp 3,000 for 1 minute, instead of 60 minutes, and it felt so expensive. In the second instance, it was paying Rp 3,000 for 59 minutes, and it felt worthwhile.

Are you getting the best value for your money? What are you going to do in one minute to make a difference in your life?

Learn and Grow!

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®

Monday, March 11, 2013

If You Want to Get More, Add Value!


One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

There are a lot of people in the recycling business the person in the picture, but not all of them do what he does. Yesterday I saw him sorting out what he had collected, big bottles, small bottles, cups, and so on.

For the bottle, he removed the label, then efficiently cutting the neck and the bottom. After that, cutting what’s left of the bottle from top to bottom, then wrap the plastic sheet together. For the plastic cup, he removed the lip of the cup and stacked them together.

The additional effort in sorting out, organizing adds value and he was getting more money by giving the extra effort.

What are you going to do today to add value? The money may not come straight away, but somewhere along the line, you will definitely get something in return!

Learn and Grow!

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®

Friday, March 08, 2013

Risk in Taking Action and Doing Nothing


Last year, I shared about cash management and investing in mutual funds with two people. One of them took action straight away. Within a week, she opened a new investment account and started investing in some mutual funds. The other one did nothing.

Six months passed… 

The first one who had taken action immediately got a return of more than 13% of total money invested. She invested in mutual fund using dollar-cost-averaging to simplify the process. She allocated a fixed amount of money and invested in mutual fund at a fixed date every month.

The one who did nothing only got a mere 0.1% return because he only put the money in savings account. Without him realizing it, his money was actually losing value because of inflation.

The two of them received the same lessons, the same advices, yet their action or inaction gave them vastly different results.

There is a risk in taking action or doing nothing. When you take action, you know you take a calculated risk. There is a risk of failure or loss in taking action, but there is also a possibility of success. When you do nothing, you may feel that you are not taking any risk, but when you do nothing, you have a risk of regret for not doing it. In finance, doing nothing will definitely cost you because you have time and inflation working against you.

Have you taken a calculated risk recently? How are you faring? Please share in the comments.


Learn and Grow!

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®

Monday, March 04, 2013

Grocery Shopping That Does Not Empty Your Wallet


The first or the last weekend of the month is when people often go for grocery shopping because they just receive their salary.

A few tips on doing grocery shopping that does not empty your wallet:

1. Do NOT go shopping just after you just receive your salary. When you feel that you have plenty of money in the bank, you tend to buy things that you want instead of what you need.

2. Take stock of what you already have at home so you know exactly what you have at home and create a grocery shopping list. Remember to bring the shopping list with you and buy only what’s on the list.

3. Limit the time you are inside the grocery store. Just shop for what’s in your shopping list and go straight to the cashier. Do not walk through all the aisles, do your walking exercise somewhere else.

4. Go shopping after you have eaten. Do not go shopping on empty stomach because you tend to buy more when you are feeling hungry. Those Doritos, chocolate cookies and cashew nuts are really inviting, aren’t they?

5. Cheaper products are often found above or below the eye-level shelves. Look up or look down to find similar products with cheaper prices.

6. Leave your children at home when you are doing grocery shopping because they often ask you to buy things not on your shopping list. You know sometimes you just can’t refuse them, especially when they see you with their cute, pleading eyes.

Is there anything else you may want to add to the list? Please share in the comments.

Learn and Grow,

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Gamify Chore with Treasure Hunt

treasure hunt

I have three helpers cleaning my house every single day. I understand that it is a chore to do this day in and day out, so today I want to spice things up a little bit. I created a treasure hunt!

I got 10 pieces of Rp 2,000 bills and I put each piece at hard to reach places or where they seldom clean. For example, behind the sofa and night stand, above the pantry cupboard and rain shower head, under the vase and cable box.

I told them to find all the 10 pieces of money and if they found all of them, I would give them additional Rp 10,000 as a bonus.

They were really excited to do the job today. They searched and cleaned every crook and cranny to find the money. It took them some time to find all the pieces but they were really enjoying their work. I could see them smiling and laughing whenever they found a piece! The three of them were working together, reminding each other to search places where the money could have been hidden.

Did they manage to find them all? Yes, they did! They got a total of Rp 30,000 today! They were really happy! Not only for the money but for the fun too!

I was also very happy because I got the house to be extra clean today. I also had some fun watching them doing the treasure hunt.

Let’s gamify chore!

What other ideas do you have to gamify chores? Please share in the comments.

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®

Friday, March 01, 2013

Written Notes vs Memory


Today I went to the bank to redeem one of the mutual funds. I intended to redeem Mandiri Investa Pasar Uang, but when I filled out the form, somehow I wrote Mandiri Investa Dana Utama. I only realized the mistake when I got home to input the transaction in my computer. Although the mistake was not fatal this time, it could have been a disaster.


  1. Write your plan on paper instead of relying solely on your memory
  2. Bring the latest statement to the bank to help you fill out the detail on the form
  3. Concentrate when writing the form
  4. Re-read what you have written and compare it with your notes or statement

Have you ever made a mistake similar to this? Please share your story in the comments.


Learn and Grow,

Inge Santoso, B. Com, CFP®