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 licences 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.

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.

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!

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!

How I Planned My Finances

People often ask me how I became so financially literate and what I did to make myself financially stable. So, I thought I would share with you how I planned my finances in Singapore. First of all, I will say, I’m very lucky to have parents who taught me from a young age how to save and be frugal. But, moving to Singapore I realised I needed to do more than just save. So here’s how I did it.

Step One: Have an Emergency Fund

This first step was crucial, as you will see in my story later why. I saved 6 months’ salary in my bank account, as a buffer should anything happen. This meant that rent was never an issue, even with putting a deposit on a new rental and moving apartments. It also meant that I had less buyer’s remorse and I knew how much I could afford to spend on my days off.

Step Two: Spend Wisely

 Pre-covid, I travelled a lot. A lot of people, particularly those back home, would often ask me how I did it. It was really quite simple; I often travelled to countries where the Singapore dollar went far. I booked cheap accommodation and ate local food. This kept my budget quite low.

  Also, in Singapore I don’t tend to buy a lot of things. I mostly spend on going out for meals or activities with friends, which I find easier to manage, especially if the restaurants are cheap!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Step Three: Get Covered

Remember earlier I mentioned why an emergency fund is so important? Here’s why. In 2019 I found out I had to have an operation- it wasn’t a particularly big surgery, but it was a crucial one. My doctor had found a growth and was unsure if it was cancerous. It was causing me a lot of discomfort and affected my personal life greatly. I was told that the estimated bill would be roughly $19,000. Thankfully, I had health insurance. Even though foreigners have to pay the cost upfront, I managed to get every penny back through my hospital plan, even the doctor’s appointments leading up to the surgery. It was a massive relief. Luckily, I had the money upfront to pay, but can you imagine if I never got that back? Expats often see insurance as unimportant, maybe because healthcare is free back at home, but it’s a fact that Singapore is not a welfare state, so don’t treat it like one.

Step Four: Don’t Leave it Too Late

I went on to purchase critical illness coverage, as I knew deep down in the back of my head that having an operation at 25 (especially one where the C word comes up) is not normal. (I’m fine by the way, it wasn’t cancer.) So, I felt that it was best to be fully covered for critical illnesses. Hospital plans are not sufficient. Imagine if I were diagnosed with Cervical Cancer, and just had a hospital plan? It wouldn’t cover my change in lifestyle; having to take taxis everywhere; maybe hiring at home help; having to maybe order personalised meals. Not to mention the fact that I wouldn’t be able to work if I was going through chemo. A hospital plan definitely wouldn’t cover all of that.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Step Five: Invest

Ok so I had an emergency fund, I was protected and covered insurance-wise. Now what? How did I make my money grow quicker than leaving it in the bank? My current DBS account has an interest rate of 0.005%…. I’m not being funny but that’s rubbish. So, I took a portion of my savings and invested it in unit trusts. I purchased investment policies that contained a mixture of sub-funds that are managed by portfolio managers. I’m not one to sit and watch stocks and manage that by myself, so I’m very happy to let a professional do that for me. This will help me achieve my long-term goals of purchasing a property and having a very comfortable retirement.

I pride myself on not living paycheque to paycheque; I actually can’t remember the last time I did live like that! I always reflect on these five things and review how on-track I am with my financial goals. I hope this helps those who are confused on where to start. How do you plan your finances? If you feel that you have any questions or need any help, please do get in touch.

Reddit Vs Wall Street

Remember GameStop? That old shop where you would go to buy second hand video games? Well, yesterday they made big headlines…and here’s why.

Understanding a Short

  A short position is a trading technique, whereby short-sellers will borrow a stock that they think will drop in price, and buy them back at this lower price. Short sales have an expiration date- which means that sometimes short sellers have to act fast.

  A short squeeze occurs when the opposite happens; the stock sharply rises, forcing all those who predicted its downfall to buy to prevent even bigger losses. This inevitably drives the stocks even higher.  Short squeezes can happen when there is an unexpected positive news story (like Tesla, for example), or anything that can excite new buyers.

So what does that have to do with GameStop?

  In January 2021, a series of short squeezes ensued on several different stocks, including GameStop, AMC (remember, that cinema company?) and BlackBerry (everyone’s dream phone 15 years ago). Retail traders on Reddit page ‘Wallstreetbets’ banded together to drive the price of these stocks up, because they had found out that several hedge funds had short-sold them. This resulted in large price spikes, as the short-sellers were forced to buy back their stocks before incurring any more losses.

  Many users saw this as a way of getting back at hedge funds for the economic crisis in 2008. (Side note, if you haven’t watched The Big Short- you should. It explains the property crash perfectly.) It was almost as if all these users had become vigilantes, taking on the Big Bad Wall Street. Some on the website even donated their earnings to charity- how Robin Hood-esque of them.

Robinhood; take from the rich give to the…rich?

What’s not so Robin Hood-esque is what Robinhood did. Robinhood is a stock trading app; on Thursday 28th Jan 2021 it announced that it would block trading of GameShop, AMC and Blackberry shares. The free stock trading pioneer only allowed clients to sell positions, not open new ones. This provoked outrage among users and US politicians alike. A class- action lawsuit accused Robinhood of market manipulation and there are calls for the company to be investigated. The Senate banking committee said it would hold a hearing into the volatility.

  Many believe that this kind of move from Robinhood shows clear classism and bias in the financial world; that hedge funds in Wall Street can influence stock fluctuations, fat cats can reap the spoils of market volatility, but the average joe can’t. The users on Reddit merely played the short-sellers at their own game. What’s your opinion? Do you think that Robinhood was in the wrong? Or do you think that the stock market shouldn’t be manipulated by Reddit users?

A Bit About Me

Hi there,

First of all, thank you for visiting the site. On this page, I will be sharing with you some tips that expats should consider before making the big leap to invest in Singapore.

Thinking about money is often quite daunting, and we frequently put dealing with it to the bottom of our to-do list. I will be trying to make everyone’s lives a bit simpler, by addressing the main questions surrounding investing, along with dispelling some common myths.

Not only that, stay tuned for posts about my favourite places in Singapore; fun things to see and do; the best food and even local deals you might be interested in.

I moved to Singapore close to three years ago now, and I really wish that someone had given me a few pointers when I moved here. I’m happily settled now, and working in the finance industry- so I hope to share some insiders knowledge and insight with fellow expats here in Singapore!