Make Your Money Green As Well As Your Lifestyle!

I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people are concerned about climate change; over the past few years we’ve seen very obvious and drastic changes to our ecosystems that it almost too blatant to ignore…flooding, wildfires, mass extinctions…all of these have a negative impact on our environment.

Many of us try to do our part (recycling, using less plastic, swapping disposable for reusable), but what about our money? Money is green in colour, but is it by nature? If you have read my previous articles about cryptocurrency, you know that I am a bit apprehensive of investing in this type of asset because of the environmental implications. According to Digiconomist, a single Bitcoin transaction has, on average, a carbon footprint of 549.74 kgCO2 – the equivalent to 91,624 hours of watching YouTube. And of course, people are also concerned with industries such as gas, coal and oil, and would prefer not to invest their money in these kinds of industries.

 Companies themselves seem to be moving further away from unsustainable processes. Singapore was the first South-East Asian country to introduce carbon tax in 2019. The country has plans to increase the levy at faster rates, to tackle Singapore’s growing concern with climate change.

“We think it’s necessary so as to put the right incentive for industries and for companies to look at the way they’re making things and the way they’re producing things,”, Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, commented.

This is all great news, and is an exciting future for Singapore on its journey to become greener. Companies and industries are sure to follow suit, so how can we ensure that our money and investments do so also, whilst still maintaining a positive portfolio?

The first thing you can do is invest in green power investments; there are plenty of industries utilising wind power, hydro power and even solar power, which you can invest in. Water energy seems to be the go-to for sustainability, so why not invest in energy producers with notable hydropower in their portfolios, such as PG&E and Brookfield Renewable Partners. Today, projects such as China’s massive Three Gorges Dam can supply electricity to between 70 million and 80 million households. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), hydropower is the most cost-efficient means of generating electricity, so this is a lucrative and exciting tech to invest in. China is also the leader in wind energy right now, so if this kind of renewable energy interests you, check out General Electric or Vestas Wind Systems.

Prevention is also key when moving forward to create a greener world, so you may want to look at companies in waste management, green transportation or even pollution controls. These companies aim to minimise the affect humans’ inevitable impact have on the environment, and are going to be around for a long time. We are always looking for new ways to minimise our carbon footprint, be it minimising car emissions, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants or improving recycling facilities.

So We Should Stop Investing In Oil And Gas?

This is not a black and white topic, there are many things to take note of with oil and gas industries. While oil and gas is not sustainable, environmental policies, like the tax I mentioned before, it has pushed large oil and gas companies to move further in this direction. Many investment managers prioritise green funds, causing oil and gas companies to improve their business models to be greener. Look at their business models, it is easy to see that some are greener than others. In fact, several large oil companies are among the global leaders in promoting a tax on greenhouse gases and investing in energy sources that will help the world transition away from oil. Choosing the firms with the best environmental records and practices is another way of looking at green investments.

I’m not the biggest expert when it comes to green energy, but I would like to think that I am doing my part for the environment. It’s very simple to make small changes in your portfolio to make it greener, and I wouldn’t even rush to withdraw anything in oil and gas, and these companies offer sustainable investment returns, and are improving their business models to be more environmentally friendly.

How To Staycay On A Budget!

Even though the lockdown rules have eased a bit here in Singapore, it still looks like we won’t be able to travel out the country for a while. So why not go on a staycation! There are loads of options here in Singapore, so if you want to plan a staycay that isn’t going to break the bank…this is the right article for you! Here are 5 top tips to plan a Staycay on a Budget!

  1. Determine Your Budget

You can’t work around a budget if you don’t have a budget, right? But how much should you set aside for your staycation? Well, for those that read by budgeting articles before, you will already know that you shouldn’t spend more than 30% of your monthly income on your ‘wants’ (going out, drinks, food, hobbies etc.). So work with this figure- if you are planning on splurging out on your staycation, you may have to tighten the rest of the things you do for that month. If you want to calculate a figure, a quarter of this 30% should be your max. That way, you still have cash left over for the rest of the month.

2. Pick Off-Peak Times

Once you’ve determined your budget, it’s time to maximise your budget as much as possible. Try not to pick your staycation on expensive dates, such as National Day, CNY, Hari Raya etc. Pick off-peak timings. Not only will this be cheaper for you, but it will also be easier when booking, as public holidays sell out fast! If you can book during the week instead of the weekend, due to your schedule- then even better for you!

3. Plan Free Activities

Depending on where you’re staying in Singapore, you can find lots of different free things to do! Say for example you’re staying at Marina Bay Sands, you can walk around Gardens By The Bay for free, check out The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple or walk round Henderson Waves!

 If you’re staying in Sentosa, there’s a tonne of fun, cheap or even free stuff to do! Have a picnic on the beach, check out the Sentosa Trails or explore the Southernmost Tip of Asia!

4. BYOB

Everyone knows that alcoholic drinks are really expensive in Singapore. I almost can’t wait to visit the UK just so I can order a glass of wine that doesn’t break the bank! So, instead of splurging at MBS or the Fullerton, why not bring your own bottles? Last time I stayed at Marina Bay Sands; I brought my own bottle of red wine to enjoy in the room.

5. Make The Most Of The Facilities

This may not seem like a budgeting tip per say, but, hear me out. If you don’t have a pool at your place, or a gym, or a sauna, make the most of it! It’s included in your staycation, so you may as well use it while you can, especially if you normally have to pay for gym or pool access when you’re not on staycay! Not only that, if you can get a hotel that has breakfast included, make sure you don’t miss it! That’s one more meal out you don’t have to pay for.

I hope these tips show that you can plan a successful staycation without having to spends lots of going out, meals, drinks and activities. I’m not saying don’t spend at all! But there are definitely ways to cut costs…enjoy and stay safe!

Project Dignity Giveaway!

I wanted to use my latest article to give a shoutout to Project Dignity (https://projectdignity.sg/). Project Dignity is a collective that is on a mission to give dignity to those disadvantaged and differently-able, by providing them with opportunities to work and a chance to help them find their vocation and passion.

Project Dignity provide sponsored training for unemployed adults with special needs and place them with their employment partners within the F&B, hospitality and retail sectors. They want every person who walks out of their outlets to project a sense of dignity through earning an honest living. They are empowered with skills, employment and most of all, the opportunity to be a productive member of society.

They currently have four ventures; Dignity Kitchen, Dignity Learn, Dignity Mama and Dignity Outreach.

Dignity Kitchen is an air-conditioned food court as well as food delivery service. Currently situated in Serangoon, the 7 stalls are manned by the differently-abled and disadvantaged. Lunch treats for the elderly from nursing homes are provided by this programme across Singapore every day.

Dignity Learn, an inclusive training centre, provides hawker culinary courses for the public. They also run a 22-day Train-and-Place programme for adults with special needs seeking employment. 

Dignity Outreach combines team bonding with impact, offering corporate entities an avenue to engage achieving team building objectives whilst giving back to the community. At the same time, it accelerates Project Dignity’s goal of social inclusion and integration with marginalised peoples. 

Dignity Mama stores are retail book stores selling upcycled and preowned books. They are located in local hospitals and are managed by caregivers together with young adults with special needs. 

This is not a charity- it is a social enterprise; a social business with clear goals in helping disadvantaged people get the skills they desire. I feel that this company is really admirable, as they are trying to break many stigmas here in Singapore, and instead of separation, promote integration. That’s why this month I am doing a giveaway for vouchers to Dignity Kitchen on 69 Boon Keng Road.

To participate, follow these instructions:

  1. Read this article
  2. Visit my Instagram @danniteboul
  3. Like my Giveaway post
  4. Tag a friend and mention which of the 4 ventures you like the most
  5. Multiple tag/comments gives you multiple entries!

There will be 4 prizes!

Winner: $40 Vouchers

2nd Prize: $30 Vouchers

3rd Prize: $20 Vouchers

4th Prize: $10 Voucher

I am so happy to be supporting this cause and I hope you will all be as equally happy. Have fun participating in my giveaway!

(Please note you must be in Singapore to participate)

Random Money Hacks That I Do!

Singapore is an expensive country, I won’t lie. But, there are very simple and sneaky ways of cutting costs and useful money hacks that makes Singapore that little bit less expensive.

  • Buying Stuff on Shopee and TaoBao

To me, this seems like an obvious one, but I noticed that loads of people don’t do this. I think maybe people think that, because most of the stock comes from China, it won’t be good quality…but that’s not the case! I’ll tell you a little story. I’m getting married in a month (just ROM, the real ceremony will be next year in Malta), and I wanted a dress. I found a beautiful blingy dress in Far East Plaza…$300. I got the exact same dress from TaoBao for less than $70! And I don’t mean it was a good knock-off…I mean it was exactly the same! What a steal.

  • Doing My Nails at Home

This leads on from my previous point of buying stuff on Shopee…over circuit breaker last year I taught myself how to do manicures, gels, extensions, the whole thing. Getting your nails done in a salon in SG can be very expensive, especially when you want gems or patterns done. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and learnt to do it myself. I bought a lamp and a kit off of Shopee and now I always buy my nail accessories from there; there’s so much choice and they’re so cheap. I save hundreds of dollars (maybe even a thousand!) doing mani-pedis at home.

  • Using Fave or Entertainer

These apps are great when you know you have an activity or meal coming up that you know might be expensive. Entertainer is great for restaurants and Fave is great for activities, such as boat rental, massages, haircuts, museum tickets…you name it! You can buy tickets from these websites at discounted price instead of buying directly from the attractions or restaurants themselves. One thing I will say is that meals and restaurants are a safe bet, sometimes it’s a bit hit and miss with treatments. Top Tip: get used to hearing the hard sell.

  • Shop at MBS

Ok, now you’re probably thinking- erm, Danni, Marina Bay Sands is very expensive, why are you suggesting I shop there? Well, here’s what I do; I got an MBS membership card, it’s free to sign up. Then, every time I buy something in one of the shops, I collect points. The points wrack up very quickly, and I spend the points when I do a slightly bigger shop. I normally shop at places like Sephora and Zara; these shops aren’t as pricey as the other shops at MBS but I get the extra bonus points instead of shopping in say Orchard or Somerset. Not only that, pro-tip! If you shop at Sephora too you can wrack up Sephora points and MBS points at the same time! You can also use these points at the restaurants too!

  • Buy Fruit at Night

I stopped buying fruit off RedMart when I realised, they either went bad very quickly or took weeks to ripen. So now I buy fruit from those local fruit stalls. This tip is especially great for durian but it works for all fruit- the vendors always drop the prices drastically at night. This is because they don’t want to have to throw all their stock away at the end of the night. This means you also have a better chance for bartering.

  • TimeZone

Yes, yes, you’ve heard me go on about this place loads- I love TimeZone. If you love games and want to win some good stuff, this place is great. The kitchen items here are particularly great. Instead of buying expensive slow cookers, grills and hot pots, I got all mine from TimeZone! The coffee machine is next on my list.

So, there you have it, 6 random things I do to save money. These hacks may not work for everyone, but tis is what I do and it works for me. I hope it helps somewhat and you can take away something useful from this!

You Could Be Paying 4 Times Too Much For Insurance!

Hospital plans are an absolute must in Singapore; with the average hospital bill being approximately $40,000, you must ensure that you are covered. Many expats want an international plan, as it often seems like there are more benefits. But, did you know that most international plans are around 4 times the price of local ones?

For the past two years (I can’t believe it’s been that long), we have been unable to leave Singapore due to Covid-19. This means that less people are able to travel freely to their home countries or on holiday, so why pay for an international insurance policy during this period?

The pros of an international policy are that you are covered worldwide at the same amount of coverage as you would in Singapore. However, this often means that the coverage you are offered is slightly lesser than local plans. Local hospital plans are often able to provide customers with maximum coverage, because there is not that extra risk of claiming abroad. Not only that, claiming through a local company is often a lot easier than with an international one, as you can directly contact your agent who is in the same time zone as you, instead of calling a hotline based abroad.

But what if I am hospitalised abroad and a have a local health insurance? Not to worry- did you know that most local plans cover hospitalisation abroad if it is due to an accident or emergency? But, if you are planning to be hospitalised abroad, I would suggest using a top-up insurance from that country, or a travel insurance.

Not only that, if boarders open it’s very easy to switch from a local plan to an international one. So, what is the point of paying for an international plan when you’re not going abroad?!

I did a comparison for myself on different insurance policies. I am currently 27, non-smoker, and I am paying $1,192 per year for a hospital plan that covers private hospitals. I am covered for $2,000,000 per policy year, and I can go to panel and non-panel doctors so long as I pre-authorise (something which very few companies offer). This is with a local company. When I check international plans, some are offering worldwide coverage of $1,000,000 for double the price. Some are offering $2,5000,000 coverage for over four times the price, of over $5,015 a year. This to me, seems like a no brainer to go for a local plan during this period than an international one.

As an expat, I feel that the term ‘international insurance’ is very alluring and may seem like the best option. But, if you delve a little deeper, read in between the lines and compare costing, it is quite often an unnecessary expense. Comment or contact me if you want to know how I planned my health insurance!

Investment vs Insurance- Which is More Important?

Whether we like it or not, when we become adults, we have to start thinking about our personal finances and planning our future. For those who have not been taught about finances (I know pretty much none of us learnt this in school), planning finances could be a daunting task. The words ‘investment’ and ‘insurance’ often fill people with dread; is it a scam? Why should I spend my money on that? Do I need it?

The long and short of it is, both are important and you need both. But is one more important than the other? Let’s look at both and see for ourselves.

There are lots of kinds of insurance products but they all cover one thing- loss. The whole point of insurance is that it covers us if something goes wrong. This may be a hospitalisation, a disability, an illness, or some other kind of liability that would set us back financially. It is meant for protection; protecting us from the adverse effects of not being able to work or financial hardships. Many people think that planning for these things, such as death or disability, is a morbid topic and a worst-case scenario. But good health is never guaranteed, and it’s always best to get these things sorted before it’s too late. Insurance products also become more expensive as you get older, so it’s best to start early, so that these payments don’t interfere with any of your future life stages like purchasing a house or sending your kids to school.

Investing is all about growing money for our future- we can either plan for a passive income stream, so that we don’t have to rely on work so much. Or, we can plan for capital gains, so that we have a nice chunk of money when we want it. The idea of making money with not necessarily putting too much effort in (check out my articles about passive investing), is an attractive one. And, if we make all this money, why do we even need insurance?

Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is, it is unwise to have one without the other; investment increases our upsides, but insurance protects our downside. If you invest without being insured, you run the risk of losing it all should you fall sick or become hospitalised (also, can I just say, it’s very naïve to think you will stay healthy forever), especially if your investments are not enough to pay for your bills. If you just insure yourself without investing, you are selling yourself short, only planning for the bad things that can happen, and not planning for the good times ahead. It also means that you may have to constantly work and never be able to retire. Neither insurance nor investments will work on their own; you need to plan and review both in order to be financially successful.

A very important thing to take note of is that investments take a long time to accumulate, especially if you cannot set aside a lot of money to invest. Insurance policies cover you pretty much as soon as you get them. So, it’s always important to sort your insurance out first; once you are protected you can focus on growing your money.

But do remember that investing and insurance is never fixed and one-size-fits all. You need to constantly review your finances in order to keep up with your changing needs!

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.