Fun Places To Go As A 5!

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

  • Adventure Cover Water Park

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

  • ArtScience Museum: Virtual Realms

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

  • #InstaWalk

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

  • Gardens By The Bay

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

  • Durian Party!

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

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

Why do Expats Need Financial Planning in Singapore?

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

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

Housing

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

School Fees and Childcare

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

Healthcare

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

A Holistic Need For Planning

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

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

Stay Home, Stay Safe, Stay Sound Of Mind

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

  1. Exercise

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

2. Order In!

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

3. Pamper Yourself

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

4. Arts and Crafts

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

5. Pet Your Pet

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

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

Diabetes In Singapore; The Bitter Sweet Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Circuit Breaker Anniversary: Mental Health Awareness

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Happens If I Leave My Money In The Bank?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Be A Successful Investor!

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

Start Before You’re Ready

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

Don’t Be Emotional

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

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

Plan Situations In Advance

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

Use Volatility To Your Advantage

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

Do Some Homework!

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

Know What Kind Of Investor You Want To Be

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

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

Have A Long Time Horizon

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

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

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

Best Hawkers For Expats…Part Two!

It’s back! Another list of hawkers that expats might not know about, but should! I got a bit of backlash from my first post so, just to reiterate…this is not a list containing all the well-known expat locations like Newton or Lau Pa Sat; I am not writing about these because a) everyone already knows about them b) I sometimes think they’re a bit overpriced.

If you’ve tried my previous list and are looking for more suggestions then please read on!

Old Airport Road

Must Try: Curry Chicken Noodles

To be honest, I don’t know why this wasn’t in my first list. Old Airport Road is great; it has such a wide selection and it is huge- there’s something for everyone. The chicken rice there is great, the curry chicken noodles are delicious and there is an abundance of beer, what more could you ask for!

Chom Chom

Must Try: Stingray, Carrot Cake

This made the honourable mentions list last time but I went back recently and tried pretty much everything there! The food there is very reasonably priced and it is your one-stop-shop for all Singaporean food. The feast I had contained satay, chicken wings, black and white carrot cake, stingray, rice and kangkong. Can I just say that the portions are huge so be careful when ordering! I definitely over-ordered!

Seah Im Food Centre

Must Try: Boat Noodles

This hawker centre is a short walk away from Vivocity. It’s incredibly underrated and is great after a long day at Sentosa. During the day a lot more stalls are open than at night, but no matter what time of day you go I would highly recommend the Thai stall that sells beef boat noodle soup; it’s spicy, flavourful, comes with or without beef stomach (I personally like it with) and you get a good bowl for a cheap price! There are many stalls to choose from, so if you’re not particularly in the mood for Thai you can always grab something else.

Golden Mile Tower

Must Try: Leng Saap

Speaking of Thai food, next to the very famous Golden Mile Complex is Golden Mile Tower. In the basement there is lots of great food, notably leng saap, or pork spine soup. This soup is not for the faint of heart; imagine a vast bowl filled with spicy coriander soup, and protruding out the top, massive pork spines where the meat falls off the bone. You can choose your size and spiciness level, and the soup is usually refillable. The meat that comes off the pork spine is so juicy and tender, it’s making my mouth water just typing about it!

Eunos Crescent Market and Food Centre

Must Try: Yong Tau Foo, Indian Rojak

Right next to Eunos MRT Station, this hawker is packed full of choices. It may seem small, but each stall as something different. I also think that, because it’s not very well known by expats, it tends to be more reasonably priced. The satay here is great, and you can get hand pulled noodles at the ban mien stall. Behind the first set of hawkers is another, mostly specialising in Chinese and Hong Kong cuisine. Here I recommend relaxing with a beer and trying the Mala Xiang Guo. When I don’t know what to eat, my go-to is either the Indian rojak stall, or the Yong Tau Foo with laksa gravy.

So there you have it, another 5 great places to eat around Singapore. I hope this list has got your mouth watering enough to go and try all my latest top picks! Which hawker is your favourite?

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.