The story behind each ATM slip

Pic from Dr Chan

I came across this article written eloquently by Dr Chan J Y. Dr Chan’s article is here. He was commenting on an ATM slip he came across. Still about 10 days to end of the month – meaning payday and the ATM slip shows a “malnourished” bank account. Unfortunately, he did not delve deeper into the subject.

Let me continue with the subject matter. Dr Chan has cultivated a penchant for sniffing out discarded ATM slips near to ATM machines to peek at the unknown owners’ miserable bank accounts to confirm his instinctive recognition that cross sections of our struggling fellow countrymen living precariously from hand to mouth on a month to month paycheck!

I have followed Dr Chan’s blog for quite some time. I notice that he used to mention often about his secret fetish for throwaway ATM slips. He is certainly a bad influence on me. I’m also addicted to this unique hobby.

Out of 10 pieces of discarded ATM slips near to the ATM machine, nearly all have malnourished miserable bank balances. Don’t believe me? Do yourself a great favor by checking it out yourself. Take up this free hobby to learn more about our struggling heartlanders.

An intelligent person or rather a discerning investigator will know that an innocuously looking discarded ATM slip belonging to someone could reveal more truth than the tons of money and resources invested so far in a national conversation.

That begs the question – what is the ultimate purpose of a national conversation? Why spend so much time talking to citizens to find out what they really want?

My simple answer to such a big question is that we just want to lead a better life for ourselves, our aged parents and our children in this country we call home. This country belongs to all of us – not any partisan party or individuals. The Chinese saying "我们都要过好日子!"sums it all.

Whether it is now, 5 years’ time, 10 or 20 years from now, we just want to live the good life we used to enjoy in our parents’ era. From the late 1960s to the late 1980s – about 20 years in our short glorious history, which in my opinion is our golden era. That is the kind of good life we wish to have in future. Do you not agree with me?

Just like forensic science, all the clues found at the scene of crime will never lie. The perpetual truth, nothing but the whole truth found at the crime scene is hidden all over only waiting to be unraveled. That discarded ATM slip is an excellent piece of evidence to unravel the truth of a typical faceless heartlander – the pain, hopelessness, dismal prospects, agony, emptiness at every end of the month. Multiply that piece of ATM slip a hundred times, a thousand times or tens of thousands to delve further and probe deeper into the very heart of the cynisim and skepticism – the bank account which is the purse string of his livelihood and preoccupation!

ATM slips will never lie. ATM slips will tell the whole truth. The truth will not get filtered or watered down. The facts reveal from those discarded ATM slips are harsh and jarring to the ears but they are the truth crying out for divine intervention. It is the key to unlock the mysterious mindset of the massive heartlanders which I believe is the main target of this so-called national conversation.

Heed the warnings before it’s too late. Before the bitterness and disappointment synergise each other into a frenzy and implode, shattering the seemingly calmness when the undercurrents are always there waiting for the opportune moment to turn awry.





About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Chinese Singaporean living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I write for pleasure. I also write mainly for my family and friends.
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32 Responses to The story behind each ATM slip

  1. LetItUnfold says:

    haven’t seen any featured news reports on national conversation delivering solutions, so far it seems to be more fact finding. Yet, some interesting findings appear on news reports, like how a high percentage of surveyed people agree that immigrants are necessary for SG.

  2. newballs says:

    Well, when someone discard his/her ATM slip without care means nobody will ROB you !!
    No Money Lah, who cares if you look at the ATM slip……!!

    This is not the National Conversation but rather a National Congregation of the chosen few…!!
    Its so hard to please so many poor people but so much easier to please the Rich Ones…!

    Really Langgar…!

  3. The says:

    Reminds me of this joke. During the last financial crisis when the 158-year old Lehman Brothers went bust and Citibank shrank to a fraction of its size. At one time, our local banks have bigger market capitalisations than Citi. When trying to withdraw money from the Citi ATM, out came a slip with “Insufficient fund” printed on it. Now the question, who has insufficient fund? The bank or the customer?

  4. NUSboy says:

    Hey Gintai,

    A bit far fetch to call the ATM slip the whole truth. It could very well be that people with very little money in their bank account are simply frustrated enough to litter their ATM slip right after they withdraw their money.

    Those who are more well off most probably wouldn’t act like this. Hence it produced a self selecting set of people.

    • You are not wrong to say that. But if there are lots of such select group, then we know there is trouble. Did you conduct this experiment I suggested? Look around to see if there are many or just a few discarded ones?

    • Z says:

      Not to mention people may not have just one bank account. More than a little far fetched.

      • I used to have several accounts but bank policies have changed. It only makes sense to hold more than one account if you have enough money in them. Remember you have to pay service charge every month. If someone holds on to an account with such a low balance, it’s quite likely that it’s his only account.

  5. theonion says:


    Some maybe accurate for those with low balances. however a significant number are those which I can see have multiple accounts, and use the DBS and POSB for just transactions or for ATM withdrawals as and when especially at the CBD areas.


  6. Are 60% poor? says:

    Do not forget that there are many low wage earners who are foreigners (not citizens). These may also be where the many “malnourished” ATM slips belonged to.

    60% of voters (citizens) voted PAP last GE. Do you think PAP got a lot of support from poor voters?

  7. xtrocious says:

    The point is “heartlands”

    I have seen these ATM slips for myself and trust me, they are definitely not isolated cases…

    It also does suggest that a lot of Singaporeans are asset rich but cash poor…

    The bulk of our income goes to feeding our homes, not our mouths and our dreams

    • One of those could have been mine when my first child was born! Many young couples are facing the same problem. They just dare not tell people. Once you GIRO this and GIRO that, your account is empty even before the end of the month.

      • “One of those could have…”
        If a doctor, one of the professionals making such a stmt, one could imagine the sorry state of lesser mortals! I believe what Dr Chan says here is true. Why shld he lie. His is not hiding behind anonymity. There are some still not convinced about this story I blog. Sigh…!

  8. voiddecker says:

    I won’t read too much into it :). 3 possible reasons (some mentioned above):

    1. Those with a higher balance would be more likely to dispose of their slips carefully
    2. Those with a higher balance would tend to draw more money each time (and use credit cards more) so less visits to ATMs
    3. Many have multiple accounts and only leave a smaller amount on the regular account they use with ATMs.

    • There is no doubt that there are rich people in Singapore. These slips simply show the widespread existence of people who have barely enough money to get by. Most people with multiple accounts leave about $2,000 as a “smaller” amount in their ATM accounts. Nobody would keep an account < $1000 balance unless that is his only account.

      • You will have to pay a penalty if your bank account balance is less than 500! Unless you got lots of money or you will be charged each month extra as service charge for having one or more bank accounts! The best is to go check it out rather than speculate abt it’s nature. Field work is better than empty talk.

  9. Sgcynic says:

    The increase in number of school children requiring the School Pocket Money Fund, the increase in turnover of pawn shops, the increase in the credit card roll overs, the huh number of households who have HDB and utilities arrears, the increase number who seek help from ComCare, e2i, MPS. They must all be the same group of people. The increase in debt must be due to a vibrant economy, consumerism. Singapore is doing well! Look on the bright side. See the light! That of Gintai’s oncoming train!

    • Thks. Pls stay away or my train langgar you!

    • I’ve been observing the discarded ATM slips with pathetic bank balances for years and this phenomenon has significantly increased in recent years. Some may wonder if it’s because people are opening more bank accounts, keeping a lot of money in one and practically zero in the other.

      • “keeping a lot of money in one and practically zero in the other.”
        Why would a normal person do that incurring a penalty from the bank if the amount of balance is less than $500? Does it make sense?

  10. Expensive unaffordable says:

    If we use the US as a prognosticator of what our own future would look like in terms of banking access for our people – an increasing number will not have any banking access. The biggest growth in financial services are the extravagantly expensive ” check cashing services” sprouting faster than pawnshops – they charge a hefty fee to cash salary checks for these people. The latest FDIC survey shows nearly a third of households have little or no access to banking because of fees and minimum amounts up from a quarter last year!
    Do not think Singapore is too far behind despite raising yearly GDP and ever increasing numbers of super cars and over $4000-00 per sq ft apartments. Thanks Dr Chan for this perspective – eye opener for me

  11. Zzzzz says:

    There is another group of people – those (like me) who can no longer afford to pay even that $2 monthly service charge, so just close that account. No income. Yeah, yeah, yeah, lazy people like me should go get a job or move to JB and stop breathing the precious Singapore air!

  12. theonion says:


    A possibility is that under singapore law, the insurance coverage is S$50,000 per account, so there is significant number who do that for multiple accounts, further, unsure whether some of this accounts are linked to corporate accounts due to foreign workers, for foreign domestic workers.

    • Expensive unaffordable says:

      It is per person per account ie u can hv multiple accounts but only one will be covered to $50K max – even billionaires will only hv $50K covered. Japanese stash their money in their mattresses as they do not trust their banks to keep their money safe!

  13. auntielucia says:

    Gintai, I don’t know why all your visitors go around picking up pple’s ATM slips. I’ve only once come across a slip which wasn’t removed by the person ahead of me. It was at the Shell station along Dunearn Road, just after the College Green junction. The person who left it behind was an angmoh. I removed it and was astounded by the balance amount! $214,XXX. Still I won’t and didn’t jump to the conclusion that he’s rich, or very rich. It could be some bridging loan that had come into his account and his normal cache might be no more than what you and i have :D!

    • I didn’t have that chance. I came across all those wretched only. I wish I could come across more like you saw.

    • The says:

      Most probably a customer of DBS Treasure – have to maintain a minimum of $200k to enjoy the privileges. Now raised to $350k.

  14. Dave says:

    Lagi worse your bank less than $500 or $1000 for OCBC still need to pay $2 every month HAHAHA, wealth gap big big, kee chiu still insists low taxes for rich. Gintai, if you ever talk to this blur minister please enlighten him

    • Dave,
      Our current PM is past 60 yrs (DOB:10/2/52). By next GE, he will be almost 65 yrs. It’s time for him to step down to maybe SM? He may not serve the full term. In other words, before 2020, he will have to hand over to a younger minister.
      If you look at the situation now, it seems that there are not many available options. Kee Chiu seems to the leading contender! Besides him, can you tell me who else? Obviously, he’s brilliant. You may enquire from senior officers in the SAF. But he spent all his life in the army, he will need to change and learn fast to adapt to civil society. No matter, the PAP will still be in power comfortably for at least one more term. Look at the huge machinery at their disposal. This national conversation is just a minor part of the bigger picture where they are rumpling up all the gear to sway just 5% to 8% of those skeptics over will deem a success. They need not go all out to convert everybody which is quite impossible.
      This is my reading and assessment. Like it or not Kee Chiu may be our next PM. You say he is a blur? Do we have a choice? Let’s be clear about it.

  15. Jay says:

    Many people withdraw money for day-to-day from an account to which their salary is paid. If you check the stats, you’d see that many (ordinary) people have more than one account. So what you see is their “current” or “operational” accounts … Poor sampling for the conclusions that you draw …

    • “In this day and age of instant this and instant that, it is so easy to shoot first talk later. Hit a button, send a complaint, be a cyber warrior, a keyboard hero. One can even hide behind pseudonyms. The Internet is proliferated with such shitheads who make senseless comments on people’s blogs.
      Immediate reaction without first thinking things through may not be the best course of action.
      Many people have had to eat their words for opening their mouths without first using their brains.”

  16. greenogre says:

    Though I think a good many of those living from hand to mouth may actually be carrying a branded bag and the latest mobile phones. Consumerism and the rat race is another big reason why savings are lower.

    But I do agree that most Singaporeans in the middle classes are asset rich and cash poor. Government policies have played their part in fostering such a society. Seriously, the pricing of housing is ridiculous.

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