How Will Inflation Affect Your Long-Term Planning?

We’re all been hearing about how bad inflation is and that it’s increasing etc. But what does this actually mean and how does it have a lasting affect on our money planning?

What Is Inflation?

Simply put, inflation is when the cost of goods and living increases. Whilst some see this as a bad thing, slight inflation is good as it is a sign of a growing economy; meaning more employment, higher profits and an increase in production. But, right now, we are seeing a significant rise in inflation. In December of 2021, Singapore saw inflation hit a 9 year high of 4%.

How It Affects Us Now

This increase directly affects us, and you may have even felt a bit of a pinch. Food is a bit more expenses and energy prices seem to have gone through the roof. All of this means that your cold hard-earned cash has less spending power, essentially meaning that you cannot buy as many things with the same amount of money as you used to. What further exacerbates this problem is bank interest rates; most current accounts in Singapore have an annual interest rate of 0.05%, meaning the bank gives you that much extra each year (not a lot at all). If current inflation rate is at 4%, you are losing 3.95% of your money every year by just leaving it in your bank account! This means that whilst you are earning money, not only are things getting more expensive but you’re losing money in your bank account too!

How It Affects Our Future

As you can imagine, this situation has a massive knock-on effect for our futures. If inflation increases, or even plateaus at say about 2%, you are still losing money in your bank account. Food, housing, medicine and energy will continue to go up in price, meaning each year you will either be able to afford less, or have to spend more to keep up. Not only that, your savings will not be as powerful as it once was…so you can see how this is a problem two-fold!

How Can We Stop This?

But fear not! If we prepare now ahead of time, we can manage inflation so that it doesn’t eat away at our savings. There are a few things you can do in preparation: first, include inflation in any planning you do. Want to save up for a holiday in 5 years’ time? Inflate your ticket and hotel prices by at least 2% per annum (3% if you want to be safe). Secondly, consider using vehicles and instruments that will offer you higher returns than your current bank account- any % higher than current inflation rate will give you a positive yield, and will ensure that your savings don’t run dry. I also think it’s best to create multiple avenues for growing your money, so that if one option is not doing well, at least you have money in different areas that you can withdraw from. Lastly, do not underestimate how much different sectors will increase. Food, healthcare, housing etc. do not always follow the same trend or inflation rate. Ensure you have medical expenses covered and calculated into your long-term planning, as well as remembering that your income will not go as far in future unless you ensure there are increases.

Essentially, it is best to start planning now instead of panicking later on in life, realising that you could have prepared for inflation but didn’t. As always, it’s best to stay in-the-know, and consult a professional when it comes to your financial planning.

Hospital & Cancer Insurance; Updates YOU Need To Know About

  There have been some new updates to Integrated Shield Plans (hospital insurance) in Singapore you need to know about. The MediShield Life Council reported that spending on cancer drugs has been increasing by 20% a year; a stark contrast to the 6% spending increase for other drugs. To curb these rising costs, MOH has come up with a Cancer Drug List.

The Cancer Drug List contains drugs that are effective and cost-efficient drugs and treatments that insurance companies will cover. If the drug is effective but not cost-effective, insurance will not cover it. Not only this, even if the drug is very cheap, but does not improve the cancer treatment, insurers won’t cover.

Those with Integrated Shield Plans, will not allowed to be covered for treatment not on the list, even if they are still on treatment. Although this sounds very daunting, MOH has stated that close to 90% of current cancer drugs and treatment in Singapore are on this list.

While this isn’t ideal, and of course may affect many people, it does mean that your insurance premiums won’t skyrocket up and up each year. Medical inflation is already very high in Singapore; this is one way the government are stepping in to stop it from going out of hand.

But what does this mean for insurance moving forward? I would strongly suggest adding a cancer coverage to your portfolio, to cover the shortfall of possibly having to pay for a drug not on the Cancer Drug List. Receiving a lump-sum payment can help pay for monthly cancer drug expenses, which can be approximately $2,300 a month.

How do you think this affects you in Singapore?

Why Did Crypto Crash?

  It seems that we can’t catch a break this year, markets are down, there’s a war, inflation is up, and now the value of cryptocurrency has plummeted, leaving many feeling disheartened with their investments. But, why did it happen? It’s actually a much broader picture. Let’s do a deep dive…

Inflation

  The first thing that triggered the crash was investors losing confidence in cryptocurrency and fearing the rise in inflation; inflation has been rising the past few months and apparently has not reached it’s peak yet! This is somewhat due to customer demand after the pandemic, along with Russia invading the Ukraine.

Interest Rates

  The Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by 0.75%, which has been the biggest increase since 1994. This has had a massive impact on the crypto market. Interest rates make debt more expensive and negatively affect the economic climate; it can decrease the value of asset classes, particularly stocks and of course…cryptocurrency.

Stock Market

  As I previously mentioned, the hike in interest rates and inflation has massively affected the stock market; recently the S&P 500 decline has been even worse than at the height of the pandemic, as it dropped 5.8%. All these factors indicate a global recession is coming, and usually during bear periods, higher risk assets, including crypto, take a hit.

High Yields Were Promo Rates

  Many crypto platforms, such as Celcuis, offered returns of 18% and some platforms even more. These rates of returns are even higher than that of the stock market and could not be sustained year upon year for a long period of time- some were merely promo offers to get their platform some buzz and traction. Many people thought that this was a risk-free yield…definitely not the case! That 18% had to come from somewhere, essentially a borrower, and when more people want to gain these returns instead of borrow…that’s when problems arise.

Energy Crisis

  I’ve already mentioned the Russian-Ukraine crisis but the knock-on effects of the energy crisis have taken its toll on crypto too. If you’ve read my previous articles on cryptocurrency and the environment, you’ll know that mining crypto coins uses up a hell of a lot of energy. The cost of electricity has massively gone up since the Russian sanctions were put in place, meaning that it costs a lot to mine coins. This lowers the profit margins of the cryptocurrencies, depreciating their value.

In Summary

  To summarise, it was not just cryptocurrency that took a hit during this period; global markets are down, and many people are feeling the pinch. Rising living costs often leaves less disposable income for other things, including investment. But remember, historically bear markets (when the market is down) last on average for about 12 months, whereas a bull market on average lasts for 2.7 years…so the good times are mostly longer than the bad.

  One thing to remember is that cryptocurrency is unregulated and financial authorities cannot step in if anything goes wrong. This makes it a higher risk investment; remember that before you invest.

What I Wished Someone Told Me When I First Moved To Singapore

I’ve been living in Singapore for about four years now, and whilst I’m very grateful for my life here and I’ve adapted well, there are some things that I wish people would have told me as a first-time expat! I feel like if I could go back in time and tell myself these tips, my integration would have been a lot easier and smoother.

Co-living Condos Exist!

When I moved to Singapore, I knew no-one. I heavily relied on my work colleagues when it came to hanging out and making friends, which of course was great, but it didn’t help much in terms of expanding my circle of hanging out with many locals. I really wish that someone had told me about Figment or Hamlet properties; that way I would have moved into a co-share apartment with like-minded people and I could have met new friends that way.

I also wish I knew this when I first arrived so it would have made my renting experience a lot better. When I first arrived in Singapore, my employers put me up in a hotel for a week and in that time, I had to find an apartment and move out. If I had known about co-living, this would have been no problem. However, instead my employers only told me about certain rental websites and Facebook groups. I ended up renting from someone who claimed to be a ‘landlord’. I am now fully aware that this was an illegal sub-let, with no proper contract and the experience almost becoming unbearable. My ‘landlord’ installed CCTV without making me aware, would often move my laundry and keep it in his own room, and would constantly act inappropriate towards me, even though he had a wife. Had I have rented somewhere with good agents that were used to short-term rentals for expats, I’m sure I would have had a much better experience.

No Alcohol Past 10:30!

In a bid to minimise public disorder, Singapore doesn’t allow you to purchase alcohol in a shop past 10:30pm. This was even before Covid! I remember madly rushing to 7/11 to buy a final bottle before the time is up! Yes you can still buy alcohol in bars, but if you’re hanging out at home, it’s best to stock up before 10:30!

Join Facebook Groups!

Going back to what I previously said, I wish that I’d have put more effort into making friends outside of work when I arrived. I feel like in the UK, not as many people use Facebook anymore. But here in Singapore, Facebook groups are awesome for meeting new friends and joining groups full of likeminded people. Of course, it’s sometimes hit or miss who you end up meeting, but still it’s a great way to get yourself out there.

Which Hawkers Are Good!

There’s not just Newton Food Centre or Lau Pa Sat! There are so many other good hawker centres across Singapore with delicious food you may never have tried before! Check out my two articles about Hawkers For Expats for some great ideas and cool places that you can check out.

Avoid Over-Priced ‘Expat’ Brands!

Might be a controversial one, but there are so many companies that market themselves purely to expats just so they can jack up the price. I was recommended a few of these places when I first arrived to Singapore and I slowly realised that are a lot more local shops that you can get your hair, nails, alterations, anything done at a local shop that won’t cost you a fortune!

What I Should Have Brought Over from the UK!

There’s a lot of super weird things in Singapore that are expensive for no reason, and if I’d have known, I would have brought it over from home. I found that bedsheets, towels, toiletries and tanning products were super expensive here. All of these things I could have gotten really cheap from back at home and brought over with me. Especially tanning oil, that absolutely pains me to pay what they charge here when I could have gotten it cheaper from Home Bargains.

Hopefully this can help some new expats who come to Singapore with a few helpful tips!

How To Travel On A Shoestring

With travel restrictions opening up and it being easier to travel, you might be overwhelmed with how to kickstart your travel bug again! You may be worried that travel is now incredibly expensive post pandemic, but fear not! I have some travel tips for you so that you can successfully travel on a shoestring.

Of course, all travel planning starts with buying the ticket. You may think this is the most expensive part of the trip, so here are some ways you can save on ticket prices. 

First of all, always check the flights in Incognito mode. Those cookies are going to track all your searches for flights otherwise and jack up the prices. I often find that using price comparison sites such as Sky Scanner, means that I get the cheapest flight possible, even cheaper than booking directly through the airline! One thing I really like about these travel comparison websites, and it’s even possible to do through Google is a price alert. Here, you input your email address, and the website will alert you any time the price goes up or down. This way you can try and get an even cheaper price. Some days of the week tend to be cheaper than others, monitor your alerts and see what works best.

Flying direct can often work out quite a fair bit more expensive than if you have any connecting flights. Whilst connecting flight might be a bit of a pain, they could save you hundreds of dollars off your tickets. If you don’t mind, and are travelling through countries with multiple cities and airports, consider connecting flights to save a bit of cash.

Here’s an idea, if you’re not sure where you want to travel to, but you still want to travel on a budget you can use comparison websites or Google to search for flights, and choose the starting location of Singapore. In the destination you can choose anywhere, and search for price lowest to highest. That way, if you’d like to try something new and exciting, you can make sure that it’s within your budget!

Do take note of travel restrictions, some countries have completely dropped all of their Covid restrictions, such as the UK. Whereas some countries, like Hong Kong or Macau, have still got very strict rules implemented. This may mean further costs for you. If you want to save on swab tests, you can choose a country that has a little bit more lenient restrictions.

Next, I want to talk about preparation. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail! There are some things that you can do that will minimise your spending costs whilst you are on holiday. Of course, the most important thing is to make sure that your passport is still valid. Generally, you can only travel if you have at least six months validity left on your passport. At the moment, after the pandemic, there is quite a backlog on renewing your passport, so make sure to get this sorted quickly! 

When it comes to currency, there are a couple of great hacks that I frequently use whilst travelling, to make sure that I don’t get ripped off with exchange rates. First of all, change your currency in Singapore before you leave on your travels, avoid changing your Singapore dollars in your travel destination country, as this exchange rate will not be favourable to you. Lots of currency exchanges overseas choose their own rights of exchange, and can often take advantage of unsuspecting tourists.

You may have heard people say that if you travel to anywhere in Southeast Asia or South America, you can use US dollars as your spending money. Respectively, you can use euros in any non-EU country in Europe. I would strongly discourage listening to this advice. Yes, it is easier for you to carry one currency, and you can definitely use those currencies abroad, but unless you are going to America or somewhere in the EU, other countries that use these currencies can massively rip you off. Because it is inconvenient for them to hold onto this foreign currency, the exchange rate is normally very much at a disadvantage to you, meaning that you are paying a premium just for the convenience of having one type of currency with you. In my opinion, this is not worth it. For example, when I was in Laos, I only had Thai Baht with me. It was accepted in all shops and restaurants, but when I converted back into dollars, I realised that it was a lot more economical for me if I just changed into Laos Kip instead, I saved a lot more money this way.

If you ever get stuck and have run out of cash whilst in a foreign country, it’s always a good idea to have an international bankcard to hand. Most ATMs abroad will charge you for withdrawing using a foreign bank card, so if you use your DBS card overseas, you could be charged a fortune! I use a Monzo international bankcard, it is linked to my UK bank account, but I can withdraw from any ATM overseas and will not be charged. There are similar companies that you can get a bank card from in Singapore like Revolut or Wise, these cards are so handy to have a new, and work by topping up from your main bank account. I think this is great because if you keep your bank account on these cards quite low, it’s not so risky if you lose them overseas. They also come with very useful apps that you can access with ease, meaning if you lose your card whilst on holiday, you can freeze it without having to visit a bank branch or calling an international hotline. 

Speaking of hot lines, a lot of people will often buy a Sim card in the country that they are visiting, and use that for the duration of their holiday. Instead of doing this, I recommend renting a Wi-Fi box. This little portable device comes with you during your whole trip, and works almost like a little router. You can connect multiple devices to it, so if you are travelling in a group you don’t need to rent more than one! This works out to be a lot more cost-effective than everyone buying their own Sim card. And I don’t know about you, but I feel a nervy taking out my Sim card whilst I’m abroad, it would be just my luck that I would lose it!

Of course, nowadays, we need a lot more extra paperwork then we previously did when travelling. So, from my experience, I would say it’s best to have all these documents, such as your vaccine certificate to be notarised and printed out when you travel. Most airlines will except soft copies on your phone, but I always think it’s best to carry a hard copy in case your phone battery runs out or you have no signal. Generally, you will need your vaccine certificate, boarding passes, proof of travel insurance with Covid coverage, and a passenger locator form for the country you are travelling to. You may also need to print out your proof of swab tests.

My final tip for preparation is a small one, but it can actually save you some money every time you travel. I would recommend bringing with you your own travel blanket, travel towel, and travel pillow. Reason being is that you can find these things very cheap in stores such as Mustafa‘s or even value stores across Singapore. A lot of airlines will charge you for using a blanket or a pillow, especially if you’re travelling on a budget airline like I often do to save money! Some hostels that you stay at might not even provide towels and things like this, so it’s always best to have your own. This means that you don’t have to keep re-purchasing every time you go abroad. 

I want to tell you ways where you can save money during the itinerary of your trip. 

Instead of hotels, hostels are of course a much cheaper option, and come with the added perks of meeting new people whilst you are travelling. If you don’t like the idea of sharing a room with strangers, most hostels will have private rooms available, that are still a lot cheaper than if you were to book a hotel. Something I love about hostels is that you can generally book a lot of trips and excursions through the front desk staff. They often have tie-ups with a lot of travel companies, meaning that your trips out and about maybe a lot cheaper than if you were to go and source for these things yourself. A lot of hostels I have travelled to also put on free events for the people staying there, like parties, quizzes, free drinks at the bar and different kinds of meet up activities. Not only is this a great way to meet like-minded people, but it also means that you can have very fun cheap night out or nights in at the hostel itself! Not only that, you may also meet people at the hostel that you decide to go travelling with further, enhancing your backpacking experience and meaning that you get to meet people from all walks of life. 

Hostels may also be able to organise drivers and transportation for you, but if they don’t, try and find the local version of Grab or Uber and download these apps. This generally works out to be cheaper than hailing a cab, and in some countries is a lot safer as well. For example, when I lived in Vietnam, you could hire a Xe Om, or motorbike taxi from pretty much any corner. However, as soon as they noticed you were a foreigner, they would charge you triple the price of a local, and you may not feel 100% safe. At least with Uber and Grab, the motorbike fares were at a fixed rate and you were certain of your safety.

If you’re going to be travelling to multiple locations in the same country, or even cross country, like Europe, instead of booking flights in between each location, consider getting coaches or trains. These work out to be a lot cheaper and definitely an enriching backpacking experience. I would definitely recommend if you ever get the opportunity to do so, to take an overnight train to your next location. It’s definitely a memorable experience, with beautiful views and the chance to meet and mingle with locals. When I travelled around Myanmar, I got overnight coaches to most of my destinations. Even though the journeys were sometimes 16 hours, it was incredibly cheap, the locals travelling with you were super friendly, and included food. At the time I also thought it was great value for money because it saved me booking a hostel for that night.

Now that things are starting to feel like they used to, I hope this post can inspire you on your next trip. Enjoy travelling on a shoestring! Remember, it’s about the journey, not the final destination.

Tax Relief For Foreigners

It’s tax filing season, and a lot of expats here in Singapore don’t know that they’re eligible to certain tax reliefs. Today I’ll be talking about how you can legally save on your taxes in Singapore. Just a disclaimer, My job isn’t tax planning, I’m a financial consultant, but these are some things that I do and have researched, that you can put into practice. And of course, this is just for Singapore. I know about some tax laws in other countries but I’ll just be talking about Singapore today.

I want to do a quick overview of the tax system in Singapore, tax reliefs available here and a bit of an example of SRS savings. So you may be shocked as to how many expats are in Singapore. It’s actually approximately 1.68 Million. So quite a lot, but 1 in 8 lost their job in 2020. While job security is a worry to most of us, at least Singapore is doing quite well when it comes to dealing with Covid. And unemployment rate is definitely not as high as other countries during this crisis. There are also many affluent citizens and residents here. Tax, whilst low in Singapore, can still take away a large chunk of your salary.

For tax in Singapore, the amount you pay is broken down into various brackets. Singapore is seen as one of the top first world countries for having low tax, it’s somewhat of a tax haven, but you can see that if you are in the higher income bracket, for example $200k and above, your tax for the year is quite substantial.

So, how can we legally minimise the amount of tax we are paying each year?

There are several things that can give you tax relief. This may appeal more to those that plan on staying here long term, or even longer than just a couple of years, as all these reliefs add up in the long run.

The first and easiest tax relief you can get is employment relief. This is automatically calculated into your tax and is capped at $1,000 for below 55. And then it goes up depending on age bracket.

Next is life insurance relief. If you have any insurance policies from an insurance company in Singapore, you are entitled to a relief of maximum $5,000 per tax year, provided the insurance is for yourself, and is not an accident or hospital policy, or a pure investment policy. This relief can be filed at the end of the tax year under e-filing.

If you have anyone here with you on a dependent pass and they’re not working, you can claim for tax relief. You are entitled to claim $2,000 for spouse, $4,000 for child and $9,000 for a parent on a DP.

To me, this is the most effective way to save on taxes. SRS scheme is great because not only does it offer you tax relief, but you can also make use of the money inside and grow that money for a retirement plan. And, what’s great is it’s available to expats, it’s actually more flexible for expats. Singaporeans can put $15,300 into SRS each year and expats can put $35,700. Just note that if you want to put this maximum amount in, you have to go to the bank and declare that you’re a foreigner.

Everything inside this account is eligible for tax relief, which is done automatically. After the retirement age, you can make withdrawals from this account penalty free. Before that, there’s a 5% charge. The great thing about SRS is after the retirement age, anything that you withdraw from the account, only 50% of it is taxable.

So what can we do with the money inside the account? Well, seen as the interest rate in an SRS account is about 0.05%, I would recommend putting it somewhere where it can grow more, so, if you leave Singapore or you decide to retire here, you’ve got a huge lump sum waiting for you. As you can imagine, if you are putting the maximum amount each year into SRS, you can have a very good pot of cash at the end.

How does all of this look in terms of tax savings each year? Let’s take for example, a man on an EP who earns $250,000 a year. Say he claims $900 in tax on expenses. His original amount he should be paying on tax is $29,829.50

But let’s say he utilises all these tax reliefs he is eligible to, he will save about $10,547 per year on tax.

So you can see, this is a very substantial amount. SRS will give him a tax relief alone of $6.8k.

Here’s an example for someone on $100,000 a year. With all these tax reliefs, there a 4 and a half thousand dollar saving. Just on SRS alone that’s $3271 of savings.

Filing your taxes is so easy to do on the IRAS website, and with SRS being automatically calculated into your tax relief, all you really have to do is input your various other relief schemes. I think SRS in particular, is an excellent way for expats to plan for long term goals, such as retirement, whilst minimizing tax.

The Financial Impact of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

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

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

Geopolitical Shock

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

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

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

Energy

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

Food Supplies

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

Auto

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

Confidence In The Market

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

Will There Be A Further Crash?

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

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

How Homer Simpson Beat Capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

―Frank Grimes

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

Singapore Expat Money Myths

I’ve had a lot of discussion with people in Singapore, expats and locals, and there seems to be a lot of rumours about what foreigners can and can’t do with their money here. Whilst Singapore is one of the most heavily regulated countries, it is still a financial hub for a reason. So I’m here to bust some of the most common money myths…

Myth: Expats are not eligible for tax relief schemes in Singapore

Fact: There are many tax reliefs that foreigners that are living and working in Singapore can claim. Many expats think that, because they are employed by a company, their tax is fixed to their salary bracket. This is a common misconception. First of all, if an expat has their spouse, children and parents living here with them as dependents, they can claim relief on their taxes. You may also be eligible for a tax relief if you have employed a foreign domestic worker. Not only that, you can also claim business expenses and life insurance relief with IRAS. For insurance policies, anything that has a death benefit (under your name for yourself or your spouse), is eligible for a maximum of $5,000 per year. Do note though, that insurance through your company, or hospital insurance is not applicable.

  SRS is also a great way of utilising tax relief. A foreigner can contribute a maximum of $35,700 into a Supplementary Retirement Scheme. This account can be used to invest for retirement, and upon withdrawal only 50% is taxable. Everything inside the account is eligible for tax relief. You bank will automatically inform IRAS.

Myth: Expats can’t buy local insurance plans, so their medical insurance is expensive

Fact: Expats can buy local plans, and they can be approximately 4 times cheaper than international plans. A lot of foreigners don’t know that local hospital plans (known as Integrated Shield Plans) are available for them; the only difference is that locals can use their Medisave account to pay for this, we just have to pay in full. But this often works out to be a lot cheaper than international plans, that cover all countries- the cover is more than sufficient and it is often not necessary to have a plan that covers all countries, as that’s what travel insurance is for.

Myth: Expats can’t buy property in Singapore

Fact: Foreigners can buy condos (all over Singapore) and landed properties (in Sentosa). We can’t buy HDBs or landed (not in Sentosa) and expats have to pay Additional Stamp Buyers Duty of 30%, but it is not impossible for foreigners to get on the property ladder here. Some nationals, such as those from the US, are even exempt from paying Additional Stamp Buyers Duty! Foreigners, contrary to popular belief, can even get a bank loan for this housing.

Myth: It’s difficult for expats to invest in Singapore

Fact: Not only is it easy, it’s extremely beneficial. Because expats don’t have CPF, starting an investment plan here is a great way to make your money go further. Singapore is a financial hub, not just for Singaporeans, but for the whole world! And with it being highly regulated, it means that investing in financial institutions is a robust and less-risky way of handling your money. The Singapore dollar is strong, and your investments here can be managed even if you want to move abroad, including withdrawal.

Myth: Insurance is for Singapore only

Fact: Life insurance can be paid out to expats even if they leave Singapore. This goes for accident, disability and critical illnesses too. Sometimes, our health deteriorates even if we’re no longer in the hospital, affecting our ability to earn an income and support our families. That’s why insurance policies in Singapore are there for you for life, wherever you go.

I hope that has dispelled some major money myths for all the expats out there. Have you experienced any other money myths you found out to be false?

How To Spot An Investment Scam

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

  • Guaranteed Profits

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

  • Ridiculously High Returns, Usually In Short Periods Of Time

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

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

  • They Use Telegram Or WhatsApp

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

  • Unwillingness to Explain Investment Strategies or Methods

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

  • They Are Not Licensed

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

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