Is Corporate Insurance Enough?

One of the benefits of being an expat in Singapore is that a lot of the time, your company will provide you with insurance. This, know as Corporate Insurance or a Group Policy is a great relief for many expats- the company will reimburse for any hospital costs, and they don’t have to worry about navigating the somewhat complex insurance/medical landscape of Singapore.

  But is this insurance sufficient for you? Let’s delve further…

Coverage

Whilst company coverage has its strong points, like GP & Specialist reimbursement, sometimes it really lacks in certain areas. Generally, most basic group insurance packages come with quite low hospital coverage. You will also want to check if this covers private as well as government hospitals. Turnaround time at private hospitals tend to be very fast in comparison to government, so it would be good to have that option.

  Personal hospital policies tend to have very high coverage in comparison. Moreover, you can tailor coverage such as death, critical illness and disability, based on your exact needs and budget.

Service

With most group insurance, in order to claim you must either contact your HR or upload your claim to an app and wait for an approval. A lot of the time the insurance agent will not be at your beck and call, as they service every claim in the company, not just yours. And if your company has gone through a broker, it can be even more difficult to make direct contact with your insurance company. Sometimes, if your company has gone for an international insurer, you may be stuck calling an overseas hotline.

  In contrast, if you choose your personal advisor wisely, they will be more than happy to help you with all of these admin chores, from filing claims, to booking appointments, to contacting the insurance company directly on your behalf.

Longevity

This is very dependent on how long you think you will stay in the current company you work for. If you think you’ll stay with one company your whole time in Singapore, then great, you can rely on their coverage. But, what if you want to switch, and the new company doesn’t offer insurance benefits? Or maybe they do, but it isn’t as comprehensive, or they don’t include dependents? You may be in a bit of a tough spot, particularly if you have had pre-existing conditions, or if you’ve claimed in the past. This may rule you out from getting a personal plan.

Bumps In The Road

Building on my last point, there may be a lot of issues you could face, that you wouldn’t from a personal policy. Your company may decide to change provider, in order to minimise costs, which may lead to discrepancies in your coverage, especially if you are already going through a claim or have a surgery planned. With a personal plan, so long as you keep up with your payments, you cannot get excluded from any coverage after purchasing. It’s always best to plan your insurance whilst you’re healthy and able to purchase; so relying on your corporate insurance may mean that you delay this crucial planning.

I always say to my clients that Corporate Insurance is a great base of coverage; it’s a good safety net and it’s a wonderful benefit for your company to provide. However, I always encourage expats to get personal coverage, to ensure that their protection is in their own hands, and not the hands of a company that may switch or drop coverage in the long run.

Health Myths Debunked

  I don’t claim to be a health specialist, nor a doctor, nutritionist, or even one of the healthiest people around. However, due to the nature of my work, and having had a bit of a health scare before, I’ve embarked on a journey of trying to be a healthier person, who eats better, exercises more, and tries to educate herself on these topics. Through my research I’ve found that there is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to health (hello TikTok pretending that lemon water cures all ailments). So, I thought I would debunk a few of these myths.

Myth: You Should Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day

While drinking water is of course in no ways bad, as it helps with hydrating your body, prevents gallstones and is good for your skin, the idea of drinking 8 glasses a day is not scientifically supported. If you think about it logically, we don’t just get water and hydration from drinking plain water. Many fruits, vegetables and of course other drinks provide our bodies with the hydration it needs. So how do we know how much water to drink? Well, every individual is different, so simply drinking water when you feel thirsty is sufficient.

Myth: MSG Causes Cancer

This myth is actually fraught with racist stereotypes. Known as ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome’, many people reported feeling sluggish and unwell after eating food that contained MSG, and the public were led to believe that this ingredient was unhealthy, higher in sodium than normal salt, and even contained carcinogens. Research has found that the vast majority of people, even those claiming a sensitivity to MSG, don’t have any reaction when they don’t know they are eating it. Essentially, this myth was created out of people’s fear of ‘exotic food’. In actuality, unlike regular table salt, which is 40% sodium, MSG contains only 12% sodium, and is safe to eat- free from carcinogens.

Myth: Microwaves Zap Nutrients Out of Food

Another myth that has no scientific backing, many people believe that cooking with microwaves is a bad cooking method. While cooking microwavable TV dinners, I agree, has little to no nutritional value, using your microwave to heat up leftovers, or even steaming veggies, does not decrease the nutritional value. In fact, microwave cooking is actually a better way to retain vitamins and minerals as compared to other cooking methods, due to the fact that lesser nutrients are lost from shorter heat exposure, and the minimal amount of liquid needed for microwaving food simply stops nutrients from leaking out.

Myth: Diet Pills Don’t Make You Lose Weight

There are a lot of miracle products on the market. I admit that most don’t work, but unfortunately, many work so well, that they have lasting consequences. These fat burning pills can decrease your appetite, or speed up your metabolism, causing you to lose weight. The problem is that once you stop, all the weight will go back on, or even worse, you can end up heavier than when you started. This leads to a dependency on these products, and can cause nasty side effects, such as rapid heart rate and higher blood pressure. It’s best to just avoid these pills as a whole.

A funny thing to note is even these ‘natural’ pills have horrid side effects. I used to frequently take Sena tablets to help control my weight, but as soon as I stopped taking them, I had constant constipation and abdominal pain, to the point where it was difficult to move comfortably.

Myth: Drinking Through a Straw Stops Food Staining Your Teeth

Regrettably, drinking coffee through a straw doesn’t prevent coffee from staining your teeth. The only thing that will stop staining is not having a prolonged contact with coloured food, rinsing your mouth frequently and not drinking an excessive amount of tea and coffee.

There are so many more myths I stumbled upon, but that’s for another article! What are some health myths you’ve debunked?

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?

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!

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!

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!

How To Cope With Co-Payment

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the changes to medical insurance here in Singapore. If you haven’t read it yet, please go and have a read. As of April 2021, all insurance companies in Singapore will have to introduce a co-payment system; whereby the patient will have to fork out a portion of the hospital bill, which cannot be claimed or reimbursed.

So how do we tackle this problem? I will explore a couple of solutions here; long and short term.

Short-term Solution

To counteract the impact of losing some of your money to co-insurance and deductible on a medical bill, you can choose to include a hospital income plan to your insurance policy. This plan will pay you cash each day you are hospitalised and recovering at home, regardless of the cost of the hospital bill. This is a good way to fill the shortfall that you cannot claim, and it can be used for each time you are hospitalised. This is a quick and cheap option to save on that bit of cash.

Long-term Solution

Medical inflation increases year by year, and it is a problem that will not go away. Obviously, a hospital income plan can only go so far to counteract the rising cost of healthcare in Singapore. There are some ways in which you can prepare for a bit hospital bill in the long run.

Consider adding an extra plan to your insurance portfolio that is kept only for long term use and emergencies only. You can start by putting a small amount of your savings into a plan that will grow this cash for you at a better rate than the bank. Not only that, you can include insurance coverage in this plan. So, if the worst should happen and you are diagnosed with a critical illness or become disabled, you have a lump sum pay-out to supplement the cost of treatment, or help you with adjusting to your new lifestyle. No one likes thinking about these things happening, but it is best to prepare for the worst before you run into any problems. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it will not help when it comes to paying for a hospital bill.

I have posted a QR Code below to my WhatsApp should you have any questions or need help planning this out. If you would like me to review your current policy I would be more than happy to do that also.

Singapore: Important Updates to Insurance You Need To Know About!

As we all know, Singapore does not offer free healthcare; for locals, a lot is subsidised by their Medisave but for expats we must pay the full cost and wait for reimbursement from our insurers.

But there will be some new changes this year that all insurers in Singapore will have to follow, which will affect the consumer. Here’s what you need to know.

In March 2018, the Ministry of Health announced that insurers will have to stop offering plans that cover the full cost of hospital bills, and riders that do so will have to contain a ‘co-payment’ feature. This means that patients will have to foot part of their hospital bill, in order to keep healthcare costs sustainable.

From now on, if policyholders are hospitalised, they will have to pay 5% (at least) of the hospital bill. This co-payment is the government’s attempt to maintain policy premiums, and encourage responsible usage of the Singapore Healthcare System…doctors and patients alike.

So what can we, as a customer, do to ensure that we can keep up with these changes? The first is to double-check what your company provides in terms of insurance coverage, as company plans will often cover different things than personal. Second, ensure you have an accident plan that includes some medical reimbursement benefit. Therefore, if you are hospitalised due to an accident, you can claim somewhat off this plan. The third and, in my opinion, the best method is to ensure you have some sort of plan you can use as an ‘emergency medical fund’. Pay into this fund for a few years and, should anything happen, you can use this to cover the co-payment. It can also include features that will cover you should you become disabled, or suffer from a critical illness.

Have you readjusted your medical planning? Do you have any questions in regards to your insurance or future planning? If so, comment below or send me a message!