I’ve had a lot of discussion with people in Singapore, expats and locals, and there seems to be a lot of rumours about what foreigners can and can’t do with their money here. Whilst Singapore is one of the most heavily regulated countries, it is still a financial hub for a reason. So I’m here to bust some of the most common money myths…
Myth: Expats are not eligible for taxrelief schemes in Singapore
Fact: There are many tax reliefs that foreigners that are living and working in Singapore can claim. Many expats think that, because they are employed by a company, their tax is fixed to their salary bracket. This is a common misconception. First of all, if an expat has their spouse, children and parents living here with them as dependents, they can claim relief on their taxes. You may also be eligible for a tax relief if you have employed a foreign domestic worker. Not only that, you can also claim business expenses and life insurance relief with IRAS. For insurance policies, anything that has a death benefit (under your name for yourself or your spouse), is eligible for a maximum of $5,000 per year. Do note though, that insurance through your company, or hospital insurance is not applicable.
SRS is also a great way of utilising tax relief. A foreigner can contribute a maximum of $35,700 into a Supplementary Retirement Scheme. This account can be used to invest for retirement, and upon withdrawal only 50% is taxable. Everything inside the account is eligible for tax relief. You bank will automatically inform IRAS.
Myth: Expats can’t buy local insurance plans, so their medical insurance is expensive
Fact: Expats can buy local plans, and they can be approximately 4 times cheaper than international plans. A lot of foreigners don’t know that local hospital plans (known as Integrated Shield Plans) are available for them; the only difference is that locals can use their Medisave account to pay for this, we just have to pay in full. But this often works out to be a lot cheaper than international plans, that cover all countries- the cover is more than sufficient and it is often not necessary to have a plan that covers all countries, as that’s what travel insurance is for.
Myth: Expats can’t buy property in Singapore
Fact: Foreigners can buy condos (all over Singapore) and landed properties (in Sentosa). We can’t buy HDBs or landed (not in Sentosa) and expats have to pay Additional Stamp Buyers Duty of 30%, but it is not impossible for foreigners to get on the property ladder here. Some nationals, such as those from the US, are even exempt from paying Additional Stamp Buyers Duty! Foreigners, contrary to popular belief, can even get a bank loan for this housing.
Myth: It’s difficult for expats to invest in Singapore
Fact: Not only is it easy, it’s extremely beneficial. Because expats don’t have CPF, starting an investment plan here is a great way to make your money go further. Singapore is a financial hub, not just for Singaporeans, but for the whole world! And with it being highly regulated, it means that investing in financial institutions is a robust and less-risky way of handling your money. The Singapore dollar is strong, and your investments here can be managed even if you want to move abroad, including withdrawal.
Myth: Insurance is for Singapore only
Fact: Life insurance can be paid out to expats even if they leave Singapore. This goes for accident, disability and critical illnesses too. Sometimes, our health deteriorates even if we’re no longer in the hospital, affecting our ability to earn an income and support our families. That’s why insurance policies in Singapore are there for you for life, wherever you go.
I hope that has dispelled some major money myths for all the expats out there. Have you experienced any other money myths you found out to be false?
Chinese New Year is coming up! And one of my favourite things about Chinese New Year is the food- it also coincides with one of the durian seasons throughout the year in Singapore. I think I must be one of the few Ang Mohs I know that LOVE durian…it’s also gotten to the point of almost addiction/obsession; if I pass a durian stall I simply have to buy some. Which, is not ideal…this girl has expensive taste!
Price point is normally one of the main reasons why people don’t want to try durian; if you buy durian and don’t like it…you’ve wasted your money. So that’s why I decided to do this crash course of durian…my favourite to my least favourite. Disclaimer- I actually love most types of durian!
I love this type of durian the most for many many reasons. The first being it’s appearance; the flesh looks a lot more appealing than the smaller and paler XO or D24. It’s bright yellow and pretty meaty looking. It has small seeds in comparison to the amount of flesh on the fruit, which is always something I look out for when buying durian. I would say that this durian is a lot ‘fruitier’ that the others- I don’t find the smell too overpowering and it has a very fruity sweet initial taste. The aftertaste is bittersweet, leaving an overall pleasant durian-eating experience. Black Thorn (or Black Gold as I’ve sometimes seen it labelled) is my favourite durian due to its overall pleasant mouthfeel and satisfying taste. To me, it’s the most enjoyable durian experience.
Mao Shan Wang
The Cat Mountain King is the most famous and expensive durian type. It’s price-point is on par with Black Thorn. I really do feel like the expensive durian types are so for very good reason; like Black Gold, MSW has a very good flesh to seed ratio; you definitely get your bang for your buck with the amount of creamy fruit you get. Its texture is amazing- I often thought that a creamy fruit would be gross, but it is so satisfying, and hard to find with any other kind of fruit. MSW can be sweet, bitter, or bittersweet. I tend to like the sweet ones the best.
Wang Zhong Wang
This type is so good that it made it to number 3 in my list even though I’ve only had it ONCE! It is called the ‘King of Kings’, and for good reason. It’s so bright in colour, with a texture that is smooth but still with a tiny bit of bite. It’s also a perfect balance of bitter and sweet. It’s just as expensive as the other two- told you I had expensive taste- and I will definitely be eating more of it in future.
Cheap and cheerful and does the job. This bright, sweet durian’s flesh is so creamy to the point that it’s sticky. It has that classic durian smell (i.e., it stinks) but the flavour is ideal for me because I like it super sweet. It’s not my first choice but it’s definitely nicer on your wallet and does the job of being a tasty fruit!
I would say that this type is really good for beginners; it’s not as expensive as the A Grade brands, the seeds are very small in comparison to the flesh, and it has that classic bitter-sweet taste. The only reason it’s not higher on my list is because I sometimes find it a bit underwhelming in comparison to MSW or Black Thorn. It’s also not as creamy sometimes as I would like it to be.
I think the main reason XO is my least favourite (but still great!) is that it looks a bit gross- it sometimes looks super pale or almost like it’s gone off, and almost like deflated-watery flesh. This actually is purposeful; XO has a longer fermentation period to give it more of an ‘alcoholic’ aftertaste. Don’t get me wrong, even though it’s bottom of the pile for me, I would still 100% eat it, especially if I’m on a budget.
*New Bonus Never Tried* Green Bamboo
I saw this new ‘brand’ of durian advertised recently at a fruit stall by my place. I was super excited to see it, apparently it is very sweet at first with a slight bitter aftertaste.
Durian is not something I thought I would ever like, mainly because of its smell and notorious reputation. But the main thing I like about durian is that it’s special- it’s an experience and it’s a fun thing to share with friends. I hope this list gives some novices a clue about where to start on their durian journey!
I wanted to write an article about my recent travel experience regardless of the outcome, and I wanted to write it to help those who are going to be travelling during this time, or are even thinking about it. We’re in our third year of the pandemic and I hadn’t seen my family in two years. Regardless of the situation, I was going to take any opportunity I could to go home to see them.
That being said, there’s a few things I wish I knew before flying. Even though I had friends that had flown before me, there were new developments every day with the Omicron variant that definitely kept me on my toes.
My main concern was coming back on a VTL (vaccinated travel lane) flight, meaning that when I returned to Singapore there was no need to quarantine. This was paramount as I had face-to-face training booked at work. I was going for two weeks, mainly because I’d already taken a lot of time off for our wedding and staycays, but also because I am a licenced financial services consultant in Singapore- I cannot legally work or give financial advice in other countries and if I was out of SG for too long I would run into tax issues.
VTL flights were CRAZY expensive- one BA flight was about $6,000. I love my family but was not about to pay that. So, I found a cheaper way to fly via Berlin with Scoot, return VTL, pretty cheap. I also booked a pre departure test for the UK, booked a day 2 test for when we got there, completed our passenger locator form and my VTP (vaccinated travel pass). I would recommend printing everything off for a smooth transition, and I even printed off all travel itinerary, insurance and our marriage certificate (he’s a Singaporean so I knew I could come back on a family ties lane if there was another lockdown).
With all our documents ready and check-in online done it was time to head off. Thank goodness we got to the airport early because, even though we had already checked in, it didn’t matter. We still had to queue and have Scoot check all our documents, which was fine and didn’t take too long, but they seem to have more staff ‘assisting you’ at the automatic booths than for the Covid checks, which seemed counter-productive, and our assistant kept pressing all the wrong buttons, so it would have just been easier to do it ourselves. But once check in was done, everything was easy and the flight to Berlin was pretty smooth.
That’s when the panic started. We only had a two-hour layover in Berlin (which was totally my own doing; we landed at 9am and all other flights to England weren’t until 7pm, and I would rather take my chances than sit in an airport for that long). The issue was that, because it was self-transfer with two different airlines, we had to go through passport control, collect our bags, check them in again, go through security and then immigration a second time before boarding our next flight. This was the most stress I’ve experienced in a long time, and if it weren’t for the kind family in front of us at immigration letting us past, we would have missed our flight. Anyway, we got our connection just in the nick of time and arrived safely in Manchester.
Being At Home
I am not over exaggerating when I say that seeing my mom at Manchester Airport for the first time in two years was like something out of Love Actually. I cried, she cried, and there was a tonne of people in the exact same situation, embracing each other after years of being apart. It was at this moment that I realised that all of this was worth it. It was like time had stood still and nothing had changed being back at home. It was also very special because this was the first time my husband was coming home with me and had met my parents face to face.
Whilst I was home, I met friends, got my booster and went to a club. Although I will say that because of my constant fear of Covid, we were super careful; wore masks EVERYWHERE, constantly hand sanitised, stayed in small groups and sat by ourselves with masks on in the club (lame I know). The UK had become very lax about the situation, with no one really checking vaccination status or wearing a mask. And to some extent I agree with the majority that it does need to be taken as an endemic now, but I had a flight to catch in two weeks.
During the trip I had several friends cancel on their plans because they had tested positive and were self-isolating. I was happy to hear, however, that they weren’t taking long to recover and had little to no symptoms. Governments worldwide didn’t see the positive side, however, and with news that Europe was shutting their boarders the panic started to set in. Our flight back to Singapore was again via Berlin and it wasn’t long until EasyJet cancelled our flight from Gatwick.
Then Singapore announced that it was suspending all VTL sales…we had 4 hours to frantically book flights. I found a pretty reasonable booking with Turkish Airlines arriving in Singapore on the 1st January.
We flew back from London and, after a lovely time with family and friends, we got our lateral flows done in Boots somewhere in Piccadilly, did our Health Travel Declaration for Singapore and stayed next to Heathrow Airport.
The gentleman at the Turkish Airlines desk was incredibly helpful and the document check was very smooth. Everything from that point to Istanbul went very well and felt like normal flying times. When we got to Istanbul we had to have our VTL documents checked again, which was fine for us but not for all- there were people being told they had to say in Istanbul Airport, others on the phone to their respective embassies and some being interrogated about their trip to Singapore. I genuinely think this happened because Turkish Airlines doesn’t make it clear on their website that the flight is a VTL- I had to trawl through several websites to confirm and the VTL flight only happens in January once every two weeks. And if you weren’t from Singapore, how would you even know what a VTL is?
Everything when we arrived in Singapore was smooth- we got our bags quickly, and, although I hadn’t pre-booked my PCR, it was quick and efficient. We got home and awaited our results…the morning came and my husband got a call from MOH saying that he had tested positive on his PCR. This came as quite a shock as we were both negative before we left, my whole family had tested negative and we are now testing negative on ART tests. Hours later I still had not received my results. But eventually they came in and were positive too. We now both have to quarantine for ten days (from result, not from test, so essentially 11 days), which I am pretty upset about. For some context, it came out in the news that those on non-VTL flights will no longer have to do a PCR on arrival, and self-isolate for 7 days. If they test positive on an ART they have to isolate for 72 hours or until they test negative. Please tell me why for VTL it is a 10 day quarantine, regardless of how soon you test negative?
All in all I am very happy I went home and nothing will take away that time I spent with friends and family. However, I do feel that the VTL scheme is just a way of making money- ticket prices are insanely high, the number of tests is insurmountable and the PCR upon arrival was $125, which I got the results well after 24hrs instead of 6-12. And on top of that I still have to quarantine longer than if it was non-VTL. The level of extra documentation and stress made flying incredibly nerve-wracking. I used to be a frequent flyer and travel a few times a month- this trip I was incredibly anxious, panicked and it was overall such an unpleasant experience. Also, if I knew I was going to test positive anyway, even after all the many precautions I took, I probably would have cared less and relaxed a bit more.