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We highlight and explain the changes wrought by Budget 2018 with the most immediate and discernible impact on everyday Singaporeans.

Budget 2018 was announced yesterday, and it covers many different aspects. While all the information can be overwhelming, don’t worry – we’ve filtered out the main issues that will impact everyday Singaporeans, and which have immediate relevance to you. Here’s what you need to know right away:

1. Singles Can Now Receive the Proximity Housing Grant (PHG) 

Previously, the PHG provided families a payout of S$20,000, if they bought a resale flat near their parents. Singles could not get the grant (although they could get a PHG of S$10,000 for living in the resale flat with their parents).

Now, singles who buy resale flats near their parents can also get a PHG, of S$10,000. Singles who live in the same resale flat with their parents can get a PHG of S$15,000.

(Families will still get the usual PHG of S$20,000 for living near parents, and a PHG of S$30,000 for living with their parents).

In addition, the definition of “near” has been simplified. It now means living within four kilometres of your parents (previously there were many different criteria that had to be fulfilled, for your resale flat to count as being “near”).

2. One-time “Hong Pao” for All Singaporeans Aged 21 or Above 

Sometime at the end of the year, all Singaporeans aged 21 or above will receive a cash payout of S$100 to S$300. The amount is dependent on income.

Singaporeans earning S$28,000 per annum or below will get S$300. Singaporeans earning between S$28,001 to S$100,000 per annum will get S$200. Singaporeans earning more than that will get S$100.

This will come around the end of the year, so it should be a big help in buying presents next Christmas.

3. There Will be a New E-tax on Imported Services

The e-tax that most concerns the average Singaporean are the ones on digital streaming services. This refers to services such as Netflix and Spotify, which will be subject to GST.

In general, any overseas company providing such services – which has an annual turnover of $1 million or more, and which makes at least S$100,000 per annum in Singapore – will be required to pay GST.

Thus far, there is no e-tax applied on ecommerce for physical items, such as when buying shoes or clothes online. However, the usual GST rates still apply on purchases of S$400 or more.

(Note: there is another e-tax on imported, business-to-business services, but this doesn’t directly affect regular Singaporeans).

4. Increase of 1% in Buyers Stamp Duty For Properties Exceeding $1 million

The Buyers Stamp Duty (BSD) for residential properties is being increased. For any such properties above S$1 million, the BSD is now:

  • One per cent on the first S$180,000
  • Two per cent on the next S$180,000
  • Three per cent on the next S$640,000
  • Four per cent on any amount in excess of S$1 million

For example, say you purchase a residential property for S$1.5 million. The BSD would be:

  • First $180,000 (1%) = S$1,800
  • Next $180,000 (2%) = S$3,600
  • Next S$640,000 (3%) = S$19,200
  • Amount exceeding S$1.5 million (in this case, 4% of S$500,000) = S$20,000
  • Total BSD = S$44,600

These new rates apply from 19th February onward. However, for buyers who currently hold an Option to Purchase (OTP), they can still get the old rates, if they exercise the option by 12th March 2018.

5. Increase of 10% in Tobacco Tax 

The excise duty on all tobacco products is being raised, from S$352 per kilogram to S$388 per kilogram.  That’s a not-insignificant increase in the tax levied upon tobacco suppliers. 

The tax on cigarette sticks will rise to 42.7 cents per gram, up from the old rate of 38.8 cents per gram. Homogenised or reconstituted tobacco products, along with tobacco substitutes, will incur an excise duty of S$427 per kilogram.

If you haven’t started smoking, it’s a good idea to keep it that way!

Read This Next:

Your Money Horoscope for the Year of the Dog 2018
What is the “Correct” Age to Retire?


By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.

The post 5 Immediate Ways That Budget 2018 Will Affect You appeared first on Financial News and Advice in Singapore.

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When it comes to saving money, popular wisdom doesn’t always hold true. Think twice when you encounter these 6 common situations during vacations.

There’s a difference between thrift, and being cheap. Bring thrifty saves you money, whereas being cheap doesn’t necessarily do that – sometimes, buying things at the lowest possible price just gets you ripped off. Here are some forms of money saving advice you’d best avoid, while on holidays:

Buy Tickets from Third Parties

Going to see a show, or a famous landmark? Sometimes, you can buy “last minute” tickets online, from people who couldn’t make use of them (there are whole websites devoted to this).

Most of the time, the sellers will try to scalp you (i.e. sell the tickets for a higher than usual price); but it’s when they sell it for cheaper that you need to watch out. There’s a lucrative market in fake tickets – all it takes to make them is a camera, and a cheap printer. Also, there’s probably no way you can tell the tickets are fake, until you make it to the gates.

So when someone hints that they “know someone” who has cheap tickets, you’d best be wary. Only purchase if you can somehow ascertain the tickets are genuine. Even then, be aware that you may be purchasing someone’s lost of stolen tickets.

Save Money by Picking Accommodations Far From the City Centre

If the accommodations are just a bit further, like 15 minutes by train, this may be okay advice; but there should be clear limits.

If you stay very far from the city centre, such an hour or more, then consider how much vacation time you’re wasting. Two hours a day is a lot of time wasted, over the course of a one-week visit; 14 hours of travel practically amounts to wasting a whole day. That may not be worth the savings.

Next, you need to consider the cost of transport. The cheapest accommodations may not just be far; they may be inaccessible. Not every country has a reliable train and bus system (in some countries, a bus may come by every other day at some locations). If you end up having to pay for an Uber ride, for every trip to town, all your “savings” will be outweighed by the cost.

Refuse to Use Credit Cards and Only Bring Cash

The two arguments for this advice are that, first, credit cards invite identity theft; second, credit cards charge fees, and make you spend more.

But you have to realise that you’re not “safer” without a credit card. Carrying around big wads of cash is just as dangerous; in fact it’s worse. If your credit card is stolen, you can call the bank to suspend it – there’s nothing you can do to stop someone spending your cash, if they pick your pocket. It’s just gone.

You can also choose to lower the credit limit on your card, before enabling it for overseas use. While the usual limit is four times your monthly income, you can tell the bank to make it lower (e.g. capped at just S$1,500), and explain it’s for safety reasons as you’re using it abroad. Not only does this limit the maximum that can be stolen, it also helps to control how much you spend.

As for foreign exchange fees, there are some ways around this. For example, if you have a DBS Visa card linked to a DBS Multi-Currency Account, you don’t pay for the foreign exchange fee. Look around for cards with reduced or zero forex fees.

Finally, remember that credit cards give you bonus rewards and cashback. Some credit cards will even give you bigger rebates, for overseas spending.

Just Buy the Cheapest Airline Tickets

Contrary to popular belief, not all flights are the same.

While we won’t malign any specific airlines, we will point out that some of them (mainly budget carriers) have terrible reputations. Google for their reviews, before you decide it’s worth saving money on their ticket prices.

One thing to note is that, when airlines try to save money (i.e. give you a cheaper ticket), they often use the runway at odd hours. This is to minimise airport taxes on their part. This usually means your flight will feature inconvenient timings, such as 4am arrivals.

You also need to check if the cheap flight is just giving you a stripped down, teaser rate: when you actually buy, you may find you’re charged hundreds of dollars extra (e.g. for printing your boarding ticket, or because the entire airport tax is foisted on you).

Also, consider that cheaper routes often mean layovers. If something goes wrong, and you need a hotel room because the connecting flight is cancelled, that’s going to cost you money; probably way more than you saved.

Don’t Buy the Bottled Water

Unless you’re in a developed country, always buy the bottled water (even then, buy the bottled water unless authorities state the water supply is fit for drinking). It’s true that many locals may get by on drinking tap water, but remember they’re adapted to it.

Water is never “just water”, when untreated. It contains trace elements of different chemicals, and bacteria that your body may not be used to. Locals who have been drinking “raw” tap water since birth have developed the right immunities – but a tourist may end up with conditions like dysentery, or even parasites.

It’s not worth saving a few dollars, just to end up with a medical emergency.

Use the Cheaper, Unofficial Taxis

Private hire cars, from companies like Uber, are safe to use – but be careful when using “unofficial” taxis. These include everything from non-registered taxis, to locals who volunteer to give you a ride for money.

At best, these taxis will charge you exorbitant prices, as you’re in their power the moment you get in (how are you getting to your hotel, if they get angry and kick you out in the middle of nowhere?)

At worst, you may become the target of a mugging or kidnapping, as you have no easy way to escape. Lone travellers should be especially wary of this.

It’s undeniable that, in some countries, the official cab services jack up prices for tourists. But it’s usually better to pay the “tourist tax”, than to get in a locked car with a criminal.

Read This Next:

A Step-by-Step Guide: How to Buy Travel Insurance on Your Own
Here are All the Ways Budget Airlines Charge You Extra


By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.

The post Money Saving Advice to Avoid While on Vacation appeared first on Financial News and Advice in Singapore.

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Being an entrepreneur can be rewarding, but there are financial pitfalls you may not expect. Use these 5 money hacks to help avoid them.

Everyone loves the concept of being their own boss, but the execution is a little more complex. There are a lot of financial ups and downs, when you go the self-employed route. It pays to know them, to make your life easier. Here are five money hacks every self-employed person should know:

1. Use Annual Payments for Insurance, or Online Tools

You don’t need to pay monthly premiums for your insurance; you can also pay for the entire year upfront. And if you’re self-employed with a fluctuating income, that’s often a good idea.

The reason is simple: if a financial crisis happens, and you have two or three “dry months” when you can’t pay your premiums, your insurance will lapse. This could wipe away decades of accumulated savings, and leave you financially unprotected when you’re at your most vulnerable. It’s better to get the whole year covered while you have the money, so it’s not a worry later on.

You should consider doing the same for essential services (e.g. for subscription to specialised software that you need to do your job, or to industry specific news feeds). If for some reason you’re unable to make the monthly payments later, it would be impossible to do your job.

As an added bonus, you tend to get a discount on most services, when you pay per annum instead of per month. (This also applies to insurance; you can usually get a small discount if you opt for annual premiums.)

2. Insure Your Critical Tools

If you’re a photographer, make sure your camera, work laptop, and other work tools are fully insured. If you’re a musician, make sure your performance instruments are covered, as are any tools on your body (e.g. consider insuring your hands, if you’re a pianist).

Speak to a financial advisor on the various forms of General Insurance (GI) you can use, or specialised health insurance (if you’re a performer, and your body is your tool).

Remember that not all clients have, or will provide, the tools that you need. Not everyone who hires you to edit video will have a Mac with Final Cut Pro (they expect you to have it; that’s why they’re hiring you). If your essential tools break, and you can’t afford to replace them, it would seriously affect the range of clients you can service.

3. Learn to Use Invoice Factoring

This next hack only applies if you’ve registered yourself as a business.

Invoice factoring (or invoice financing) allows you to take a loan, using your invoice as the collateral. For example, say your client owes you S$15,000, and you have it all in writing. However, you will have to wait for up to 90 days for payment.

You could then use invoice factoring to borrow up a percentage of the loan (say 90 per cent, of S$13,500) for three months, at a given interest rate. While it’s true you’re losing some money from the interest, getting the money early can be crucial to your cash flow (e.g. you can’t hold off paying your mortgage for three months).

There are some other variations of this. For example, some factoring agents will straight up pay you 70 per cent of the invoice, but accept the task of collecting the full invoice from the client themselves (in effect, they buy the accounts receivable from you). While you get much less than just borrowing against the invoice, it also spares you the risk of a client who can’t pay up.

Note that invoice factoring isn’t too useful for small amounts, as the costs become prohibitive (the factoring agents may take more, if the invoice is just a few thousand dollars). Use it for large invoices, such as several thousands or more.

If you’re going to do big projects, which take a long time and involve larger sums, learn to use these services.

4. Limit Revisions to Your Work

Say you edit videos, code apps, write articles, etc. as your job. What happens if you get a fussy client, who is still insistent on changes after you’ve made several dozen?

If you code websites, for example, you may get clients who are demanding changes even four or five months after the actual project is completed. Likewise, some unethical clients will demand multiple changes to artwork on their standees or ad banners, and use all the versions (they are effectively getting you to make 10 illustrations for the price of one).

Always have a contract, and state your maximum number of revisions. Factor this into your price: the more revisions you permit, the more you should bump up your price. Otherwise, you’re going to end up losing money, as you squander hour after hour making “corrections.”

5. Have a Clear System for Raising Your Prices

Many self-employed persons have an issue with raising prices; you’re understandably worried that a high price will drive away business. So here’s a simple hack for you to get around it:

First, work out the number of hours (or number of projects) you can comfortably do per month. If a new job offers comes in, which would push these boundaries, set the price higher (and keep going higher for each subsequent project, until you can’t take any more).

If the client accepts the higher price, you’ll be fairly rewarded for working extra hard. If the client doesn’t accept the higher price, you’ll have more time on hand; you’ll be less stressed, and can lavish more attention on existing projects.

On top of that, you’ll get a clearer sense of how much people are willing to pay you (never rely on the industry standard price, as your quality of work may be higher and justify better prices).

Read This Next:

Why Top Entrepreneurs Seem to Be Unemployable
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Restaurant in Singapore?


By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.

The post 5 Money Hacks Every Self-employed Singaporean Must Know appeared first on Financial News and Advice in Singapore.

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An employment bond represents a long and serious commitment. Ask yourself these 4 questions before signing up for one.

Many companies agree to pay for their young employee’s education, as it improves their own talent pool. But while the offer is tempting, it comes with many strings attached. A common one is a bond, in which you must agree to work for the company for a number of years. Before you accept it, here’s what to consider.

First, Know Your Alternatives

There are many ways to pay for your education, besides accepting a bond. Make sure you understand your options, before signing anything.

Singaporeans can use the CPF Education Scheme, in which they access their parents’ CPF savings to pay for their education. It can cover the entire cost of education, with a loan tenure of 12 years. Furthermore, repayment only starts a year after graduation, so you’ll have time to find a job and start repaying mom and dad. The interest rate is a low 2.5 per cent per annum.

Alternatively, many banks offer education loans as well. A bank loan can cover 90 per cent of your education costs, with a loan tenure of up to 20 years. You can wait up to two years before starting repayment, and the loan is interest free until you graduate (the interest rate depends on which bank you use).

Both these options give you long loan tenures, and they don’t require you to pay a single dollar until you’ve finished school. So think about them before accepting any bonds.

If you’re still considering the bond, ask the following questions:

  • What is the Route of Advancement (ROA) provided by the company?
  • What are the consequences of breaking the bond?
  • Are you acting on blind certainty?
  • Are you prepared to stick it out if the company changes?

Q1. What is the Route of Advancement (ROA) Provided by the Company?

If the company is paying for your education, they must have great things in store for you right? Not necessarily.

Sometimes, companies are known to “trap” employees in a specific position, precisely because they paid to develop a narrow specialty. For example, if a company pays for you to become a qualified welder, there’s a real risk you have no shot at higher positions, such as management.

After all, the company paid to develop that narrow skill set, so you could do one specific thing. And if you’re good at it, they don’t want to lose your expertise by promoting you. An old saying goes: “if you don’t want the lousy jobs, don’t be so good at doing them”.

Check your employer’s ROA for your career, if you don’t want to be stuck in the same position (and at the same wage level) for the next five, six, or even 12 years in which you’re bonded.

Even then, be wary if your field of study is highly specialised. Companies can go back on their word, regarding your ROA; and a narrow field of expertise makes you hard to replace, as well as hard to promote.

Q2. What are the Consequences of Breaking the Bond?

When considering taking up a study bond, the guiding principle is “never say never”. You might be sure you have no intention of breaking the bond right now – but five to 12 years (the length of many bonds) is a long time.

For example, what if your parents or children become chronically ill, and you need to care for them? Your job may not allow you the time required; and it can be heartbreaking to not put family first.

People can and do break bonds, for reasons that range from marital complexities to child-rearing difficulties. Every one of those people were probably dead certain, at the time they signed, that they would “never” break their bond. Don’t assume you’re different.

Always know the exact financial cost of breaking your bond. Speak to a financial advisor, and develop a savings plan that can cope with the potential cost. If it turns out such a cost would be unbearable, then you had best consider an education loan instead.

Q3. Are You Acting on Blind Certainty?

Most fresh graduates don’t stick with their first job, throughout the rest of their lives. The first three to five years after school are partly experimental – fresh graduates move around a bit, until they find a job that suits them.

If you’re bonded, you don’t have this luxury. Do think about how old you’ll be, by the time the bond is finished – there are fewer opportunities for, say, a 35 year-old to change careers than there are for a 25- year old.

And if you do switch jobs, consider that you’ll start again at the entry level. That’s not so bad in your mid to late 20s, but it can be a serious problem in your 30s; by then, you may have a family and a mortgage to pay.

Make sure you’ve at least used internships, or taken part-time jobs, to get a feel for your intended career path. Never act on blind certainty that it’s the job for you, and bond yourself to it.

Q4. Are You Prepared to Stick it Out if the Company Changes?

You may be eager to take a bond because you’ve already worked with the company, and you feel it’s great. The group insurance is generous, the bonuses are regular, and the work culture inspires you.

But again, remember that a bond lasts a long time. A lot can change within a company, in the space of five to 12 years.

The colleagues you met during your internship may be replaced by people you can’t stand. The boss you love may be transferred to a different country. Group insurance policies can change, and even shrink if the company goes through bad times – the health benefits may fade as quickly as your bonuses.

It certainly matters if a company is a good fit for you; but never let that be the sole consideration when taking a bond from them.

Read This Next:

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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.

The post 4 Questions to Ask Before Taking Up an Employment Bond appeared first on Financial News and Advice in Singapore.

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Wondering how your fortunes will fare this Year of the Dog? We breakdown your horoscope predictions, and what practical money steps you should take.

It’s the Year of the Dog; and if you’re a big believer in your horoscope, you’ll want to be prepared. Assuming the predictions are accurate, we’ve lined up some of the financial products that can help. Here’s what you should consider, based on your own Chinese horoscope sign:

1. Rat

Those born in the year of the Rat can prosper this year, but it comes at a cost: you have to be ready to take on challenges, and some degree of risk. There will be many opportunities for promotion or advancement at work, but it will come at the cost of new responsibilities and difficulties.

Your social life is likely to diminish this year, even as your income increases. You’ll be too busy with new tasks / responsibilities to hang out as much as you used to.

Rat signs risk a big financial loss if they get into legal disputes this year. It’s best to sue for peace early on, to avoid unexpected tussles in a courtroom later.

If you believe your horoscope you should:

Consider products such as endowment plans, or Unit Trusts, with your rising income – being able to invest more will help your long term retirement plans. Don’t just blow your newfound cash on indulgences.

If you get into a financial dispute this year, try to settle out of court. Remember, legal fees can be ruinous, even if you do win a case.

2. Ox

Ox-signs are in for a quiet year, with few significant changes to their general prosperity. There will be more time for social interaction this year, as your job will remain relatively mundane, with few opportunities or disruptions.

Cautious investments can pay off, if the thought of stagnant money frustrates you. However, this definitely isn’t the year for high-stakes gambles for the ox; while you may not lose money, you’re also not likely to see high returns for any risk and effort you put in.

If you believe your horoscope you should:

Stick to relatively safe, low-risk investments this year. Maintain the asset allocation in your portfolio, and don’t go out of your way to chase any fads (e.g. the crypto-currency craze we saw earlier this year).

Instead of investing too much, you may want to bulk up your savings. This will give you capital to seize opportunities later on, perhaps in the next year or two.

3. Tiger

The year of the Dog brings good opportunities to Tiger-signs. This is a good year for pursuing promotions, or for making career changes; employers are more likely to accede to requests for a pay raise (or to accept a higher starting pay, if you’re a job seeker).

Tiger-signs will find that their investment returns this year are stable, but with no big upswings either. You may need to get a little creative, and try alternative methods like starting a small side-business.

If you believe your horoscope you should:

Set aside a bit of extra time or money, to pursue alternative income streams. Consider less conventional methods – for example, rather than buying endowment policies or equities, try raising your income by doing side-jobs (e.g.coding websites, driving an Uber, or even offering consulting services if you’re an expert in your field).

4. Rabbit

This is a good year for rabbit-signs to invest in long term gains. However, they must have patience. Rabbit-signs won’t see immediate gains from their investments this year; instead, any investments they make this year will pay off many years down the road.

It’s an especially good time for rabbit-signs to invest in themselves. Push yourself to learn new skills, even if it seems demanding or inconvenient. There are opportunities for pay raises and promotions, if accompanied by real effort.

In short, rabbit-signs will really reap what they sow this year.

If you believe your horoscope you should:

Take advantage of schemes like the SkillsFuture programme, to upgrade yourself. You could also look for assets that provide long term capital gains, such as a well-balanced portfolio of stocks (speak to a financial advisor), or a Unit Trust.

5. Dragon

Dragon-signs must be careful to tame their egos, in the year of the Dog. Your fortune signs show that, if you’re not able to keep a low profile and exhibit humility this year, you’ll run into conflicts that could cost you financially (e.g. an argument with your boss, about the right way to do things).

There are limited prospects for career advancement this year, due to simple overwork. Dragon-signs will have a lot on their plate job-wise, and may not have time to pursue special projects or initiatives this year.

That said, there is a good chance of a one-off financial windfall this year. This should be spent with prudence, rather than on luxuries.

If you believe your horoscope you should:

Be wary of how you invest your year-end bonus, lottery winnings, inheritance money, etc. Rather than spending on luxuries, consider saving a part of it (about 20 per cent), and then investing the rest.

6. Snake

Snake-signs will find this is a challenging year. They will see the emergence of many competitors, in areas such as work, finance, and even their love life. Frustratingly, there seems to be a rival trying to challenge them at every turn.

However, the competition is actually good for the snake-signs. They will learn something from their struggles this year, which will lend to their future success. Career prospects are especially bright, although they’ll probably  come at the end of long struggles, with multiple rivals.

As for investments, timing is vital for snake-signs. They should refrain from making overly-ambitious plans this year, and instead save up for investments another time,

If you believe your horoscope you should:

Consider products such as the Singapore Savings Bonds (SSBs), which can give you returns of two to three cent per annum. You can also cash out any month, without losing the accrued interest. Stash your money here for the time being, and wait for better opportunities to arrive later on.

7. Horse

It will be a dull, but relatively peaceful year for horse-signs. While you’re not likely to encounter a big misfortune, investments may still frustrate you. You may find that, no matter what you try, your various investments produce average and unimpressive returns.

When there are opportunities for promotion, horse-signs need to think it through carefully. Many of these will involve positions that prove difficult or challenging; you may be pushed beyond your limits if you take such jobs.

This doesn’t mean you should automatically turn down opportunities for promotion; just be honest with yourself, and don’t take a job that you know you can’t do (it will just stress you out, and give you a bad reputation if you can’t handle it).

If you believe your horoscope, you should:

Follow your snake-sign counterparts, and set aside money for better investment options next year. This is a year for caution for patience.

8. Goat

This year brings prosperity to the goat-signs, in terms of both career advancement, and financial windfalls. However, goat-signs must be extra-cautious with any easy money that comes their way. People born under this sign tend to be overly generous, or carefree with their money; doing so this year could squander your entire windfall.

Career wise, you will encounter mentors or geniuses who are worth following. Be humble and open, as these people who benefit you with their knowledge.

There are many opportunities for goat-signs willing to go out of their comfort zone this year. You may discover a hidden talent when trying new things, or find that you’re unexpectedly good at jobs you never considered.

If you believe your horoscope you should:

Take steps to beef up your own financial literacy this year, while also investing in skills upgrading. Seek out mentors (or just really smart friends), and really make an effort to learn from them.

Look into different hobbies and activities (creating game apps, painting, playing music, etc.) If you discover a hidden talent, someone may be willing to pay you for it.

9. Monkey

For monkey-signs who are sociable and make a lot of friends, this can be an easy year. But monkey-signs who are loners will face a rocky start; they may encounter rivals or obstacles to their work projects, or their business.

These obstacles clear up later in the year; but if you have good friends to help, you’ll get over them much more quickly.

Investment wise, the monkey-signs need to concentrate better. This is a good year for you to think long term (up to retirement), and formulate overall financial plans to reach such goals.

This is not a good year for monkey-signs to get involved in lawsuits; even if you win the case, you could find yourself in debt over the fees; any “victory” may not be worth it.

If you believe your horoscope, you should:

Speak to a financial advisor, or qualified wealth manager. Take another look at your long term retirement goals, and analyse the assets in your portfolio. Determine if these assets need to be changed, given the new global situation.

10. Rooster

Rooster signs have unusual luck this year. They will have many opportunities to make money, and greatly raise their income and wealth. However, each of these opportunities will have very short windows. You will not have much time to think things over, and will have to react fast to seize the opportunities. Be on your toes this year, if you want to be rewarded.

Also, while good career opportunities will emerge this year, most of them are unusually demanding. Married rooster-signs will find that, if they seize these opportunities, they will have little time for family and friends; their wealth will increase at the cost of their family life this year. They will have to make up their own minds, on whether it’s worth the trade-off.

Rooster signs who are single should be prepared to work extra hard this year. Take advantage of your independent status, to seize opportunities that could last a lifetime.

If you believe your horoscope you should:

Raise your savings this year, and try to accumulate six months of your expenses as savings (if you haven’t already). This will give you the opportunity to pursue career changes, when the possibility arrives (it’s dangerous to attempt a career change with no savings!)

Speak to a qualified financial adviser, on building an active portfolio to meet your financial aspirations. You may want to allocate a safe portion of your wealth (five per cent of your total portfolio) to more high-risk, high-return alternatives. However, be careful not to overdo it; and don’t do it if the anxiety would distract you from your job.

11. Dog

Although it’s their year, the dog-signs need to be wary. Their fortune suggests the emergence of powerful competitors and rivals, and business is – as they say – a “dog eats dog” world.

Dog-signs who run their own business should be careful, and maintain a low profile. Any high-powered deals or acquisitions can attract unwanted attention. Those who are employees should avoid conflict in the workplace, and try to make peace quickly if an argument occurs. Dog-signs stand to suffer psychological and financial drawbacks from such showdowns this year, even if they win.

Dog-signs will benefit if they focus on defensive and passive investments this year; chasing trends will bring few rewards.

If you believe your horoscope you should:

Focus your investments on low-risk, no-nonsense assets. One example would be blue chip shares. Older investors may also consider vanilla bonds, or other fixed income products that provide slow but consistent streams of cash.

12. Pig

This is a good year for pig-signs, with their fortune suggesting greater income. However, this is dependent on their attitude at work – your bosses will be especially sensitive to your attitude this year, and will reward or punish you accordingly.

Treat others with deference and kindness this year; the more compassion you display, the more you’ll find yourself rewarded.

While there are no signs pointing toward financial windfalls (don’t expect to win at 4D), it’s likely that you can find new income streams, or get a pay raise. You will have better long term rewards by saving more of your new income, rather than indulging in it.

If you believe your horoscope you should:

Consider increasing your CPF contributions by a voluntary amount, to better cover costs at retirement. Alternatively, consider putting more of your new income into an endowment plan, for long term goals like your children’s education.

Read This Next:

How Much Cash Should You Keep in Your Portfolio?
12 Financial Goals for the Next 12 Months


By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.

The post Your Money Horoscope for the Year of the Dog 2018 appeared first on Financial News and Advice in Singapore.

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To pick a savings account that is right for you, consider factors such as interest rates, fees, convenience and online access.

Most savings accounts look the same, so it’s hard to decide which is better at first glance.

But look deeper; beyond the usual benefits, some savings accounts offer features that can make your banking either more convenient, or profitable.

Here are some of the key considerations.

Look for Features that Match Your Needs

There’s no inherently “best” savings account; it all depends on personal needs. As it can be troublesome to switch banks later, you’ll want to be clear on what to look for from the beginning.

Take into consideration features such as:

  • Interest rates
  • Convenience
  • Fees
  • Ease of online access
  • Relevance of freebies
Interest Rates

Savings accounts often show a huge disparity of interest rates, from under one per cent per annum, to even over three per cent. Why? The reason is that interest rates are often conditional.

For example, you may get an interest rate of three per cent per annum; if you maintain S$5,000 in the account every month, and also spend at least S$1,000 on retail. Fail to meet the conditions, and your interest rate falls back to something much lower (like 0.125 per cent).

For this reason, you should never just pick the account with the highest interest rate. Check if you can meet the terms and conditions first. You want to find the savings accounts that has the highest interest rate, under conditions you’re able to meet.

Convenience

Don’t forget practical issues, such as whether there are sufficient ATMs, and whether branches are close to you.

While most of us don’t need to visit bank branches these days, you may have to visit for the occasional administrative reason. You may want to avoid a bank that requires you to travel long distances to a branch, or which has too few ATMs.

You should also consider how quickly the bank responds, when you phone in with queries or requests (call their line to get a sense of their speed). You don’t want to waste several hours on hold, to resolve small issues.

Fees

The most common sort of fee is an administrative charge, for when your bank account falls below a certain amount. For example, you may be charged an additional S$20, if your bank account holds less than S$500 at the end of the month.

However, there may be other fees to consider. Some banks impose charges for making transfers to overseas bank accounts, for example, or for maintaining overdraft facilities (if you choose such a feature).

Read through the terms and conditions carefully. Ignore the fees for features you rarely or never use; but pay attention to how you’re charged for other things. If you expect your account to regularly fall below the minimum level, for example, you may be better off picking a bank that won’t charge you for that.

Ease of Online Access

Not all banks have equally good digital banking. Check out the bank’s website, along with any of its apps.

Is it easy to check your account balances on your phone? Can you make immediate fund transfers via your smartphone, instead of having to go to an ATM? And can you understand the user interface of the bank’s site and apps, or are you totally confused by the layout?

These days, a lot of banking is done on smartphones and tablets, so be sure the bank’s mobile site is intuitive. The more you can figure it out on your own, the less you need to waste time calling the bank for help.

Relevance of Freebies

Some banks offer freebies, such as free cheque books or supplementary cards. You may also get further discounts or enhanced benefits on bank-issued credit cards, if you already hold an account with them.

Consider the relevance of these freebies. If you hardly ever write cheques, for example, then it doesn’t matter that you get free cheque books every year. But if you run a business and go through several of these, then it might save you some money.

Read This Next:

How Much Cash Should You Keep in Your Portfolio?
12 Financial Goals for the Next 12 Months


By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.

The post How to Pick a Savings Account (When They All Look the Same) appeared first on Financial News and Advice in Singapore.

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Having a travel insurance plan is only useful if your claim goes through. Follow these 7 key steps for faster travel insurance claims.

One of the main worries about travel insurance is the claims process.

Sure, a policy might have great coverage and low premiums; but come crunch time, will the pay out materialise? And will you get the money quickly, or a whole year down the road?

We’ll let you in on a secret: the key to successful claims starts before the claim.

Key Steps to Help Your Travel Insurance Claim

Here’s what you need to do, to help your claim get through fast:

  • Get the necessary contact details
  • Take pictures of your luggage
  • Travel with items that you have receipts for
  • Draft a timeline
  • Where possible, contact your insurer before seeing a doctor
  • Seek alternative documentation
  • Avoid alcohol consumption while abroad
1. Get the Necessary Contact Details

Before you get on the plane, make sure you have the contact number for your travel insurer. This can be the 24 hour helpline, or it can be agent you bought the insurance from; it doesn’t really matter, just so long as you can find it in a pinch.

If you purchased the insurance online, do note the contact details of the website as well (e.g. the helpline or email address).

Ensure that a family member or friend knows the insurer’s contact details. In the off chance that you’re unable to contact the insurer yourself (e.g. you are unconscious from an accident), they can reach out on your behalf.  

2. Take Pictures of Your Luggage

Always snap a picture of your luggage, along with the luggage tags. Also snap a picture of any valuables, such as laptops and cameras, so that you can show pictures of any damage when making a claim.

This serves a second purpose. If your luggage is lost, you can show the pictures to the airport staff. It is quicker for them to identify your luggage from a picture, than from a written description.

3. Travel with Items That You Have Receipts For

An insurer may require you to provide them with a receipt, when you make a claim. This is not universal, but it’s not uncommon either. As such, it’s best to travel with items that you have receipts for.

You can also call your insurer beforehand, and ask how you’d make a claim on, say, your laptop or watch, if you have no receipt.

4. Draft a Timeline

When writing about incidents such as theft, robbery, or injury, it helps to draft a timeline. This is simply a point-by-point account of what happened, from the earliest estimated time to the latest. For example:

  • 11.35 am – Landed at the airport
  • 11.42 am – Saw stranger looking through my luggage, near the baggage collection area. Informed the airport police.
  • 12 am – Airport police informed me they were unable to catch the stranger. Investigated my luggage and found the lock broken, and my laptop was missing…

And so forth. Timelines make it easy to organise your thoughts, and provide a quick summary for reference. This is an easier way to describe the situation, as opposed to writing about it essay-style.

5. Where Possible, Contact Your insurer Before Seeing a Doctor

If you don’t need instant medical attention, do contact your insurer before seeing a doctor. This is because some medical institutions may be preferred by your insurer – the claims process may go a lot smoother, if you use these select hospitals and clinics.

In addition, you can clarify earlier on if you can make a claim. For example, you usually can’t make a claim for dental care if it’s just a toothache; but you can make a claim if you’ve been in an accident, and need critical dental surgery.

6. Seek Alternative Documentation

Your insurer may want documents that you find difficult to provide. For example, your insurer may want a police report, if you were robbed. However, some countries have police forces that will not issue such reports (except internally), or cannot issue a report unless they open an investigation (which they may not be willing to do).

Rather than fighting with the local authorities, ask your insurer if alternative documentation will do. For example, a letter from the Singapore embassy may work in place of a police report.

7. Avoid Alcohol Consumption While Abroad

Alcohol always complicates insurance claims. Most travel insurance will not pay out if you get injured/lose your belongings while intoxicated. In some cases, even drinking a single can of beer might void your claim. Don’t assume you can hide this from an insurer, as they often ask any consulting doctors/police officers whether you’d been drinking.

As far as possible, try to avoid going on drunken binges while abroad. While it may make for a fun night, it may also void for your insurance for any subsequent accidents. To be safe, avoid alcohol before activities like skiing, or driving your rental car (even if it was just one beer).

Read This Next:

7 Things That Can Void Your Travel Insurance Claims
5 Reasons Travel Insurance is Extra Important on Cruise Ships


By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.

The post 7 Key Steps for Faster Travel Insurance Claims appeared first on Financial News and Advice in Singapore.

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Successfully managing a budget also means knowing how to deal with the inevitable splurge. Here’s how to get your budget back on track.

Christmas has barely gone past and we’re already staring down another period of splurging.

Let’s be honest – most of us have yet to recover from having our finely-tuned budget thrown off by the last shopping frenzy. 

Don’t give up yet; here are some simple ways to get your budget back in shape (after all the festivities are done).

Work Out Your Shortfall 

How much did you mean to save this month? If you intend to save S$3,000 in February, but end up saving only S$1,200, then you’ve missed your target by S$1,800.

The point of having a concrete number in mind is so you can have a solid point from which to start planning a budget recovery. 

Afterall, you can’t fix damage if you don’t know where it is!

Spread Out Your Recovery 

It’s improbable that you can make up for the lost savings all at once (if you could save that much more in a month, that’s what you should be doing!)

Instead, from next month onwards, aim to ramp up your savings by another 10 per cent, until you make up the difference. 

If you usually save S$3,000 a month, you should set aside S$3,300 a month instead, for the next six months; by then, the extra S$300 a month would have made up for the excess S$1,800.

By slowly making up the difference, you can fix the budget without feeling the big sting in your lifestyle.

Reduce Your Interest on Your Debt 

If you have outstanding balances on your credit card, make good on them quick. At 26 per cent (or so) per annum, the repayments can seriously damage your financial plans.

Find a low-interest personal loan, which ranges between six and nine per cent per annum. There may even be zero interest loans (aka balance transfers), which give you a fixed period (typically six months) to repay the debt without any interest charges. 

The idea is to pay your high-interest credit card debt, with a low-interest personal loan or balance transfer. This gives you the chance to pay off your debts without getting bogged down by expensive interest charges. 

Important: Don’t start accumulating debt on your credit card again! If you feel tempted to buy on credit, then cancel your credit card right after you’ve repaid it with the personal loan. You can use a credit card again later, when the personal loan is paid off.

SingSaver exclusive: Get Citi Ready Credit PayLite personal loan for as low as 4.27% per annum (EIR: 8% per annum) for minimum loan amount of $20,000 on 36-months loan tenor. Receive S$100 NTUC FairPrice voucher upon approval!

Review Your Automated Payments

Check for any automated billing, such as gym memberships or unused cable TV channels. Eliminate these to improve your cash flow – and remember, it’s just temporary. You can have them back once your budgetary damage is fixed.

Sell Stuff You’re Never Going to Use

Be honest with yourself. How many of the gifts you’ve received in the past year are, well, useless to you? If you’re never going to use that expensive robot vacuum cleaner, or can’t think of why you need a drone, then sell it.

Sites like Ebay and Carousell make selling your unwanted items easy – and if you’re in luck, simply selling the gifts will make up for the hole in your budget. Just don’t let the gift-giver know about it.

Go Healthy and Eat Home-cooked for a While

This will help your wallet recover from excess spending, and your body recover from excess eating (the inevitable aftermath of Chinese New Year). It’s easier to plan for healthy meals when you cook yourself – and by refusing to eat out, you’ll save money.

Just restrain yourself for a month or three, and you’ll be ready to indulge again soon – both in wallet and in health!

Read This Next:

How Much Cash Should You Keep in Your Portfolio?
12 Financial Goals for the Next 12 Months


By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.

The post How to Get Your Budget Back on Track After a Splurge appeared first on Financial News and Advice in Singapore.

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Receiving ang pow money is just the beginning. To ensure a prosperous year, put your money to work for you in these 5 ways.

It’s Chinese New Year, and that means it’s ang pao time. We know all you SingSaver readers are too savvy to spend it all at once, right?

But at the same time, you’re probably wondering if there’s a better way to save it, besides stuffing it in your sock drawer. Here are some options you can consider.

1. Singapore Savings Bonds

There’s a minimum of S$500 to buy these, so you may need to top up your ang pao money with some additional savings; but it’s well worth it.

Singapore Savings Bonds (SSBs) are essentially loans that you make to the Singapore government. These loans are among the safest you can make, as the Singapore government has never before failed to repay its debts.

SSBs have an interest rate that “steps up” every year, before finally maturing after 10 years. If you keep the bonds for the full 10 years, you would receive the equivalent of around two to three per cent interest per annum. This is higher than you would receive from some bank fixed deposits.

One other upside to SSBs is that, if you need the money in a pinch, you can cash out at the end of any month. You’ll get less interest that way, but you’ll retain any interest you’ve already accrued (with bank fixed deposits, you typically lose any accrued interest if you withdraw the cash before the maturity date).

This makes SSBs a more flexible option for some.

2. Emergency Fund

This one is for the teens out there, or those nearing adulthood. An emergency fund is meant to provide for six months of your expenses – this prevents you needing credit or personal loans, during emergencies.

The sooner you start building your emergency fund, the happier you’ll be later – and we don’t just mean because you’re financially secure. Most people take one to two years to build their emergency fund, setting aside around 20 per cent of their monthly income each month.

The sooner you finish building the fund however, the sooner you have more disposable income – and you can start putting aside money for fun things instead, like travelling.

3. Buy some Blue Chip Stocks

Think it’s impossible to own stocks without a large financial commitment? Not at all. Banks such as POSB and OCBC have blue chip investment programmes, which can start buying blue chip stocks for you for as little as S$100 a month.

Blue chips refer to the top 30 companies in Singapore by market capitalisation – these are large, stable corporations that are safe to invest in. Returns of around four to five per cent are possible.

What’s also helpful is the flexibility involved – you can quickly sell the shares when you need to, so the money isn’t stuck as it would be with some other types of investments, such as Investment-Linked Policies.

4. Put it in Your CPF account (If You Have One)

Your CPF Ordinary Account (CPF OA) grows at 2.5 per cent per annum, regardless of market conditions. This sum is guaranteed. Likewise, your CPF Special Account (CPF SA) grows at four per cent per annum.

The downside to CPF monies is that they’re stuck once committed – it’s meant to provide for your retirement, so it’ll be toward the end of your working life before you see the money again.

However, padding your CPF account can help with many future needs – from paying your home loan, to providing post-retirement income. The more you put into it now, the less you need to worry about such issues later.

You can make voluntary contributions to your CPF at any time, via their website.

5. Buy some ETFs

Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) track a benchmark index, such as the Straits Times Index Fund. Depending on whether the index moves up or down, the ETF will follow suit. Because there’s no active management beyond imitating the index, the management fees are low (this translates to better returns for you).

Inclusive of dividends, ETFs such as the ST Index Fund have been known to deliver annualised returns of over eight per cent per annum, over 10 years.

ETFs provide a degree of protection through diversification – it would take the majority of Singapore’s top 30 companies to take losses, for example, for the ST Index Fund to edge downward. And while that can happen, most stock markets rise with time.

ETFs like the ST Index Fund can also be bought through blue chip investment programmes (see point 3), so you can get started for as little as S$100 a month.

Read This Next:

How Much Cash Should You Keep in Your Portfolio?
12 Financial Goals for the Next 12 Months


By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.

The post 5 Best Ways to Save Your Ang Pow Money appeared first on Financial News and Advice in Singapore.

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Purchasing a pre-owned flat is a big commitment. Make sure to check for these 7 things to ensure you’re spending your money well.

Many Singaporeans prefer a resale flat to a new one, as there’s no waiting time involved. Besides being able to move in right away, resale flats are also often in mature districts; all the convenience stores and hawker centres are already nearby. Remember though, a resale flat has been lived in before; and there are some key things to check:

1. Check for Loanshark Grafitti

One warning sign you definitely want to check for is the presence of graffiti left by loansharks.

If the flat has been targeted by loansharks, the seller would have cleaned off the marks before the viewing. However, you can often see loanshark grafitti in the stairwell and common corridor as well, especially on other levels.

(Check the paint closely; you can still sometimes see the graffiti under a thin coat).

Remember that, even if your unit is not the specific one targeted by loansharks, you will still be affected. For example, if a neighbouring unit has loanshark troubles, it may spill over and affect you.

Also note if private CCTV cameras have been set up, to point at the common corridor. This may be nothing (the previous owner may just like the added security); but it may also be a sign of loanshark troubles.

2. Bring a Compass (or Compass App)

Check that the unit (the main windows) isn’t facing directly east or west. If it does, know that your unit will be hotter than others. The sun will shine directly in from around 12 pm onward, and you’ll be spending more on fans or air-conditioning.

Some sellers will fudge the truth, such as by telling you the unit is facing “north-west”, when in reality it’s just plain old westward facing.

3. Check the Water Heater(s) 

If the unit you are interested in has a storage water heater (the type that uses a tank), you’ll want to pay particular attention that it is working properly.

Let the tap run for a while, with the water heater on. Is the heater working at all, or working poorly (e.g. after three minutes there’s nothing more than slight warmth)? If the water heater isn’t working well, note that it will be expensive to replace, and/or discard (you’ll need to hire a professional).

Another way to check – if you don’t want to run the water – is touch the wall in front of the heater. If it’s working, the area should warm up after you leave it on for a while.

4. Have a Walkabout

It’s common to be told the flat is “just three minutes” from the MRT station, or the nearest mall. But remember that such estimates are often exaggerated, and you shouldn’t take them at face value.

Distance and speed vary based on who’s walking; it may be a three minute brisk walk for a 25 year old athlete, but not for your 60 year old parent who’s staying with you.

It’s best to test these things out for yourself, by taking a walk to the amenities. 

5. Swing By at a Different Time 

Sellers will choose the optimum time for you to view the flat. But bear in mind that certain hours, such as between 2pm to 4.30 pm, are not reflective of “real” conditions.

Most people are at work during those hours, so naturally the flat will be quiet. But you need to drop by the area at, say, 7pm, to get a sense of how noisy the place really is. Once everyone is back from work, the entire floor might sound like a packed pasar malam.

You also need to consider the traffic noise. Some flats are located near major roads – while that makes access easy, the noise can be unbearable at peak hours, or even late into the night.

6. Check for Relevant Amenities 

Check if the main amenities in the area are relevant to you and your family.

For example, the presence of a neighbourhood mall will jack up the price of your flat. However, are you likely to frequent the retail outlets and eateries in that mall?

If you’ll rarely go there, then the mall access may not be worth paying for (in fact, it could just be noise pollution on the weekends).

Likewise, there’s no point having a lot of eateries nearby, if they all sell food that doesn’t agree with your budget or diet.

As a further step, visit the advertised park spaces, nature walk, bus interchanges, etc. and decide if they really make improvements to your lifestyle.

7. Check the Doors for Sagging

A common problem with older flats are sagging doors. This is when the hinges loosen with time, making the doors difficult to close or open. It’s expensive to replace the doors, so this should be factored into your cost decisions.

Many new buyers forget to fully open and close each door to ensure they don’t sag, and also to check if the locking mechanism on all of them work. 

Don’t be afraid of appearing nitpicky. Make sure to fully open and close all doors in the flat you are intending to buy (and don’t forget the cupboards and cabinets, if you plan to keep them!)

Read This Next:

Why are HDB Loans More Expensive than Bank Loans?
What to do if You Run Out of Money During Renovations


By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.

The post 7 Important Things to Look for When Buying a Resale Flat appeared first on Financial News and Advice in Singapore.

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