The Financial Impact of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

On the 24th February 2022, President Vladimir Putin announced a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Minutes later, missiles began to hit across the country, including its capital, Kyiv. Whilst I am seldom political on this page, I wanted to write on this topic, as there are massive global implications to this war. Already we have seen many world powers speak out against Russia, with sanctions being put in place, causing the Russian Ruble to plummet by 30% against the US Dollar.

  What implications will the war and the sanctions have on our global economy? Let’s take a look at a few.

Geopolitical Shock

As the whole world reacts to the conflict, and with more and more countries supporting Ukraine (the EU in particular), we have seen bans on flight paths to Russia, SWIFT being sanctioned and Russians being unable to access their bank accounts. We have yet to see fully how China will react but it has signalled a willingness to help Russia. If Beijing responds in a malign way, i.e., using this as an opportunity to go into Taiwan, geopolitical tensions are sure to grow further.

  When Russia invaded Ukraine, we saw the markets sharply drop, but it definitely could have been more extreme, and we actually saw markets bounce back trading to above what it was before the conflict started. Last week, the S&P 500 index logged its first correction in nearly two years, meaning it dropped more than 10% from its recent peak; and even though there was uncertainty about what was going to happen next, the US stock market bounced back quickly. Certainly, NATO and the EU’s response has stopped the market from freefalling.

  Do note, when investments start to tank, investors are tempted to sell and cut their losses. Don’t do this- a major reaction like this is more likely to hurt you more in the long run. The stock market is volatile, it is a part of investing…do not panic.

Energy

  Gas is a large commodity for Russia, and many European countries rely on Russia’s energy supply through vital pipelines. Sanctions on Russia may hinder these countries importing gas. We saw a surge in oil prices last Wednesday; Brent crude futures rose by more than $8, touching a peak of $113.02 a barrel, the highest since June 2014, before easing to $111.53, up by $6.56 or 6.3 per cent by 0950 GMT.

Food Supplies

Not only is crude oil affected, edible oil is too; Ukraine is a huge sunflower oil supplier and if the conflict continues, importers will struggle to replace supplies. Not only that, Ukraine and Russia combined account for 30% of the World’s export of wheat and 19% corn (the two countries also account for 80% of sunflower oil exports!). This means that these food supplies could be hindered, cut off and become incredibly expensive. And this is not the only price that has been driven up. Over the past month, inflation in Europe has jumped to 5.8%, and this conflict could send prices even higher.

Auto

This sector is set to be hit hard by the war; semiconductor sales to Russia are now banned, oil prices have gone up and Ukraine is home to many companies that manufacture car parts. Already we have seen Volkswagen have to close one of its plants in Germany, due to the knock-on effect of Ukraine’s part on its supply chain.

Confidence In The Market

Already we have seen how the war has affected many sectors and sent certain stocks plummeting- and this may want investors and individuals in general to become more cautious with their money. Some may react by saving more and spending less, leading to slower economic growth. People’s confidence will vastly depend on how long the invasion goes on for, and businesses that rely of Russia’s supply chain, such as electronics and automobiles, can be gravely affected.

Will There Be A Further Crash?

  For the last six US-involved wars, the stock market rose in the 10 years following the breakout of war. The Gulf War saw the market rise 500% over a 10-year period. If the entire stock market was to crash in every country it would mean that no businesses anywhere made any profit, and I think we can all agree this would mean that humanity was in a pretty dire situation, with larger problems than just the economy. It’s very difficult to predict what will happen next to the stock market, and we only have public knowledge to base our assumptions off of. If your investing horizon is long, the best thing you can do during times of crisis is to hold tight and keep investing as usual. The stock market has historically always bounced back, and you’ll be rewarded for keeping your reactions in check.

Whatever happens, all we can do is wait and see. Support in anyway you can. Check in with anyone affected by the war, and let us all pray this ends soon.

How Homer Simpson Beat Capitalism

  Anyone that knows me, knows that I love The Simpsons; it’s probably my all-time favourite show, I quote it almost on a daily basis and Homer Simpson is probably my most loved character. He means well, he’s hilariously ignorant and he has some of the best dialogue in the show. Not only that, Homer seems to have the most blissful life- where in some episodes, money is a huge worry (Lisa needs braces, Santa’s Little Helper needing surgery, Homer and Bart conning people to pay for Homer’s broken car), this is always resolved by the end of the episode and for the most part, Homer enjoys a great lifestyle full of relaxing, eating and drinking and going on holiday. So how did Homer do it? How did Homer Simpson beat capitalism?

  First, I’d like to discuss the Simpson’s house. 742 Evergreen Terrace is a pretty big home, with 4 bedrooms, a large garden, basement and attic. If you look at Homer’s annual salary (in Season 7 Homer opens the mailbox and complains that his pay is low) of $24,395 ($37,791.72 when adjusted for inflation), this doesn’t seem enough to run a large household with 3 kids on one salary. However, many people believe Springfield to be based on the Springfield in Oregon, where the median household income is $39,756, putting Homer in the lower middle class income bracket. Looking at this makes it a lot more plausible for the Simpsons to be living comfortably in this home. Not only that, like many Americans, Homer has had some help from his family. In Season 4, Episode 10, we find out that Homer had asked his dad, Abe, to give him $15,000 to buy a house. Abe sells his house (which he won on a 50s gameshow) and writes Homer a cheque.  These two factors make it pretty clear how the Simpsons can afford this house.

  Let’s talk about Homer’s job as a safety inspector at the nuclear power plant. We all know Homer hates this job, so surely capitalism has a firm grip over Homer in this sense? I disagree. First of all, Homer doesn’t have a university education; in Season 5, Episode 3 he is forced to go to university as he is unqualified for his job role. But in true Simpson’s fashion, the episode ends almost at a reset, with no degree earned and Homer still working at the power plant. He is able to continue working in a graduate-role, unqualified, where he sleeps most of the time at work, and leaves it up to other things (like a dog or a drinking bird toy) to do his work for him. He is literally being paid to do nothing, taking his salary from the personification of capitalism himself, Mr Burns- Take that! He even takes over from Mr. Burns in one episode, disproving the capitalist idea that the harder you work, the better your salary.

  This leads me onto my next point, Homer’s long resume. Take into consideration how many jobs Homer has had; astronaut, boxer, food critic, mob boss, inventor and missionary to name a few… these jobs have put Homer all over the economic spectrum. But the highest paying jobs all seem to be at the nuclear power plant where he currently works. His current job has funded his passion to be able to do whatever he wanted, with almost little to no experience and qualifications. Most people feel that capitalism has beaten them, as they are unable to pursue their passions, either because they don’t get paid enough, or they don’t have enough time around their 9-5. Not Homer…he follows whatever job he desires.

  Homer’s frivolous spending is also a common theme on the show. He’s bought a tonne of high-ticket items; a pool, a gun, a plough, Snake’s car, a caravan, a Tomaco Farm to name a few. Not only that, his constant blunders have cost the family a staggering estimated $333 billion dollars over the years (especially because of Bart not inheriting Mr Burns’ estate). This kind of bad money management would have sent most into masses of debt, spiralling down towards bankruptcy and an inability to move on. Not Homer Simpson- over the past 33 years, despite all of this, his income, living situations and conditions have pretty much stagnated, not making him worse or better off than he was before.

  If you’re an avid watcher of The Simpsons, like I am, you’ll know that they’ve travelled a lot. Not only have they visited many places in America, they’ve travelled to exotic locations such as Australia, Japan, Morocco, Italy and China. Most of these countries the average American would class as a once-in-a-lifetime trip, not a once-in-a-season trip like the Simpsons see. Since the show debuted in 1989, they’ve travelled to more than two dozen countries and about two dozen U.S. states. Considering that he’s a lower middle-class American, Homer’s travel history is enviable, and he definitely doesn’t let his monotonous 9-5 supress his holiday bug!

  I think the main (and final) point that proves that Homer triumphs in the battle against capitalism is comparing his life to other’s in Springfield. Did you know that Carl Carlson and Lenny Leonard both work in the powerplant and have college educations, but Lenny lives in a completely dilapidated home in comparison to Homer’s big house. Moe and Barney as portrayed as low-lives, with nothing much going for them, often envious of Homer’s life…even though he is an alcoholic just like Barney, but hasn’t frittered all his money away. I think the character that shows this contrast the most is Frank Grimes. Grimes was a colleague and self-proclaimed enemy of Homer. He is infuriated at the fact that Homer has it so good on little-to-no effort, but Frank has to slave away to make ends meet. This frustration leads to his demise (RIP Grimy). He saw Homer’s possessions as satisfying yet undeserved for an incompetent person like him; Homer had a comfortable life, a polite family, an adorable baby, a genius daughter, a beautiful wife, a son who owned a factory (at the time), a dream home, two cars, could afford lobster for dinner, won a Grammy, toured with the Smashing Pumpkins, was friends with Gerald Ford and had even been to space. In comparison, Grimes had to struggle for everything all his life, was working a second job at a foundry, and yet all he had to show for it was his briefcase, his haircut and a one-room apartment wedged between two bowling alleys (the latter of which impressed Homer). He declared Homer a “total fraud” who leeched off hard-working people like himself, being undeservingly rewarded for a lifetime of sloth and ignorance while he himself had few material possessions.

I’m saying you’re what’s wrong with America, Simpson. You coast through life, you do as little as possible, and you leech off of decent, hardworking people like me. Heh, if you lived in any other country in the world, you’d have starved to death long ago. You’re a fraud, a total fraud.

―Frank Grimes

I totally disagree with Frank Grimes Sr…Homer is proof that with the right mentality, we can overcome capitalism. Living life as a communist, socialist or hippy doesn’t beat capitalism, but Homer’s sheer indifference does; he has a wonderful home, family and leisure-life, funded by his less-than enthusiastic career, where he swindles a rich billionaire to pay him to do nothing. Homer is an icon.

Singapore Expat Money Myths

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 tax relief 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?

How To Spot An Investment Scam

I know of a lot of people who are very apprehensive or sceptical when it comes to investing; and a lot of the time this is due to the fact that they feel that it’s really a minefield out there- they are afraid of being scammed or losing all their money in a fake investment. So, what are some red flags to look out for? How can we spot an investment scam? Here are some things to look out for…

  • Guaranteed Profits

To me, this is THE MOST obvious and biggest red flag. Any ethical and licensed professional will tell you that all investments come with some risk. If you’ve read my previous articles, you will know that investments can and should be based on your own risk tolerance, and investment returns are never guaranteed. If an investment promises you guaranteed profits (usually at a high rate of return)…it’s most likely a scam.

  • Ridiculously High Returns, Usually In Short Periods Of Time

Ah, the second most obvious red flag. If someone tells you that your investment will make you high returns in a short period of time (like 40% a month), and that you have to get in or get out quick- it’s most likely too good to be true. Fixed deposits give returns of say 3%, endowments at about 3-4%, mutual funds can be around the 8% mark, and even stocks can give you average returns of 12%, all of which is on an annual basis. So this just shows how ridiculous and preposterous such returns on a monthly basis can be.

I always let my clients know that investments are long-term commitments, so if you want a ‘get rich quick scheme’, you are more likely to fall into the hands of a Ponzi scheme. What is a Ponzi scheme? This investment fraud model works by a person offering their first investors high returns on their initial investment. Then, they find new investors and give their money to the original investor, making it seem like their investment has legitimately grown. This continues by recruiting new investors to fund the old ones, whilst lining the scammers pocket with the excess. Once the scammer is unable to find new investors, the scam dries up, and the whole thing crashes. This is similar to a Pyramid scheme (more like a web than a pyramid), that promises quick returns. Those who are involved are incredibly vulnerable of losing it all.

  • They Use Telegram Or WhatsApp

Another, less obvious red flag is if you are given very little information about the investment or company themselves, but you are then added to various ‘investment group chats’, with people from different countries all discussing how the investment is going. Maybe there are members of the group that are hyping up the investment, encouraging those to buy more shares. Chances are they are using a ‘Pump and Dump’ method, whereby an individual drives up the price of an investment by encouraging others to buy, driving the price up. That person then sells, earning loads, and the overall investment crashes, causing everyone else to lose out.

  • Unwillingness to Explain Investment Strategies or Methods

If someone tells you that they have managed to obtain riches and live a life of luxury due to an investment, but are unwilling to share with you a concrete strategy for how to invest, chances are it’s not real. They may have rented the luxury items they flash, or their lifestyle is not as amazing as it seems. They use buzz words and generic concepts, instead of legitimate financial methods. They may promote high risk trading strategies, such as crypto or forex, without explaining the massive risk these can of investments entail, essentially convincing you to gamble with your money.

  • They Are Not Licensed

If all else fails, check whether the individual is licensed. In Singapore, financials are heavily regulated. Financial institutions should be regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and we have to have an RNF code that allows us to practice our business. In Singapore, there are very many regulations against foreign investors purchasing investment plans, to prevent money laundering, and professionals are not allowed to solicit advice unless it is in Singapore. Everything is also heavily documented; there is a lot of paperwork that is involved in Singapore investments. So, if someone promises you something quick and simple, with no paperwork and overseas transfer, or is unwilling to share they license code or business info…you guessed it…it’s a scam.

All in all, the age-old phrase, ‘it’s too good to be true’ is definitely the case when it comes to investments. If something is really going to make someone rich, quick, without little to no knowledge or effort, everyone would be doing it and we’d all be loaded, which clearly is not the case. The truth is, in Singapore, we have a very well-off population. And how do they get like this? By trusting professionals and financial institutions with their money, and using financial methods like dollar cost-averaging and holding long-term. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it- be weary of new companies or investments that promise you the world with little to no credentials to back it up.  

What Is An NFT?

This question has been cropping up all over Twitter, in conversation, and was even the first question that came up when I started typing into YouTube. So what is an NFT, is this going to be similar to the Dot Com Bubble or the Tulip Mania in 1634? (Yes, this is where Dutch people thought that tulips were super cool, so much so to the point that a tulip bulb could cost 10 times the annual income of a skilled worker.) Let’s dive a little deeper into the internet’s latest craze.

Let’s start with the basics- NFT stands for ‘Non-Fungible Token’. To be honest, the word ‘fungible’ was one that stood out to me, not because I like that word, but because its definition is so specific and complicated that it’s easier to just say ‘replaceable’. Essentially, this means that an NFT is unique, one-of-a-kind, like the Mona Lisa or the Venus De Milo. An NFT is unlike any other. The T, token, is all to do with blockchain. Essentially, blockchain is a public record of transactions; so if one person makes a transaction, everyone else can see it, and it’s almost impossible to change, hack or cheat the system. This kind of technology has become very popular as peoples’ mistrust of centralised banks increases.

This is all well and good, but what do all these concepts have to do with GIFs? Or random pictures online? In theory, this all boils down to human psychology. Who decided that gold was valuable? Or paper money, or fine art, or….anything for that matter? If a large enough group of people decides that something is of value, then it becomes so. A large group of people basically decided that things online (tweets, pictures, music, highlights of an NBA game, you name it) are valuable enough to have a numeric value to them. But, how can someone buy something that doesn’t tangibly exist? Well, with blockchain, we have the technology to be able to put these purchases on public record, so that no one can dispute that a specific person has bought a specific image, or whatever it may be.

Does anyone remember Nyan Cat? That strange little GIF way back when Myspace was a thing? It’s a GIF of a pixelated flying rainbow cat? Well, in February, Nyan Cat’s creator Chris Torres sold the NFT version for roughly $580,000 USD. This was the first ever meme to be sold as an NFT, and I think it does mark a new era where digital artists can have the same recognition as normal ones.

And I know that all this may seem ridiculous to some, ‘how can you own something that doesn’t exist’, but the reality is that our world is now moving online. Back in the 90s, the internet was taking off; people would never have imagined that all our banking can be done online, we can send people money via our phones or that we wouldn’t need a physical credit card or cash to make payments. Isn’t that the same as us thinking that NFTs aren’t real? Money is no longer just tangible cash or card- it’s a figure on our computer screen. So I think it’s only natural for the world of investments to head in this direction. I think that the stage our world is at with NFTs, is the stage we were with the internet in the 90s. It’s a hype right now, the new technology is exciting. But, will it crash or burst like the Dot Com Bubble, the Real Estate Bubble or Tulip Mania? Is this all a fad that will burn out- the brightest star burns quickest…will that be the same for NFTs?

How Social Media is Messing Up Your Money

Social media has definitely become a very integral part of our lives; we can connect with our friends, share our idea, show off our photos and pretty much expose every part of our lives online if we wanted to. It’s especially great for us expats to stay in touch with people at home and abroad. I also think social media is a great tool for broadening our horizons, listen to new ideas and keep up with the news. However, it has a flip side; what we see on social media is not 100% real…people only showcase the best aspects of their lives online; be that be their jobs, their holidays…their belongings…everything is not as it seems. That’s why it’s particularly important to be conscious of how social media affects you. Here’s some ways that social media is BAD for your bank account.

FOMO Spending

This is a term I heard of lately and, as soon as I read it, it instantly resonated with me. FOMO (or, ‘fear of missing out’) is something I suffer from frequently. I often feel like I need to attend every social event or gathering, and that if I don’t, I’ll be missing out on so much fun and good times. Especially now, during lockdown 1094829953892 (whichever one we’re on), I feel like I need to get as much social interaction as I possibly can. But, this isn’t always so good for my wallet…brunches, drinks…. some of you may go on friend staycays. This all adds up!

  It’s always good to cultivate a friendship circle that is empathetic and adapted to your financial lifestyle. Having friends that are understanding of your financial needs and limitations, is not only healthy for your bank account, but also for your mental health. It’s not fun feeling pressured into buying something, or spending when it’s beyond your means, and if you’re not able to express this to a friend, maybe it’s not the right group for you. A recent study shows that 27% of millennials feel uncomfortable saying no to a friend when they can’t afford an activity. And 48% admitted to spending beyond their means to hang out with friends. This is only exacerbated with that fact that we will see everything on social media.

  Not only that, being in financial trouble because of spending on nights out or luxury items, it a lot tabooer (yes, that’s a real word) than admitting to being in student debt or having a housing loan. This can lead to secretism, shame and denial about one’s financial standing. Honesty is always the best policy, even when it comes to voicing out to your friends not wanting to spend beyond your means.

Advertising and Luxury Goods

This one seems obvious but it may not be as obvious as you think. Adverts are almost everywhere, including plastered all over social media. What’s even worse, they’re not adverts for things we don’t particularly want or like- they are specifically tailored for each and every person, based on the videos they’re watching, the content they’re digesting. Product placement is secretly crafted into everything we watch; from product reviews, video sponsors and sneaky product placement, we are always consuming adverts one way or another. Luxury brands in particular are coming up with fresher ways to reach younger audiences, such as TikTok, and it’s working; a recent survey showed that millennials spend $500 on average a month on luxury items, and 51% said they would forgo healthcare in favour of luxury goods. Which, is crazy to me. Where I believe that healthcare is a human right, I know that we don’t live in a perfect eutopia where everyone has free healthcare and education. So, to hear that the majority of the younger population favour brands over health, it really saddens me. This shows that the ads we’re seeing, are working! I also think that more expensive isn’t always better quality, which is what a lot of people forget to remember. Think of all the celebrity products and brands that…aren’t good?! Like all the Kardashian ventures that were a flop, or all the influencers skincare lines, that have been proven scientifically not to be any better for your skin than drugstore brands. It’s always good to be aware of what advertisements are there to do- they are there to SELL. Of course, they’re not going to tell you all the negatives. And at the end of the day…is a designer handbag going to make you feel better if you fall sick, or would that healthcare insurance have been better?

Hauls and  OOTDs

All these trends, particularly the ones on TikTok, I originally thought were harmless, but when I thought about it deeper, I can see that they could be quite toxic and detrimental for one’s relationship with money. For example, the idea of ‘Outfit Of The Day’, suggests that it’s not ok to wear the same outfit twice. Which of course, is ridiculous. Of course people wear their clothes more than once. Studies show that comparing ourselves to the highlight reels we see on social media can lead to feelings of depression and inadequacy, which in turn leads us to spend more on items we don’t particularly want or need, in order to look good for a day- a split second in time!

  I love watching a good haul video, but they are not healthy. Decades ago, fashion had four seasons, and people only had a select few pieces in their wardrobe, that they would mix and match to create new looks and outfits. Flashforward to today, where fast fashion sites have thousands of new products added every day, with fashion seasons being broken down into micro-seasons, adding more pressure for us to buy. A haul video is this concept on steroids, whereby influencers will buy multiple pieces, spending a tonne of money in one go, try them on, on camera, review them, and probably never wear them again. People doing the hauls are often sponsored, or are being paid every time someone shops with their discount code. If we were to do these hauls, we’d just end up spending a tonne of our money, on clothes we probably don’t need, and maybe we’d wear these items a couple of times and that’s it. What a waste of money.

I’m not trying to sound like a Grinch, or a preacher, as I will admit, I do partake in fast fashion and I enjoy watching product reviews online, but I wrote this so that we can be mindful of how our emotions affect our spending; what we see on social media is not fully real, and we don’t need to spend beyond our means to emulate these kinds of habits. I could go on for ages about how unrealistic beauty standards and social media models is a toxic and expensive concept, but maybe that’s for another article. What’s your biggest social media pet peeve?

Live the High-Life on a Budget!

I must admit that when you live in Singapore, and you see all the luxury surrounding you, it’s very difficult to not get sucked into the spending lifestyle; it’s difficult to not go to nice brunch places, restaurants or expensive bars. It’s difficult to not feel the want to buy nice brands. It’s difficult to not want to live it up in Sentosa. I find all this stuff hard to avoid sometimes when I see everyone around me enjoying Singapore as much as possible; especially seen as travel is not an option. So I thought, is there a way to live ‘that life’…without paying for it? Turns out, there’s a few little hacks you can do to live the high-life on a budget!

Opt for Lunch Instead of Dinner

This one is great if you need to take clients out or you have a group of friends that like dining in higher end restaurants. Many restaurants do a set meal for lunch, at a fraction of the cost of dinner prices, and you still get to experience the beautiful ambience and surroundings. Spago, Café Melba, FOC, Artemis and even KOMA all have cheaper set lunch menus.

Save On Luxury Experiences

Staying in the house 24/7 is not good for our mental health, especially when working from home. We need to go out and socialise, but we also can’t spend every night or weekend doing fancy things- our bank account will not thank us. We need to find a happy balance, and one way to do that is by saving on experiences. You can use websites like Fave to book discounted tours, yacht parties, theatre events and more. Buy packages for massages if you plan on going frequently, as it works out cheaper. Not only that, if you like beach clubs, now many of them don’t have a minimum spend, so you can spend your weekend relaxing at a beach club!

Organise Events at Home

I think this is a really great tip whilst we’re in heightened restrictions. I love entertaining at home and spending time at friends’ houses. So why not make the night really special by creating an event, be it a quiz, a game, or even hosting a wine and cheese night? All of these items can be bought way cheaper from a shop, than in a restaurant, bar or pub (I recommend buy from Wine Connection stores or Wines4U on Lazada).

Be Smart with Your Money

Instead of over-spending and maxing out your budget, cut back on areas you can afford to so you have room for more! Make sure that your rental isn’t over 30% of your monthly salary, do a big shop of your groceries instead of a weekly shop (studies have shown that doing bigger bulk grocery shops save you more money than a weekly one). I’ve done plenty of articles of how to manage your budget, eating healthy on a budget and even how to reshuffle you finances, so check them out. But basically, the less you spend on fixed expenses, the more budget you have to work with!

Do Smart Investing

The power of dividends! Did you know that some investments you buy, pay you money quarterly, depending on how well the shares are doing? This is a great way of hitting your short-term money goals with little to no effort. I suggest investments with dividends pay-outs to clients who maybe want a bit extra when they go on holiday (booking flights are crazy expensive right now), to help pay off some unwanted bills or for them to save up for moving. What’s great about dividends is that you don’t have to cash them out if you don’t want- you can leave them in your investment to accumulate money, and cash out when needed.

At the end of the day, the only real way we can live the high-life is to really evaluate our finances and plan correctly, by budgeting, saving and investing. But, using some of these money-saving tips and ideas can really help you save that little bit extra, and still enjoy your free time! What do you do to save?

Why Should Expats Invest In Singapore?

This question often comes up a lot. A lot of expats don’t even know if they can invest in Singapore, let alone if they should. Locals and PRs are automatically enrolled into CPF, which they can use to pay for medical, housing and have money set aside for retirement. Because us expats do not have access to this, I would encourage expats to start setting aside money for these areas; we already know how expensive medical can be (which can be tackled with insurance), and buying property is costly wherever you are, and we all need to set aside for when we retire (the earlier the better!) Investing helps to beat the rising cost of goods and services; you can usually estimate inflation at 2%, so in order to make sure your cash doesn’t lose buying power, you need to beat this rate. With a current account in Singapore gaining interest of 0.05%, you’re actually losing money by keeping it there.

But why invest in Singapore if we’re not from here? I’m going to list a few reasons why expats should invest in Singapore.

Singapore As A Business Hub

Singapore joined the ASEAN Economic Community on the very last day of 2015, and since then investors and business people alike have viewed Singapore as a safe and efficient entry point into South East Asia. Not only is our geographical location very advantageous, our technology and infrastructure is highly advanced in comparison to neighbouring countries. It is the world’s busiest port and a top location for investments in the Asia Pacific region. Singapore is often number 1 in many business surveys:

  • #1 Best business environment in the Asia Pacific and the world: Business Environment Rankings (BER) 2019, The Economist Intelligence Unit
  • #1 in the Asia Pacific and #5 in the world for Best global innovation: Global Innovation Index 2018
  • #1 in achieving human capital (knowledge, skills, and health) in the world: Human Capital Index 2019, World Bank

All these accolades prove that Singapore is a credible and reliable country for people to invest; most of the globe’s largest companies have a base here, and are very successful, so this is a good indication for individuals that this is the place to invest.

Stable Economy

This goes hand in hand with another great reason to invest in Singapore- our economy. Singapore has arguably the World’s most stable economy, with no foreign debt and a consistent positive surplus. As of last year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore owns over US$270 Billion in assets, and Singapore dollars are backed by gold, silver and other assets (unlike other fiat currencies that are no longer backed by gold), meaning that Singapore’s dollar is one of the most stable. The MAS (Monetary Authority of Singapore) regulates foreign exchange rates, keeping it stable.

 This is in great contrast to neighbouring countries’ currencies, like two of the weakest in the world, Vietnamese Dong and Indonesia Rupiah. Internal and external conflicts, civil unrest and clashes, incorrect economic decisions of the government and dependence on raw materials cause further instability.

Imagine going for a coffee one day, it costs $2, the next it costs $10 and the day after it costs $5…does that sound like fun? Of course not- it’s not ideal to invest in a currency that changes on such a regular basis, especially if you want to exchange it into another currency.

For example, trading between Australian Dollars to Great British Pounds, Japanese Yen, US Dollars or Euro is often incredibly volatile (some of the highest volatility in the world), so do you really want to keep losing money every time you convert or transfer?!

Regulations

The government and laws that this country implements, give business people and investors peace of mind when they park their money here; anti-corruption laws are heavily enforced, and the MAS ensures that entities must hold licenses to engage in fund management activities. That means that if you invest in something that is regulated by MAS, you have no risk of this company being a cowboy, blowing all your assets of being part of some Ponzi Scheme. So long as they are regulated, you are guaranteed transparency, anti-money laundering and no dodgy dealings. This is a great safety net for first-time investors to know about.

Tax Benefits

Many countries heavily tax investments and overseas residents. Singapore is involved in many tax treaties and avoids double taxation where possible. Capital Gains on investments from financial institutions are not taxed (unlike in countries such as India and Australia) and there are tax reliefs available to foreigners, especially if you’re investing and using things like an SRS account.

Looks Good On PR Application

This point might be very appealing for some; Permanent Residency. For those trying to obtain PR, this can really work in your favour. While the scoring process is shrouded in mystery, we know that financial ties to the country are big bonus points on the application. If you have invested in Singapore, with a financial institution, it shows that you are dedicated to growing your wealth here, and achieving your long-term financial goals in Singapore. Note that it doesn’t have to be a large sum, even if you’re regularly contributing small amounts, this is great too.

Can Be Accessed Anywhere

One of the main questions I hear when I’m planning investments in SG is, “What if I move back to my home country? Will I still be able to access my money?”. The simple answer is yes; whatever money you have invested in Singapore belongs to you, regardless to where you are. Top up or withdraw with ease whilst abroad. This, paired with the strong and stable currency, means that if you move abroad later, you may also see the upside potential to your SGD going further in a different country. Win-win!

I do think that there are many more reasons why investing in Singapore is an excellent idea for expats, but that’s for another day. For more information on SRS, PR Applications and how investments work in Singapore, feel free to contact me using the comment section, or by scanning the QR code below.

How To Eat Healthy On A Budget In Singapore

So we all know that hawker centres, although cheap, are not the healthiest, and buying ‘free from’ or organic food can be ridiculously expensive. So is there a way to find a happy medium…by making healthier choices but still not overspending? Here are a few top tips I have for you!

Less Rice

When you’re ordering at the cai fan stall (the one where you can pick and choose what you want), ask for less rice, brown rice or no rice at all! That way you don’t overeat processed carbohydrates and you can fill up on healthy stuff, like boiled vegetables or steamed fish. Even if you they don’t give you less rice, you can use the excess rice to soak up the extra sauce and oil! And all this for just a few bucks.

Cook At Home

This is an obvious choice; cooking at home means that you know what you’re putting into your body and the quantities of food you’re using. But sometimes produce can be pretty pricey, especially if you’re ordering your groceries online. But there are ways you can save the pennies when buying your weekly shop;

  Do a bulk-buy of dried food such as beans, lentils, rice and even herbs and spices. Keep track of how much of these you have. These good can keep for a very long time and you normally don’t need huge amounts with every meal, meaning they will last longer!

  Buy your fruit from fruit stalls- it’s way cheaper than the supermarket and often riper and juicier (check out my article ‘Random Money Hacks I Do’, where I talk about buying fruit at night).

  Not only that, you can start buying your meat and vegetables at wet markets; if you go later on in the day, there are often discounts and deals to be had!

  Get protein from non-meat products such as tofu, which is so cheap in Singapore. Top Tip- press the tofu by layering it in between kitchen roll and putting a plate with a heavy weight on top of it. This will squeeze out all the water. Once all the water has been squeezed out, you can marinate it in whatever you like…honey, soy, chilli, you name it! Then all it needs it a quick roast in the oven (or air fryer) and you’ve got a juicy, tasty meatless protein for dinner.

Healthy Cheap Restaurants

If you do want to eat out on a budget but still want to eat something fresh and healthy, there are loads of places you can try! Smol do great tasty grain bowls that are affordable and have vegan options, Green Dot has all veggie bentos there are easy on your wallet, Simply Wrapps has cheap and affordable healthy options and the Soup Spoon have classic and delicious soup and salad at a reasonable price.

So check it out! Explore with your cooking! Venture into the hawker centre! Just because you want to eat healthily, doesn’t mean your relationship with food has to be boring or with a scarcity mentality. Live life and enjoy!

Sex And The City…And Broke!

How Sex And The City Warped Women’s Relationship With Money

Samantha…Charlotte…Miranda…Carrie…we all had a favourite. But I think it’s safe to say that a lot of the episodes have not aged well (think of those episodes with Samantha dating a woman, or someone of a different race and how that was tackled…yikes!), but the point that sticks out to me the most is how toxic most of the character’s relationship is with money, particularly Carrie’s. So here is my deep-dive into this sticky topic of this show’s glorification of bad money habits.

Carrie’s Unrealistic Salary

This one really irks me. In the show, especially at the beginning, Carrie is a columnist who hasn’t really hit the peak of her career yet; she lives in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan, wears designer clothes, brunches and buys designer shoes on a regular basis. This is in no sense realistic for a woman on a freelance journalist’s salary. For people watching in the 90’s, it painted an improbable picture for those wanting to go in a creative line of work. Sex and the City was debuted in 1998. It was reported that females in the US that year were earning $591 per week (US Dept. of Labour). After taxes, that’s not much over $30,000…doesn’t really sound enough to live on in central NY. Not only that, most freelancers I know have more than one stream of income. I find it very hard to believe that Carrie only had one stream of income of only a few hundred bucks per article…

Carrie’s Problem with Spending

“I like my money right where I can see it- hanging in my closet.” Oh Carrie, what a terrible mindset to have. And it wasn’t hidden in the show that Carrie, and the rest of the girls for that matter, had a spending problem, and didn’t really care when it came to saving her money. This was definitely a major plot hole throughout the show, especially after dissecting Carrie’s salary above. How did Carrie manage to brunch with the girls on a weekly basis, order takeout all the time (it was a weird point the show was trying to make, that working women should focus on their career and needn’t bother learning to cook), take taxis everywhere (erm hello! Cabs in NY are so expensive and inconvenient!), go to cool and exclusive clubs in the city and buy all the clothes she wanted on that low-income salary?! It is baffling to me that the show continued for as long as it did without ever getting pulled up on this massive flaw.

Carrie’s Credit Card Issues

Uh oh, this is how Carrie spent so much, she had massive credit card bills. An article was published in 2016 by The Financial Diet (which, by the way, I highly recommend, I love their articles and videos), that calculated Carrie Bradshaw spent about $3,600 a month on non-essential expenses. This is astounding for someone earning $2,364 a month! Leaving Miss Bradshaw in a deficit of $1,236 per month! No wonder she had to take out credit cards to fund her lifestyle! Don’t get me wrong, credit cards are not a bad thing and definitely can be used in a financially healthy lifestyle, but only if you can pay off the bill before accruing any interest. This responsible usage of credit cards is not portrayed in Sex and the City. The show taught viewers to be reckless with their credit card spending, because at least you can buy the things you want. In one episode, Carrie is declined a bank loan because of her financial track record. She admits that she paid off over $40,000 in credit card loans- oh my. Credit card debt is mentioned a few times in the show but it’s definitely just brushed off as a bit of a joke. Also can we just remember when Carrie was left $1,000 on the nightstand because the guy thought she was an escort and she uses that money to pay off a bill! Which brings me onto my next topic..

The Girls’ Relationship with Money and Men

For me, this is the most problematic message that the show portrayed. Throughout the show, the girls express the need for finding a rich, affluent man, to where it’s pretty much a goal for them. Take Charlotte for example, her quest for love was always paired with a pursuit of finding a wealthy husband. When she finally divorces her 1st husband Trey, he left her a very expensive apartment and a ring worth a few tens of thousands of dollars, so that she can still live comfortably. Interesting to note that she sells this ring to pay for Carrie’s house deposit, just as an aside. But it perpetuated the very dangerous and abysmal message that women will always need men to provide for them financially, because women simply cannot plan their finances by themselves. Another example of this is when Carrie lets her boyfriend Aiden buy her apartment (???) and then approaches another ex to pay for her down-payment?! The whole thing is farcical and a bit psychotic if you ask me. And this is a theme throughout the show, where Miranda seems to be the only woman who doesn’t really care how much her husband is earning or expecting him to pay for her. All the other girls crave a man buying them things and spoiling them. Even less-problematic scenes perpetuate this, like Carrie walking into the walk-in closet Big made for her and there’s a pair of shoes waiting for her, or when Samantha continues to date that guy in his 70s, just because he’s wealthy.

Glorifying Frivolous Lifestyles

While I do enjoy the show and think it is great for easy viewing, it’s mindful to note that this show glorifies living beyond your means. The girls are obsessed with brands and labels, and will happily spend a few thousand on a Birkin, even though they definitely cannot afford it. The show insinuates that looking the part is much better than actually being the part, and if you want to make it in the Big City, you got to spend the dough. Its light-hearted outlook on very serious matters such as debt, not having savings and relying on others for money, downplays the harsh reality of how detrimental these money mistakes can be. Not only that, it encourages women in their early to mid-30s to spend all their paycheque on fancy bars and dining, instead of setting some money aside for the future. Not only that, the picture it paints of living in an expensive city is definitely through rose-tinted glasses, and we should be mindful that city life may not always be as fun as the show portrays.

I know this is an old show but those watching (i.e., me) are now adults trying to build their careers and be smart with their finances, and shows like Sex and the City, Emily in Paris and 90210 do not portray sensible spending habits. I’m not bashing these shows, or telling you to avoid them, just merely pointing out their flaws and how to look at them objectively.