Why is Singapore Buying Gold?

Back in January, MAS increased Singapore’s gold reserves by 30%, another 6.8 tonnes of gold, seeing a significant increase in our overall reserves to 205 tonnes. But why are they doing this? What is the reason?

Central banks are continuing to buy gold, instead of holding USD.  Belief is that, now, we are a multi-currency world, so gold is a safer asset to hold than American Dollars. Although USD won’t lose its currency reserve status anytime soon, central banks want to diversify away from the dollar.

The trend of diversifying away from the US Dollar gained momentum when Western nations began putting sanctions on Russia because of the war in Ukraine; Russia was kicked out of the SWIFT system and many other sanctions caused Russia’s economy to plummet.

Not only that, the US Dollar’s recent rise has caused massive inflation problems worldwide, especially for emerging markets. This has obviously worried banks, causing a shift to gold; gold is a good hedge against inflation, and is separate from currency, so does not suffer from exchange rate risks.

During times of political and economic uncertainty, gold is a safe reserve. Gold is able to retain value much better than other forms of currency, because it is limited and cannot be diluted. So to me, it is clear that Singapore is increasing its gold reserves due to the current economic climate; Singapore will be able to whether the financial storm we are facing right now.

Gold can be a good investment option right now, as it’s a good way to hedge against inflation and recession. If you hold cash, your money can be eaten away due to the poor interest rates vs inflation. And finally, while to US Dollar is likely to be the reserve currency for a while, we do not know what will happen in future. Will you be investing in gold, like Singapore?

What Should Expats Take Note of Before They Move To Singapore?

When I first moved to Singapore, I didn’t really know much about the landscape here in terms of living and working. I had only visited the country via transit, so Changi airport was all I knew! Of course, the reason I chose to move to Singapore was because the pay was a lot higher than what I can get in the UK. However, I wish I did understand things before I moved here so I could make more of an informed decision. So, I’ve come up with this list, hopefully I can help some newbies who are considering to move here. 

  1. Flights

Of course, if a company is willing to relocate you over here, then they should try and cover some of the moving costs. When I first accepted my job offer, my company did in fact offer to reimburse my flight ticket. However, this was not enough to cover the full flight cost. If I remember correctly, I had to book with a budget airline direct from London; there are no direct flights from Birmingham, so that was an extra hassle for me to try and travel down there. We all know they’re a lot more expensive than they were pre-Covid, so look out and make sure that your company’s reimbursement is sufficient to cover these inflated flight costs!

2. Housing Costs

I’ve written a few articles now regarding how expensive housing has gotten in Singapore. In fact, a couple of days after I broke my last article, the government raised the additional stamp duty for foreigners from 30% to 60%! Not only that, rental has skyrocketed over the past year or so; so even though your salary might be higher here than your home country, your outgoings might be a lot more too. If you are offered a package that covers some or all of your rental costs, then I think that is ideal! Rental costs are the bulk of my outgoing expenditures each month.

3. Insurance 

I know I always go on about this, but it’s very important! I spend a lot of my personal insurance each month. When I first arrived in Singapore, my previous company gave me an allowance of $200 annually to cover insurance…let me tell you now, this is not enough. This only covered a fraction of the very basic hospital & accident insurance I purchased, let alone the additional life & critical illness insurance I later purchased. If a company offers an allowance to purchase insurance, make sure it’s at least in the thousand dollar range. But ideally, a company should provide you with a corporate insurance plan, that way you may have an opportunity to be covered for GP, specialist and dental, coverage that is normally not claimable on a personal insurance plan. Also, it’s good to know that it is mandatory for companies to provide foreigners on work permits and S passes with insurance coverage.

4. Annual Leave

I didn’t factor in how important this was when I accepted a job offer. In my previous company, when I was an English teacher, I enjoyed a lot of days off, because of school holidays et cetera. The tuition centre simply refused to open, meaning that we were unable to work. However, these days off went over our 14 days annual leave, meaning that we actually had to pay back the company the days that we did not work! This basically ate away into our bonuses. I wish I’d have found a better offer that didn’t absorb our days off in lieu this way!

5. Shares & Taxes

A lot of companies offer shares as part of their incentive. I think this is a great idea, as you basically have access to stocks (maybe even blue chips) that you wouldn’t normally have access to. However, a word of caution- and this has happened a few times with my clients; IRAS will tax you on these shares even if you haven’t cashed them out. Quite often, you are taxed when the shares are doing well and price high, then, the shares may plummet, especially during this economic uncertainty. So, you may be taxed on assets that are actually a lot higher than their current value! This could push you into different tax brackets altogether, meaning that your tax for that year will be quite costly!

6. Education Costs

As a foreigner, it is often incredibly difficult to get your child into a local school, they have to take several exams on a syllabus that they probably are not familiar with. So, for most expats in Singapore, their kids have to go to international schools. The fees for these schools can be very pricey, easily $50,000 or even more a year for some! So, factor this in before you make the move. Ideally, you can find a package that will cover some of these educational costs for you.

7. Dependent’s Pass

A lot of foreigners here are in fact trailing spouses, following their husband or wife for work. In the past, this was not so much of an issue, but over Covid, the government made it a rule that those on a dependent pass could not get a letter of consent to work. This means that if you are on a dependent pass, you may have to work remotely for your previous company overseas, or simply not at all. I do know some who have set up their own company to bypass this, but then another problem arises in having to hire a local and pay their CPF, regardless of how well your business is doing.

Some argue that Singapore is becoming less attractive for foreigners to live and work. I don’t necessarily agree with this statement, however, I think it’s key that you know all of these things to look out for and make an informed decision.

Is It Worth Buying a Property in SG if You’re an Expat?

I think about this question a lot, as we all know the rental rates in Singapore have skyrocketed recently, and it pains me to pay more for rent than what some of my local colleagues pay for their monthly mortgage instalments. So I often think whether it is worth buying a property as a foreigner. However, there are many restrictions and extra costs involved are often put expat off buying property. Or, we can only buy private condominiums or landed property if it is in Sentosa. HDBs are completely out of the question, which, of course the more affordable option.

So let’s take a deep dive into whether it is worth an expat buying a property here.

One thing that does bring some foreign investors into buying property. Here is how stable and strongly Singapore dollar is. Even during the pandemic, the Singapore dollar continues to be stable, unlike some currencies in Europe and the US.  Last year, in 2022, foreign buyers made up 22.4% of all condominium sales in Singapore. This was quite a shock to me when I found this out, because Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD) for foreigners is at a staggering 30%! 

For example if I was buying a condo, as an expat, at S$1M my total Buyer’s Stamp Duty would be $24,600. Then my ABSD would be $50,000. So in total my costs for this condo would be $1,074,600! That’s a lot of extra cash to put down. And this isn’t even taking into account legal fees and other admin costs!

(Note that if you’re from the States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland, you don’t have to pay ABSD!)

In a lot of other countries, it’s very popular to flip your properties as a form of side income, or to do as a full-time business i.e., buying a property and selling it very quickly for a profit.

But in Singapore, if you plan to sell your home within the first three years of purchase, you will have to pay Seller Stamp Duty (SSD), which is 12% in the first year, 8% in the second and 4% in the third, so I think twice if you want to start being a home, flipper in Singapore! Your business may not be as lucrative as you think. 

Now, I think that a lot of expats don’t know in Singapore, is that we can actually apply for mortgages, normally with no issues. Usually the ratio is 75%, but can be as low as 55%. Do take note that the cash down payment is usually anywhere between 5% to 10%. However, although it doesn’t sound too bad, remember that interests are not exactly in our favour right now; you’re looking at our interest rate of about 3.65% – 4.25%, which means that if you are wanting to purchase $1 million property, your mortgage repayments could easily be around $7000 a month.

Looking at these numbers, I can look at it from both sides of the coin; this mortgage repayment is what a lot of people are paying as their monthly rental in Singapore. So if you are planning to stay in Singapore long-term, it’s actually a good investment because the property belongs to you, it’s not like you’re lining the pockets of a landlord by paying this in rent. But, if you’re only here short-term, perhaps it’s best just to suck up the large rental amount! 

The last thing I want to talk about, is the longevity of your home in Singapore. Unlike many other countries, whereby when you buy the property, it is yours forever, and you can use it as an ancestral property to pass down to your children et cetera, this may not be the case in Singapore. Most properties here are 99 year lease, including a lot of condos. Looking at PropertyGuru, it’s very difficult to find condos nowadays that are freehold. What I mean by this, is that it is owned by the buyer for life; it can be passed down generation to generation. If the property is a 99 year lease, then in theory, it has to be given back to the government after the 99 years is up. Not only does this mean that the property cannot be passed down multiple generations, but it also means that as a property becomes older, it can often lose its value, because buyers in the market know that at some point, it will have to be returned to the government. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons why a lot of expats are put off buying in Singapore. But now we see a lot more countries adopting this concept, especially with over population. And to be honest, I don’t think I would want to give my future generations an old dilapidated apartment, anyway. The buildings here are not like back at home, where they can last for hundreds of years, so to me, this is not much of an issue. If anything, I think it encourages the property market. It means that once the three years & SSD is up, you can sell your property and get a new one and upgrade.

So it’s kind of like a long-term flipping process. Instead of staying in one property that may become very rundown.

If I were to conclude on my thoughts as to whether it’s worth a foreigner buying a property here in Singapore, there are a few things. I do think it is worthwhile if they are planning on staying long time in Singapore, also because in future this could look good on their PR application as they are already rooted in Singapore. Moreover, I always think it’s good to be paying for your own asset, instead of paying rent to a landlord! And with rentals being crazy prices right now, it works out to be more cost-effective if you are going to be staying here in the long run, even with the additional taxes and stamp duty. However, if you’re wanting to use it as an investment property, and don’t really have intentions of staying long-term in Singapore, then it may be a better idea to look for properties elsewhere. Nearby Southeast Asian countries have less regulations in terms of the costing for foreigners, and the properties are larger and much more affordable, meaning you can turn that into a nice passive income for rental.

These are just my opinion is but what do you think about buying a property in Singapore as a foreigner? 

Ni Yao Youtiao Ma?

I have recently become somewhat addicted to youtiao. Sometimes known as the ‘Chinese Churro’, these deep-fried dough sticks are devilishly moreish. But, I wasn’t always such a big fan. I often saw my husband dipping one into his hawker centre kopi and frankly, that kind of grossed me out. But then I realised that the youtiao is a vessel for many more wonderful things. So, I decided to explore them…one more step to being local!

Ba Kut Teh

I love ba kut teh; this peppery and herbal pork rib soup is delicious. Quite often you will see youtiao included in your order. I like letting the dough get soaked into the soup until it’s a bit soggy.

Sweetened Soy Milk

I am definitely not at this stage yet; to me, dipping anything in soy milk is a disgusting concept. I don’t like soy milk at all, which is what the problem is here. But if you do, this might be up your street. Some people even dip their youtiao into soy pudding.

Condensed Milk

I have seen this a lot, and I guess it makes sense. A youtiao, in actuality, is just a long doughnut, and doughnuts are normally covered in icing or various other sweet and sticky substances. Condensed milk is so sweet and rich, dipping youtiao into it is a no-brainer for dessert-lovers or those with a sweet tooth.

Coffee

A very traditional and obvious choice. Whilst I don’t like it myself, it’s a similar concept to us Brits dipping a bickie into our tea or coffee. I just don’t like floaty pastry bits swimming around in my cup. It’s a no from me.

Congee

You may have guessed by now that youtiao is a Singapore breakfast staple, as is rice porridge! The two go together quite nicely, especially with a bit of soy sauce, for a balance of sweet and salty, soft and crunchy.

Curry Sauce

I’ve saved the best until last. And of course, someone from Birmingham loves anything drenched in curry sauce. In my opinion, youtiao is a perfect vessel for curry; it soaks it up perfectly and is the most comforting, stodgy snack. It may seem like a weird combo at first (and trust me, I thought so too), but you really can’t knock it until you’ve tried it. This combination got me back into youtiao, so I encourage all to give it a try!

I’m sure that I haven’t come across all ways of eating youtiao, and in fact I know that youtiao can be found across Chinese and South East Asian cuisine, each country having their special way of enjoying it. Have you tried this local staple? And how do you like to eat it?

What Is Going On With The Banks In The US?

It’s been all over the news over the past couple of weeks that it’s not good news for certain banks in America, particularly Silicon Valley Bank, which announced its bankruptcy last Friday. Well this may not affect us directly, it’s very good to know what happened and of course why.

Silicon Valley Bank catered to many tech investors in the US, hence the name. It was taken over by federal regulators on Friday, leading to the largest bank sale in the US since the global financial crisis of 2008. Following this bank’s collapse, was New York’s Signature Bank on Sunday also collapsing, for different reasons due to its exposure to the crypto market. As you can imagine, the news of these led to a bank run last week, where depositors rushed to withdraw all their deposits from the bank. This inevitably led to the bond market swinging wildly, but why did this happen in the first place?

Like the age old saying, what must go up, must come down, and this is true in this situation. Catering to mainly tech developers and companies, Silicon Valley Bank boomed during Covid, deposits totaling over US$100 billion. Then, in 2021, when interest rates hit a record low, this bank invested billions of dollars into US Treasury bonds. Whilst bonds are generally safer investments, with steady gains, they only pay out in full if held to the maturity date. This poses a risk to bond investors if interest rates rise.

Lo and behold, we all know what happened-interest rates went up. This meant that Silicon Valley Bank had to sell at a loss. Not only was this a problem but it happened to come along with the whole tech sector bubble apparently bursting! We’ve all heard in the news and experienced friends, colleagues and family members possibly losing their jobs in the tech sector. Tech companies have been increasingly withdrawing their money from the bank. In order to comply with these withdrawals, SVB had to sell its bond holdings, at the loss of US$1.8 billion. Not only that, SVB also announced that it would be selling more of its shares, a hint that they require more cash! This shook its customers, causing even more people to withdraw from the bank.

On Thursday, customers at this bank try to withdraw 42 billion USD in deposits and the banks shares dropped more than 60%. By Friday, it was all over the Silicon Valley Bank.

While not all banks are in this niche of only catering to tech companies, this did spark concern about the banking sector, especially when the second bank, New York’s Signature Bank, collapsed on Sunday. This actually has had a knock on effect to more traditional banks; JP Morgan is down more than 7%, with Wells Fargo and Bank of America down more than 15%. Many bank analysts have stressed that there is no liquidity crunch facing the banking industry and that, it is more so a human fear that has gripped the market, and a self-fulfilling prophecy has been played out.

Luckily, those that had ties with the banks that have gone bankrupt, will have full access to their deposits, even those that exceed the limit of FDIC insurance. So at least there is some relief there for their customers.

President Biden remarked that the banking system is safe, but the markets did react strongly on Monday; we saw the US stock exchange go up and down with immense volatility over the course of the day. Not only that, government bonds yielded lower than expected. But the main thing that we must look out for is whether this will have any effect to the Fed’s decision next week…

The Federal reserve will meet next week to discuss whether it will raise its benchmark interest rates yet again. The rising interest rates have helped to slow inflation, but it has also devalued bonds and has somewhat led to the collapse of banks such as SVB. Hopefully, the Fed realises that if it continues to rise interest rates, more banks could fall victim. This might put the Fed under some pressure to ease the increases.

What does this mean for us in Asia? Well, luckily we may not be directly affected. For me personally, I see this as an opportunity to go into bonds when they are at a low. Generally, when equities are down, bonds are up. We have seen equities go down for Long time in the market now, which I hope means that bonds, after this little blip, will continue to go up. Of course, I cannot predict the market but I always see these kinds of situations as a great opportunity!

Hanoi Travel Tips

I recently took a short trip to Hanoi. But what some may not know is that I actually used to live in Hanoi, Vietnam before I moved to Singapore.

Returning back to the city, I really felt like not much had changed, and I slotted myself right back in. But, I was conscious that to some, Vietnam might be a total culture shock; food is unusual, streets are manic and English is not widely spoken.

For these reasons, I thought it would be a great idea to share some of my tips, as an ex-expat in Hanoi and now as a tourist.

The Roads

This may be the number one most difficult thing to adjust to in Vietnam. Traffic lights are seldom seen or used, most people drive motorcycles and to an outsider it may seem like total chaos. But, this is actually not the case. There are several unwritten rules when driving (and being a pedestrian) in Hanoi, and if you know these tips it may save you a lot of stress and hassle.

Even though there doesn’t seem to be any rules, it is simple. Like a river, or a colony of ants, the traffic in Hanoi moves constantly and slowly. There are no jerking movements, no need to suddenly break, and so long as everyone consistently flows around each other, it works. So, how does this affect you as a pedestrian? Well, if you panic whilst crossing the road, you disrupt the system. Do not expect people to move, or stop, for you. Walk slowly, at the same pace and in the same direction across the road. You will find that vehicles will work their way around you. This is why it is very important not to run, not to change your direction, or to get scared and stop half way through. Maintain your pace (and your confidence!) and crossing the road will seem like a breeze.

The Money

When I lived in Vietnam, the money seemed easy, especially because at the time it was easy to convert in my head to USD and from there into GBP. Now, going back as a tourist, it’s very difficult to convert in my head to SGD (one Singapore dollar is about 17,000 Vietnamese dong). Not only that, a lot of the paper notes are similar in colour, so it is easy to get them mixed up. My tips for dealing with the money would be as such; whilst it’s tricky to always convert, be mindful of how much things should cost in VND. For example, street food, like a bowl of pho, should cost anything from 25000 VND to about 60000 VND (60k for a really large portion, or at a famous street stall). Of course at restaurants, this will be more, maybe in the 100000 – 200000 VND range, and beers tend to be very cheap wherever, costing maybe 20000 VND. (Actually, I used to drink at places where the beer was 7000 VND (about 40 cents) but that is at a really local spot). You can see that Vietnam is really a very affordable place to visit.

My second most important money tip would be, do not pay in USD. Many blogs, tour groups and travel companies will tell you to pay using USD. And they’re not wrong, you can- maybe stores in the Old Quarter will accept dollars, but you are going to be massively ripped off with the exchange rate. Cash is still King in Vietnam; not everywhere will accept card, but using American dollars is a sure fire way to lose money.

The Food

Vietnamese is my favourite cuisine of all time. There is such a range of healthy, fresh and delicious food, and it’s always at a very affordable price. I would say that street food is always better than restaurants! 

If you’re staying around the Old Quarter, there are some great famous spots you can try out, such as Bun Cha Nem at 6 Ngo Tram Street, Bun Cha Huong Lien 2 Obama (the one that Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate at), Banh Mi 25 & Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su. 

My favourite dishes are:

  • Pho bo tai lan- flash fried steak noodle soup
  • Bun cha- pork patties and belly in a fish sauce broth with fresh herbs and rice noodles, sometimes with spring rolls as an add on!
  • Bun bo hue- a spicy soup noodle dish originating from the old capital of Hue
  • Ca phe trung- Vietnamese egg coffee
  • Banh bao- a giant bao with spring roll-like filling, and two quail eggs!
  • Pho dat biet- ‘house special’ beef pho, with many different cuts of beef

If you’re not so adventurous, and want some safer options, you can try:

  • Pho ga- chicken noodle soup
  • Nem nuong- spring rolls 
  • Pho xao- wok fried noodles (bo means it’s with beef)
  • Banh mi – French baguette sandwich (trung is with egg, pa te is with a pork pate and xuc xich is with sausage)

Culture & Language

To be honest, even when living in Hanoi, I struggled with language. If you try and learn Vietnamese online, best of luck, the Vietnamese that they teach you on the apps is South Vietnamese- not what they speak in Hanoi!

In all actuality, even though many locals don’t speak English, they are more than happy to help, or try to understand what you are trying to say. So long as you are polite and don’t get frustrated, you’ll be fine. And also, saying ‘me oi’ is a good way to get people’s attention.

I hope these tips will help those planning on going on a short trip to Hanoi- maybe it’s your first time, or maybe you don’t want to feel like a tourist anymore! 

Reflection of Life Through the Pandemic

Seen as yesterday marked the day where mandatory mask wearing was a thing of the past, I thought I would write a short reflection on my time in Singapore during the pandemic.

Just over a year ago I wrote an article about how I travelled home to the UK during Covid, adhered to all restrictions and still tested positive on arrival. Those who read that article would have remembered it was one of anger, annoyance and general frustration of the situation the world was in. Even though being on a Vaccinated Travel Lane flight, I still had to quarantine longer than those that were on regular, more cheaper flights, which generally left me feeling embittered about every rule and regulation.

I am here to tell you today that I no longer feel like this! I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and I’m so happy that things have returned to the way they almost were previously! I was so frustrated seeing other countries opening up and resuming normal activities, where here in Singapore I almost felt like we were going backwards. But I now realise that all of that has been for this moment.

As opposed to some countries who massively relaxed restrictions at the expense of their own people, or reacted too drastically and have been in perpetual lockdown, I am so glad to say this I am still in Singapore. Even though at times it may have felt like we were yo-yoing in and out of mini-lockdowns, we have to look at how far we have come; in comparison to our 2.2 Million cases, only 0.08% were reported to be fatal, which, to me, is a huge win for Singapore.

Vaccines

I do think this is due to the rapid response Singapore had in relation to the vaccine; 90.85% of Singapore’s population are fully vaccinated, in comparison to the global average of 71.8% of people being fully vaccinated.

Economy

I know that during a global pandemic, economy might be the last thing that some people think about, but it is a true reflection of the individual‘s ability to earn a living. It’s wanting having our health affected, but also having our money affected as well can be life altering for the worse. Although many lost their jobs during the pandemic, Singapore did surprisingly well at rebounding it’s economy. Singapore’s total output exceeded even the pre-pandemic level. This is in comparison to certain sectors in UK, US, and a lot of Europe, where we are seeing possible recession.

Tourism

And don’t get me wrong, Singapore was not 100% immune. Major sectors such as hospitality and tourism were massively affected here, and I could definitely see how quiet the country was during the lockdown. It was very sad seeing lots of great bars and restaurants closing for good, even after government support they could not withstand the pandemic. It was pretty depressing at times walking around Sentosa seeing a ghost town. I’m very glad now to see the city bustling and full again!

Mental Well-being

This definitely became a focal point of conversation during the past few years. I even wrote an article on how to have a healthy conversation without mentioning Covid- it certainly became the main talking point with my family back at home when we Skyped every weekend, and I know most people were becoming totally fed up of it.

I really do think that Covid-19 will have a long lasting effect in terms of mental health. A few generations in particular I think will be gravely affected. The first being those that turned 18 during the lockdowns. They had had no opportunity to go out to bars or clubs (most of them have closed down now, too!) and no opportunity to develop all the social skills that you get when meeting new people in casual settings. This also goes for those who went to university or even graduated during the pandemic; I think I would be a completely different person if I did uni online. Those years really shaped me as a person; I became independent, grew up and made my own mistakes. How will people who were indoors the whole time experience that now?

The second is very young children during the pandemic. I’m no psychologist, but I can’t imagine that a baby or child only seeing the same three or four people for the first couple of years of their life had a positive impact.

Of course the last is the older generation. Maybe I’m saying this because I’m far away from home, but seeing relatives after a few years makes you realise how precious time is.

I am glad that Singapore has seemed to embrace a more open conversation when it comes to mental health, and I don’t think this would’ve happened had we not had a pandemic. So I really do see that as a step in the right direction.

Work From Home

What really was great for my mental health was when Singapore re-opened slightly so that we could have a hybrid mix of working from home and also returning to the office. Don’t get me wrong, working from home is great, but sitting in the same four walls every day was becoming very mundane. I now love the option of being able to go into the office to work and see my colleagues and have that human social interaction when I can, but not having it be mandatory. Maybe also this is due to my work; in my old job here in Singapore, when I first arrived, the work environment was incredibly toxic. Even if we were genuinely ill, we were encouraged to still come into work, and if we did take an MC, it almost felt like we were being punished when we came back. I now think this kind of behaviour in a company cannot fly post-Covid.

Conclusion

If I were to summarise and look back on the past few years, I understand why many people left the country; the rules were strict and harsh and it’s felt particularly restrictive for foreigners, especially when we could see our own countries opening up. But if I’m brutally honest, I think maybe a lot of those people might regret leaving Singapore now. We have returned to a new normal which really does feel like normal. I barely talk about Covid really with my colleagues, and everything feels a lot more free and easy. This final restriction of masks on public transport being removed, for me, really symbolises an end to a horrible point in time for us and I look forward to all the things that the future in Singapore will bring.

What challenges are coming to Singapore in 2023?

I didn’t want to start of the year with a depressing post, and I assure you it isn’t going to be one, but I thought it would be useful to people to be informed on the changes that are coming to Singapore that will directly affect us this year.

  1. GST Increase

As everyone knows, GST has now increased from 7% to 8%, meaning that things are generally more expensive. Not only does this apply for small things like going out for drinks or doing the grocery shopping, but I think people, particularly expats, will feel the pinch when it comes to paying for their child’s education. International school is already incredibly expensive, and with it being very difficult to get into the state schools, it is pretty much the only option for most people with families over here.That one percent extra makes all the difference, actually. I have Heard of a few international schools allowing the parents to pay for their 2023 bills in December, meaning that they are still paying at the 7% rate, but of course of December is over and moving forward it will be 8% across-the-board.

2. Rental

I’ve been talking about this topic a lot because it directly affects me and is most expats in Singapore, because most of us do not own a property here. Unlike the UK, which I’m used to very good laws that protect the tenants, Singapore does not seem to have this. There seems to be no glass ceiling when it comes to rental prices over here, and actually, a lot of expats when considering relocating to Singapore, should take into consideration how much of their salary is going to go on paying for rent! I do wonder when the rental prices will stop increasing, and I’m hoping that in 2023 it will stop, but there is no way to be sure.

3. Means Testing For Medical

From the end of 2022, the Ministry of health have decided to implement a subsidy framework across healthcare. This of course is to help those from lower income households, who may find medical bills too expensive. This method calculates the subsidies that people will receive based on their household income, so that the government can give assistance to those that need it most. While this is great for those who really need it, there are some factors to consider that will affect all of us. The first is opting for government hospitals instead of private.

Generally, going to a government hospital means that it is a lot cheaper than going private, but of course, this is more appropriate and best saved for people who really need it, on lower income households who qualify for the mains testing. Expats in particular are rarely included in these kind of schemes, which means that generally our healthcare will still stay as expensive. And don’t forget, the Ministry of health have also implemented a drug list, which means that if you are on medication that is not on this list, you may not be able to claim it on your insurance!

4. Inflation

This seems like a really scary word now, last year Singapore reached an all-time high with its inflation rate. While the Monetary Authority of Singapore has tried to curb this, by appreciating the currency and tightening policies to try and curb the upward prices, I still think that inflation will affect us in 2023. We can already see that things such as groceries and Energy bills have increased, what will this be like in 2023? I do think that the government has done a very good job at plateauing the inflation rate, but it has plateaued at a very high point. I am looking forward to seeing it decrease in the future.

5. Recession

While the unemployment rate was very low last year in Singapore, there is something that us as expats must think about; retrenchment. Due to the recent recession, we’ve seen a lot of companies cutting people on Employment passes and S passes, and employing more locals who they don’t have to fork out large levees or salaries for. Of course, this is great for the locals, and I do think that it’s wonderful to see a country put so much effort into supporting its local citizens, but this could greatly affect expatriates living and working in Singapore. Reshuffling of large organisations could mean relocation or retrenchment.

Not only that, I have seen a real competition for S passes due to the quota system. An S pass has changed a lot over the years, with its salary for some even being comparable to those on an Employment pass, but there is strict criteria and quota that each company needs to be able to employ someone on an S pass. Leading to shortages in some companies. Not only that, as we get older and we gain more work experience, our work passes become more and more expensive to renew for the employer. This could spike the increase in unemployment rates in the expat community.

Despite all of this, of course, I still love living in Singapore and consider it my home.

I’m sure that these things are just challenges that we will have to overcome, and will not continue forever. There have been worse economic periods in the past, this is not the worst that could happen! I’m still incredibly grateful to live in such a wonderful country. Here’s to a wonderful 2023 ahead!

Tips For Coping With Homesickness

When I first moved to Singapore, it took me about six months to settle. I found it a lot more difficult to acclimatise here than when I moved to Hanoi. I feel like I made a few mistakes when I moved, so I wanted to share some tips on how to cope with homesickness, to help other expats not make the same mistakes I did.

Join Expat Meet-Up Groups

When I first arrived in Singapore, I had some friends come to visit me from the UK. While it was amazing to see them, I spent the first month or so with them experiencing all the tourist spots in Singapore. This made me feel like I too was a tourist, not a resident. Years later, I joined several meet up groups; not only was it a great way to make new friends, but it also made me feel like Singapore is truly my home, as I was experiencing all sorts of cool places, not just the tourist traps.

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

I really do think that trying new things and getting out of one’s comfort zone helps to break up mundane routine; having the same routine can create spats of great boredom can often leave one feeling lonely. So I do think that going out to new places, such as hawkers, parks or even MRT stations you’ve never been to, not only makes you feel settled, but breaks up a boring routine.

 Host Your Own Culture’s Events

This I think is a really cool idea; just because you live overseas doesn’t mean you have to skip all the holidays you would celebrate at home. I’ve been invited to Diwali parties, 4th of July gatherings and Eurovision parties in Singapore and I could really tell that the respective hosts really felt like it was home away from home. It was a great way to experience others’ cultures and customs, and it brings us all closer together

Stay In Touch

Keeping in touch with those from home is incredibly important, and with technological advancements, it’s easier now more than ever to keep in contact. However, I do think there is a right and a wrong way about doing it. I’ve learnt that setting a rigid time every week to call home, limits your flexibility; sometimes you may be out doing something, and having to rush home for a call can make you feel disconnected with Singapore. Calling home when you and are family are totally free and chilled makes the phone conversations much more enjoyable, and less homesick because you’ve been having a great time in Singapore!

Ultimately, moving away from home is hard, and whilst our family is not here, we are lucky enough to be able to choose our friends and who we spend time with. Surrounding yourself with understanding and supportive people, who are open to sharing experiences with you, will help you settle right in as an expat living in Singapore.

Top 5 Money Hacks For Students

Moving to university is an exciting time- meeting new friends, experiencing new things and for most, living on your own for the first time. Whilst this may seem like a dauting new venture, it doesn’t have to be! Living away from home is an incredibly rewarding experience, when you can be your own self and learn life skills and become responsible. However, living away from your family comes with a lot of challenges; particularly money. If you’re wondering how to cope on your own handling your own finances, here’s my Top 5 Money Hacks For Students!

  1. Create A Budget

I’ll get the boring one (but the most important one) out the way first. Calculate your income for the year (or term if this is easier to calculate). This means adding up all your student loans, grants, bursaries and part-time job salary (if you have one). Then estimate your fixed expenses, like your rent or student housing, books, bills and groceries.

  Try and estimate what you have leftover. If you have a surplus, set aside a portion of this (maybe 20%) for entertainment & travel (university trips and holidays are a great way to bond with uni friends!) and the rest you can save for future needs.

2. Join The Student Union

The Student Union (SU) is a great place to have fun on a budget! Join a club or society for a small fee and these clubs will organise events all throughout the year. Most of these clubs have a budget set aside for these members’ events…minimising the cost for you! They’ll be movie nights, sports events, quizzes and maybe even meals at the SU for you to attend! *Bonus tip- food at the SU tends to be a lot lot cheaper than going to other pubs or restaurants.

3. Do A Big Shop

Studies have shown that doing a grocery shop once or twice a month is a lot more cost-efficient than once a week. But, how do you do this effectively, without over buying? First, write a list; try to include a lot of dry items that you can use for multiple meals, such as rice and pasta. I’d also recommend including tinned ingredients to your list, such as tinned tomatoes and different pulses and beans. These can be the base for many meals, such as pasta sauces, chilli or curry. Secondly, buy frozen vegetables or items that can be kept for a long time in the fridge or freezer. This minimises the chance of your food going off and you wasting good raw ingredients. Check your cupboards and fridges before your shop, whilst making your list, to avoid duplicating anything. And of course, shopping in large supermarkets is a lot cheaper than shopping at corner shops or convenience stores. Try and shop at these places as little as possible, unless you run out of milk or loo roll!

4. Be Conscious Of Your Electricity & Gas

I wish someone would have told me how expensive gas and electricity was! To minimise my bills, I seldom turned on the heating (blankets in student accommodation and cosy pyjamas are a must!), and make sure that lights are switched off when you’re not using them. It sounds like a pain but it really does help keep your energy bills down.

5. Second-Hand Is Awesome!

Especially for books! I remember my first week of university, I was told I needed to buy a specific biology textbook. I went straight to my local bookstore and bought a brand new one for a whopping £60! I used the textbook twice my whole university studies…a lot of my classmates bought the textbook second-hand for about 20 quid! From then on, I stuck to buying all my textbooks on eBay; it really saved me a lot of money.

These five tips are simple, but if implemented well, can save you a lot of money at university! Remember, having fun doesn’t mean having to spend a lot of money!