Fun Places To Go As A 5!

The Phase 2 Heightened Restrictions have been eased! We’re now allowed to hang out in groups of 5 again. All this time working from home and staying in the house might have had you wondering…what fun stuff is there to do in a group these days? Look no further! Here’s a list of some awesome places to go in a group!

  • Adventure Cover Water Park

If you like water slides, fish and relaxing whilst floating, then this is the place for you. Adventure Cove is a water park that is a great day out for a group of friends or a family. There’s thrilling water slides, lazy rivers and you can even snorkel with fish! This water park is a perfect way to cool off on a hot day and you can book tickets online beforehand.

  • ArtScience Museum: Virtual Realms

From now until January, you can explore and immerse yourself with six installations at the ArtScience Museum. For art lovers and videogame enthusiasts alike, this exhibition has teamed up with some of the world’s leading video game developers to bring you this multi-sensory gallery. Submerge yourself into these different virtual realms that have been created. The exhibition is $16 for adults and $12 for children.

  • #InstaWalk

No good pictures to post online because you’ve been stuck outside? Want to meet new people? Then check out #InstaWalk; this guided tour has two options- Civic Colours or Bugis, Waterloo, KG Glam. Take this 2 hour walk and explore whichever are you choose out of the two options. The tour guides share tips on how to take great insta-worthy shots, whilst telling you about the history of the area. Not only that, if you sign up, you can get CapitaLand vouchers for free!

  • Gardens By The Bay

If you’ve got a group of 5 and it’s a lovely sunny day, consider a day out at Gardens By The Bay. Start off by grabbing some food at Satay By The Bay or Makansutra and then head over for the new exhibition Dale Chihuly: Glass in Bloom. This renowned artist’s glasswork is being shown until 1st August and has been shipped all the way from Seattle. Casually stroll around the gardens and see the beautiful glass structures and you can even chill and wind down with some drinks and a little picnic at Marina Barrage.

  • Durian Party!

It’s durian season! And I’ve left one of my favourite things (eating durian) until last. Many fruit stalls are now stocking up on this delicious spiky fruit, and if you want to try some, or have all your friends over to eat durian, now is the best time! The most popular (and most expensive) is Mao Shan Wang. It’s soft, creamy, sweet and yet a bit bitter. It’s definitely one of my favourite types, but it can be up to $25 per kg. Black Thorn (or Black Gold as I’ve also seen it advertised) is new to the market and similar (if not better) in taste to Mao Shan Wang. If you’re new to durian and want something sweet, not too bitter, and a cheaper option ($9-$17 per kg), try Red Prawn.

More things are set to open up as the month progresses, but here’s just a few things that can keep you and your friends busy until then!

Why do Expats Need Financial Planning in Singapore?

As an expat, and a financial consultant, I have seen both sides of the coin when it comes to financial planning. 30% of Singapore’s population is made up of expats; and, being the fourth most expensive city in the world, means that non-residents really need to understand and adapt to the way of living here.

  Here are some main differences between locals’ and expats’ expenses that you should take into consideration.

Housing

Houses takes up the main bulk of expenses moving to Singapore; rental is expensive, especially in the downtown area, where a lot of offices and expat’s place of work is. Singaporeans and PRs can buy a HDB at an affordable price using their CPF money, but if an expat wishes to buy a property, they are not allowed to buy a HDB, and executive condos and landed property can be in the millions. Clearly, for a foreigner, more often than not purchasing a property is not an option. So be cautious when you begin to start renting here- the rental and bills should never exceed 50% of your monthly income.

School Fees and Childcare

If you are in Singapore with your family, you need to understand the differences between local and international schooling. As local schools are funded by the government, the fees are a lot cheaper than international schools. Sending your child to international school can cost roughly $2,000-$4,000 per month. While there is some debate as to which schooling system is better (which I’m not going to go into), it is certainly more economical to send your child to local school. However, do take note that in order for an expat child to go to a local school, they have to pass exams, and places are competitive.

Healthcare

I often hear outrage from expats in regards to the cost of healthcare in Singapore. In 2018 Singapore was announced to have the second-best healthcare in the world, second to Hong Kong. All of this comes at a price, and Singapore is not a welfare state. While there are government subsides for locals, it is crucial that expats get a comprehensive healthcare insurance. The average hospital bill in Singapore is about $40,000, so to avoid paying out of pocket- get insurance! I know it may seem annoying but paying for healthcare is unavoidable in this country.

A Holistic Need For Planning

While most expats earn more here in Singapore than they would back in their home country, it is imperative that we plan correctly and not live paycheque to paycheque. This may often be difficult; Singapore has a plethora of amazing places to eat out, visit and experience, which can really burn a hole in our pockets. Simply saving a bit each month is not enough. Think long term, why did you move to Singapore? What do you plan on achieving? And where to plan on staying for the rest of your years?

Long-term planning may be daunting, but there is a reason why Singaporeans are some of the most well-off people in the world…they did the uncomfortable and planned their finances early!

How To Take Emotion Out Of Investing

As you may already be aware, many of my articles are about investments; how much you should invest and what you should invest in. I’ve even brushed on a little bit how you can be a disciplined investor. Today I want to delve further into this topic…how to take emotion out of investing. This may seem like a simple thing to do but, when money is involved, feelings are bound to get hurt.

A CFA Institute study showed that over a 30-year period, the average US equity investor achieved a return of 3.8% per year. But, surprisingly, the S&P 500 gave 11.1% returns. What’s the reason for the huge difference? Why did people not reap the full rewards? The answer is very simple…bad timing of the market.

Emotional investing is a bad strategy that I would not advise to anyone. Many people panic if the media hypes up a stock, or predicts that a market will crash. This is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. If anyone remembers about Y2K, or has read up on the Dot-Com Bubble, you will know that the media told everyone that computers would crash (due to the computers thinking the year ‘00’ would mean ‘1990’) and that everyone’s bank accounts would be wiped when the servers had this tech error. Of course, this didn’t happen. But the media phrenzy caused stocks to plummet, and when there were so many web giants, we were only left with a few, like Google, Apple and Amazon. Playing into this fear caused thousands and thousands of people to lose their money on the stocks they had.

Fear is very often the driving force behind bad investing, and its co-pilot is greed. These two emotions can cause investors to buy at a high price (in hope it will go higher) and sell low (panicking that it won’t go back up). This clearly is not going to be fruitful or give you decent returns in the long run, so how can you avoid this?

There are two key ways to take the emotion out of investing and think rationally with your investing. The first is diversification. This is a word I have mentioned a lot in previous articles. Diversification is the investment strategy of buying an array of investment types; stocks, bonds, buying equities in different countries, different industries and just generally not putting all your eggs in one basket. There are only a handful of times in human history, when all markets have moved up or down in unison, so this method provides a buffer against volatility. Because one investment’s losses are offset by another’s gains, your portfolio will survive long term.

The next method to remove emotion from investing is dollar-cost averaging. I have also mentioned this several times before in previous articles. This idea is simple; invest the same amount of money in regular intervals. This strategy can be used during any market trend, up or down. The key is to not change or falter from the amount and the time intervals. Don’t tamper with it at all, and be disciplined to follow this method long term. This will remove all emotion out of your investments and you don’t have to worry about timing the market.

To conclude, we are humans, it is almost impossible not to factor emotion into our day to day lives. However, using these simple methods of dollar-cost averaging and diversification, you will stop these bad investing habits and succeed in the long run. To further remove emotion, I suggest doing passive investments, so that you are not the one looking over your funds.

Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Sound Of Mind

Unfortunately, Singapore are in ‘Phase 2 with Heightened Restrictions’, but let’s be real…it’s pretty much a mini lockdown. While most of us are working from home, it may be difficult to differentiate between work and…just being at home. So, I thought I would write a list of things to do at home to relax, motivate and keep you mentally stimulated, whilst not feeling bogged down with work.

  1. Exercise

I’ll get all the obvious ones out the way first. But not only is exercise good for your body physically, but 30 minutes of exercise per day can improve mental health, decrease anxiety, improve sleep and even cognitive ability. Not only can we do home workouts during this time (I prefer doing quick and intense ones at home, so that it’s over and done with!) but outdoor activities are available and some studios have classes open! (Whilst wearing a mask) This means that you can vary your workouts as to not get bored. I went for a walk with a friend yesterday, an ab workout at home this morning, and am going to an in-studio dance class (with mask) this evening. Varying your workouts means you’re less likely to get bored, and more likely to stick to it

2. Order In!

While this may go against the previous point, I do think that it’s important to treat yourself and change up your routine, and ordering food can be one way to do so. Even if it’s once a week on a Friday night, ordering in can improve your mood and make food feel less of a chore, especially if you make it a special evening. Lay the table, pour yourself a glass of wine and maybe even light some candles to make it feel like you’re dining in a restaurant. GrabFood, Deliveroo and FoodPanda have so many options right now, not just fast food, to cater to everyone. You can still be healthy and order in!

3. Pamper Yourself

Lockdown might be doing wonders for your skin…or it may not. Take this time as an opportunity to give your skin the break it needs. Not only can you get pamper items from supermarkets, shops like Lush now deliver, so you don’t even have to leave your house! Use an evening to wind down with a face mask, some bath bombs, a foot spa or a hair mask…bring the spa to you at a fraction of the cost!

4. Arts and Crafts

I remember last Circuit Breaker, everyone used the opportunity to be creative and productive. (Except me, I’m not very creative so I just spent my time cleaning everything in my apartment). While our restrictions aren’t as extreme as last year, we still can’t go out to eat or have drinks. Instead in the evening, what you can do it show a little creative flare! Websites like Fave and Klook have loads of offers on kits you can order; tie dye kits, brew your own beer, cocktail making sets…you name it! You could even buy art supplies and spend some evenings painting, music on in the background, brush in one hand and a wine glass in the other. There are many locations around Singapore that do this, so why not do it at home?!

5. Pet Your Pet

This will not apply to everyone, and I’m not saying get a pet because we’re in a lockdown (please don’t, last year hundreds of people bought pets and now so many of them are up for adoption because their owners couldn’t take care of them), but if you do have a pet, now is the time to spoil them rotten! Make toys for them, spend more quality time with them and clean their surroundings more. My rabbit is uninterested in any toy that does not involve food, so I made some ‘toys’ out of cardboard tubes or empty tubs and hid treats in them. Lazada and Shopee have a plethora of cheap toys for all pets. In a survey of pet owners, 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership, and 75% of pet owners reported a friend’s or family member’s mental health has improved because of the pets in their lives.

It’s just a quick list, but these few things are not only inexpensive, but will help you break out of the mundane of working from home! Stay at home, stay safe and stay sane!

Diabetes In Singapore; The Bitter Sweet Truth

This month I’m going to focusing more on health in Singapore; my last article touched on mental health, and this one I wanted to talk about Diabetes.

  Singapore offers us a lifestyle that is often perceived to be luxurious- nice restaurants, bars and our weekends filled with relaxation. But, there is a darker side to this, and this is the increase of chronic diseases. In 2009, 1275 people were diagnosed with end-stage kidney failure…this increased to a shocking 1999 in 2017. And what was the cause of this? Not only the aging population, but also due to the high rate of diabetes.

  Here in Singapore, more than 400,000 people have diabetes. The PM has declared a ‘war on diabetes’ for the past 5 years, implicating stricter rules on advertising sugary food, and promoting nationwide health screening. The cost burden of diabetes, stood at more than $940 million in 2014. This is expected to increase to $1.8 billion by 2050. Not only does diabetes impact one’s own health; leading to heart conditions and strokes, it can complicate the treatment of other diseases, including Covid-19.

  So, what sort of things can we do as individuals to prevent this from happening? Of course, prevention is better than cure, so going for frequent health screenings helps tackle an unexpected diagnosis. Making small improvements to our diets will also prevent onset diabetes; managing and cutting back on our intake of sugary foods, drinks and carbohydrates, cutting back on smoking and being more active can help.

  Being more active not only helps with keeping fit and healthy, but it also improves productivity throughout the day and has a positive affect on your mental health. Exercise, along with a diet of lots of vitamins and fibre, can increase blood sugars and prevent pre-diabetes.

  Did you know that diabetes is a declined risk for most insurance critical illness plans on the market? With 3 in 10 Singaporeans having diabetes before 40, it’s obviously best to stop diabetes from happening before it affects your life! However, if you have diabetes, following the above tips can help manage your situation. Not only that, there is now critical illness and insurance coverage available to you!

Use the WhatsApp link below to contact me with your thoughts on diabetes, and if you have diabetes and need help getting cover, let me know!

Circuit Breaker Anniversary: Mental Health Awareness

As we surpass the one-year mark of the start of circuit breaker in Singapore, I would like to reflect on our mental health and how the pandemic has affected us. Although things are definitely doing well in Singapore (we can go the bars, restaurants and beach clubs without worrying), it definitely doesn’t make things better in terms of our mental health. Many of us are still worried about the situation overseas, particularly with our families and some feel anxious with the large crowds and normality in Singapore.

  About one in three people in Singapore feels their mental well-being has worsened since the circuit breaker kicked in a year ago, a poll commissioned by The Straits Times showed. Working from home has highlighted how blurred work-life boundaries have become. If you work from home, it can often feel like you must always be in work mode- there is not escape and no change in environment.

  Covid-19 has brought to the forefront the need for change in Singapore, especially for breaking down the stigmas surrounding mental health. I think the one thing we must all remember is that it’s ok not to be ok. No one ever expected this pandemic to happen and last this long. If I were to look back to the start of 2019, I would never think that I would be stopped from seeing my family. I would never think that I would have to rely on technology so heavily (the thought of my parents only being able to see me get married via Zoom fills me with such despair). And, I wouldn’t have thought that job security in Singapore would be so touch and go. Not only that, travelling was a way for me to relax.

  We must remind ourselves that our problems are valid to us. I often feel incredibly guilty thinking about things back in England; I get stressed over the smallest thing here in Singapore, but in the UK, life right now is much more challenging. But, it’s ok for me to feel these things.

  Singapore is definitely moving forward when it comes to mental health awareness. The National Care Hotline, which was set up in April last year to provide psychological first aid and emotional support during Covid-19, was the first of its kind in Singapore, and just shows how far forward we’ve come in such a short space of time. The increase in avenues like webinars, shows that there is a need and a hunger for employers to learn more about their employees’ mental health. Insurance companies in Singapore are now including mental health diagnoses in their coverage.

  While we are definitely improving with mental health awareness here in Singapore, there is a lot of growth yet to be done. Let’s come together and support each other during this tough time. Be open to talking and hearing from each other, don’t be afraid to ask for help and remember that you are not alone.

What Happens If I Leave My Money In The Bank?

Money saved is money earned…right? Not necessarily in the long run. Rising inflation rates can mean that you’re actually losing money by leaving it in your bank account.

If we take my DBS account as an example; the interest rate is a lousy 0.05%. The average rate of inflation in Singapore is projected to increase to 2%. In theory, if I leave $100,000 in my bank account for 5 years, I will have $100,250 after interest. However, this amount of money will have lost buying power. In theory, my money in 5 years will actually be worth $90,622; I will have lost $9,378 just by leaving my money alone! (It has a negative rate of -1.95% when inflation is taken into account.)

While inflation shows an upward trend in the economy, it can be a massive hindrance to our bank accounts! So what do we do? There are a couple of ways to take action today! The first one is to find a savings account that offers you a higher interest rate. Some offer 2%-3%.

The second and most effective way is to put your money in instruments that will get you a much higher rate of return. This is why I feel that investing is key; even if you find something that yields a conservative 4%, your $100,000 in 5 years would be $121,665.

I will be writing about in a future article the benefits of different investment instruments.

Hindsight is bitter sweet; it’s very easy to sit back and relax and leave your money alone…but you will regret it in the long run.

The Pros and Cons of Crypto!

Cryptocurrency….the buzz word that is on everyone’s lips. Cryptocurrency gained popularity a few years ago, but since the pandemic more and more people are interested and wanting to know more on how to earn some money with crypto.

But, is investing in crypto for you? Cryptocurrency is, in short, a digital or virtual currency, which are mostly decentralised and based on blockchain technology. There are many reasons why people use and invest in different coins. Here is a list of some pros and cons of crypto, so that you can make an informed decision as to whether you want to go ahead and buy!

Pros

Transparency

This may be the top reason why people want to invest in cyrpto; cryptocurrency offers much more potential for societal change. All digital currency transactions are stored on the blockchain. This means the data is available for anyone to view at any time. For those who want more transparency in the banking system, this is a very big plus.

Instant Accessibility

There are so many platforms to access digital currencies, such as Binance, Coinbase and Bisq, meaning that you can sell and buy crypto anytime, anywhere. This means that users can make financial decisions in real time, instead of missing a trend because they’re not near a computer. This also means that digital currency is available to everyone, not just investment bankers. For those who want a piece of the pie, but don’t want the fat cats to get any of their money, cryptocurrency is a great option.

Potential of High Returns

From 2016 to December 2020, Bitcoin in USD has compounded at an annualised growth rate of 131.5%. In comparison, the S&P 500 index of large cap US equities has compounded at an annualised growth rate of 14.5%. Clearly, the potential to gain on a crypto investment is a lot higher than traditional investment methods.

Cons

Potential of High Losses and Volatility

With high returns comes higher risk. The maximum monthly bitcoin return over the 60 months to end December 2020 was 76.1% and the minimum -37.6%. This shows that users will have to constantly check on their coins- as just as quickly can they make a massive profit, then can also plummet at the same rate. Users have to be able to time the market correctly to avoid major losses. This means that a lot of knowledge and research is needed before hand. Not only this, cryptocurrency aims to be used like you would a dollar. Imagine if you bought a coffee for $4 one day, and the next day the same cup of coffee cost $36…would you buy it? This extreme volatility means that it seems unlikely that crypto will be able to be used as actual currency anytime soon.

Legal Status

The legality of cryptocurrency varies country to country. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, India, Bolivia and Algeria have all banned the use of crypto. There are many reasons why a country would ban digital currency; cryptocurrency cannot be regulated by the government. If a country wants to maintain financial control, of course they would want to ban it. Because of the anonymity of crypto (more on this later), it can be used as a method of money laundering or tax evasion, which is why some countries ban the use. Laws around digital currency are ever changing, which means that one day it could become illegal in your country, and all that money that you’ve made could be inaccessible.

Ethical Issues

Because cryptocurrencies have no official oversight or regulation, they are wide open to being exploited by criminals as a means to scam unwary investors. A 2019 study showed that 46% of bitcoin transactions are associated with illegal activity. Not only this, it has been proven that crypto is quite detrimental to the environment. Cryptocurrency blocks are added to the blockchains through crypto mining, where high-powered computers solve intricate mathematical puzzles. This technology takes a lot of energy to power these computers. Mining bitcoin now consumes more energy per year than the whole country of Argentina. Bitcoin’s emissions could increase the Earth’s temperature by 2 degrees. This brings to question the sustainability of this industry.

There are of course many more pros and cons to cryptocurrency, but there are too many to mention. Of course, if you want to know more about investing in cryptocurrency, please do your own research.

What are your opinions on cryptocurrency?

How To Be A Successful Investor!

You may think that investing is not for you; maybe you’re not experienced enough, maybe you don’t have enough capital. But, the whole process of investing is not as scary as you think. Follow these simple tips and start investing successfully.

Start Before You’re Ready

This may seem counter-productive, but hear me out. Have you ever refrained from doing something, for fear of the risks? And then the thing you didn’t do, happened, and you regretted it? Hindsight is a fickle friend, so don’t miss an opportunity to start investing. Tackle your fear and start before you’re ready, because, to be honest, you will never be ready; “I’ll wait until next month…Let me do it after I’ve paid my bills…Maybe next year.” Take the plunge! If you don’t, you’ve already missed out on so much time you could have been investing.

Don’t Be Emotional

This point is crucial. You have to take all emotion out of investing, mainly fear and greed. If you see your investment plunging, your first response may be to sell, out of fear of losing even more. If you see stocks going up, you may want to buy before they go up higher, out of greed. Doing this eventually leads to buying high and selling low, losing you money in the long run.

  Instead, take advantage of dollar-cost averaging (the concept of buying the same amount at regular intervals). This method makes your investment almost robotic. Another thing you can do as well, is to make your payments into your investments automatic. Set up GIROs or transfer straight away after you get paid, so that you don’t even think about it.

Plan Situations In Advance

Another great tip is to have a set of ‘rules’ before you invest, so that if X was to happen, you already have a Y. For example, if you have a target buy price of a stock in mind, stick toit and do not deviate. This forward planning also helps you take emotion out of investing and manages your fear and greed.

Use Volatility To Your Advantage

Volatility is inevitable with investments, similar to if you go to a theme park you know there will be rollercoasters. A quality of a true investor is being able to hold onto their investments through times of great volatility. Even though it’s scary when investments go down, it’s not permanent. Stocks do not permanently lose their value. Use times of volatility to define your objectives, focus on what stocks are trending and always remember to be prepared for these situations. It’s all part of the game!

Do Some Homework!

Learn about the world around you; politics, technology, science, all have an effect on the financial world. Read up on current affairs and look out for things that could affect the economy and stock markets. The more you read, the more you will start to see trends in the market. I recommend reading The Economist, Business Insider and Bloomberg.

Know What Kind Of Investor You Want To Be

There are two types of investors; passive or active. Passive investors invest in mutual and index funds. If you’re unsure what these things are, check out my article “Investing Terms You Need To Know”. Passive investors benefit from long-term growing financial markets. Their investments are managed by fund managers, shuffling their money around for them on a regular basis. I would consider myself a passive investor; I leave the experts to do their job and just put my money in these funds over regular intervals. This, along with dollar-cost averaging, helps me remove my emotion from investing.

  An active investor has to be very committed, professional and knowledgeable in what they are doing. If you decide to be an active investor, do your research! Know which stocks you want to invest in and be prepared to keep an eye on them. Try to be robotic about it and apply the previous tips.

Have A Long Time Horizon

I’ve mentioned it before but an investor who holds onto their investments longer, usually benefits the most. While the stock market is often volatile over shorter periods of time, the economy generally grows year by year; the inflation rate in the US in 2010 was 1.64%. In 2021, it is currently 2.21%. While inflation rate is annoying in terms of making things more expensive, it is an indicator that the economy is doing well. A higher inflation rate means more spending, more demand for products and triggers more production to meet the demand.

  This means that if you hold onto your investments for longer, you are avoiding short-term losses and in turn benefitting from the growth of the economy.

To conclude, no one can be the perfect investor (if that was the case we’d all be rich), but if you follow these steps you are more likely to make better choices and become a successful investor!