Singapore-based financial blog that aims to educate people on personal finance, investments, retirement and their Central Provident Fund (CPF) matters.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

The 4% Shortfall In Your CPF Retirement Fund


Are we really not contributing enough to our CPF?
Let's find out!
What is the recommended percentage of salary should one contribute to their retirement fund?

10% to 15%
This is the traditional wisdom towards how much of your monthly salary to contribute to your retirement egg nest.
If you are like most Singaporeans, your retirement egg nest is probably purely just the money you contributed into your CPF.
Like most Singaporeans, you probably use your whole Ordinary Account (OA) to fund your home purchase, and your MediSave Account (MA) can only be used for medical purposes.
As such, you probably are going to have only your Special Account (SA) to fund your retirement.
Hence your SA equals your retirement egg nest.

CPF Allocation Rates
Allocation Rates from 1 Jan 2016
Source: CPF

If we look at the CPF allocation rates above, we can see that for most of our working years, less than 10% of our monthly salary is contributed to our SA.
For those 35 years old and below, only 6% of our monthly salary is contributed to our SA.
Long story short, this means that we are basically underfunding our retirement egg nest during the early parts of our career; or almost every part of our working lives.

What Can I Do To Make Up The Shortfall?
There are 2 options:
  1. Transfer your OA balance to your SA such that the SA's allocation becomes 10% of your salary.
  2. Do a top-up to your CPF SA via the Retirement Sum Top Up Scheme (RSTUS) such
     that the SA's allocation becomes 10% of your pay.
Benefits of Option 1: Transfer OA to SA
  1. No need to top up cash into SA.
  2. Earns a higher interest. OA earns up to 3.5%, but SA earns up to 6%.
Drawbacks of option 1: Transfer OA to SA
  1. Less OA to pay for home purchase, education, or other purposes allowed in CPF OA.
  2. But you shouldn't spend too much of your money in your home anyway.
    It’s a stupid idea we will touch on in the future.
Benefits of Option 2: Top-up to SA via RSTUS
  1. The top-up amount is tax-deductible.
  2. Earns a higher interest of up to 6%.
    Whatever savings account you put your money in is not going to earn more than the SA's base interest of 4%.
Drawbacks of Option 2: Top-up to SA via RSTUS
  1. Cash top-up = less cash on hand.

Conclusion
Does it really matter if I save at least 10% of my monthly salary in my CPF SA?
It depends on how much you need and want to spend when you retire.

Male Default SA Allocation Rates 10% SA Allocation Rate
CPF SA Balance @ 65YO  $ 123,318  $ 191,880

The above calculation is done based on the following assumptions:
  • Male, DOB: 31 March
  • Earns 2019 medium salary of $4,563 (including Employer CPF contribution) from age 25 to 65, with no pay increment over the 40 years
  • Ignores SA 4% interest calculation to reduce complications
By saving a couple more percentage of your pay every month in your SA, the end result is you end up with 55.6% more in retirement savings.
That difference would also translate to a higher CPF LIFE monthly payout.

We used the CPF LIFE Calculator to calculate how much the CPF LIFE monthly payout one would receive if he retires today, based on the respective SA balances.
The '10% allocation' would receive almost 50% more in monthly payouts than the 'default allocation'.
Male Default SA Allocation Rates 10% SA Allocation Rate
CPF SA Balance @ 65YO  $ 123,318  $ 191,880
CPF LIFE Payout @ 65YO 
(Standard Plan)
     $1,022 - $1,126           $1,517 - $1,678     

So if you want to receive higher CPF LIFE monthly payouts, work to contribute/allocate 10% of your salary into your CPF SA.

Dear Reader!
As we progress towards the next phase of our journey, we would like to find out what would make you like us even more.
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WSG can provide you with a career coach that can help you with that. 
And if you are looking for a free career coach, visit Workforce Singapore via the link below.
They can link you up with the career coach and you 
might be able to find new opportunities on their jobs portal.


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Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Age 18 to 26? You Should Open A StanChart JumpStart Account


If you are 18 to 26, this StanChart JumpStart savings account should be the savings account of your choice.

Account Benefits:
  1. 2% p.a. interest on deposits up to $20,000. 0.1% (the prevailing interest rate) for balances above $20,000.
  2. No fees and minimum deposit balance required
  3. 1% p.a. cashback on eligible debit card spendings

Compared Against Other Savings Accounts
The 2 other more popular high-interest savings plans are the OCBC360 (effective interest of 3.45% p.a.) and the DBS Multiplier (up to 3.8% p.a.).
However, for DBS and OCBC, to get higher interest rates from these banks, you need to have performed several eligible transactions.

For example, to earn 2% interest for your first $25,000 from the DBS Multiplier account, you need to credit your salary and transact in at least 1 category (credit card spending, mortgage repayment, insurance, or investment).

However, for the Standard Chartered JumpStart account, there are no transactions required to fulfil to earn the 2% interest.

DBS Multiplier account requirements to earn higher interest.

Source: DBS

OCBC360 account requirements to earn higher interest.
Source: OCBC

Recommended Read: What Should I Invest In This Bear Market?

Why This Is For You?
If you are someone with huge savings (>$50,000), or has a mortgage, or is investing, or has bought insurance from DBS or OCBC, then the OCBC360 and DBS Multiplier account might be more suitable for you than the StanChart JumpStart.

For young adults age 18 to 26, some are in NS, some are studying, and some are already working.
At these stages of our lives, we don't have a lot of financial activities to qualify for the high interest given by the other banks like DBS and OCBC.
In that case, maybe the JumpStart account is a better choice for you.

Our Take:
If you are 18 to 26 years old:
Unless you are getting 2% interest on your $20,000 savings via other savings account, it might be better for you to save your money in this StanChart JumpStart account.

If you are a parent with a kid(s) that are 18 to 26 years old.
  1. Tell them to create this account and save money inside to earn higher interest.
  2. If they don't want to switch bank account, then use their name to open the account. But instead of depositing their money, you deposit your own savings and earn the 2% interest for yourself.

What Happens When I Reached 27
You will no longer get the 2% p.a. interest, but instead will start getting the prevailing interest rates of 0.1%

How Do I Sign Up For the StanChart JumpStart Savings Account?
You can use your SingPass MyInfo to sign up for the JumpStart account.

You can click this LINK to submit your application.

You can find out more information about the JumpStart account HERE.

BONUS
We created a referral page on our site that lists a bunch of referral codes you can use to get great deals.
One of them includes a $128 cashback if you sign up for a Standard Chartered credit card.
You can click HERE to view our list of referrals.


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Monday, 30 March 2020

8 Years of Investing: How a Hedge Fund Manager Wannabe Became Just Another Singaporean


I recently got recommended by YouTube a video by on Bill Ackman's (an investor that I like) view on the recent US bear market.
After watching that video, I ended up watching a bunch of other videos of him that I missed over the years.
That suddenly got me thinking: what happened to the version of me that wanted to start a hedge fund after being fascinated by the stock market.
I figured I should pen down my whole journey and see how much I have grown (or ungrown).

So, this is the story of my financial journey, and it is going to be lengthy.
From a kid interested in getting wealthy to learning about investing;  to eventually trying to launch an index fund and a startup; before finally becoming just another guy on the streets.
This is my story.

Enrolled in Ngee Ann Polytechnic Banking & Financial Services Diploma Course in 2011
I got interested in investment after graduating from secondary school.
Thought it was only logical for me to double down on my interest by enrolling in business school to learn more about investing.
Some say Ngee Ann Polytechnic's (NP) business school is the best, maybe it is.
There is no basis for comparison, so I can't tell.
But I learnt quite a lot from the lecturers there.
The thing that I benefited most from my NP education was the access to its library.
A wide selection of investment books often not available or borrowed in our public libraries were all available there.
I probably spent way more time there reading the books than I spent on my Diploma; I would say it was worth it.
Most of the things about finance and investment I know today, the majority of them probably came from books kept in that library.
I started investing my own money in the stock market in 2012, making some good returns over the years while learning to become a better investor.
I was a true-blue Buffett student/follower, adhering to his investment philosophy of buying only great businesses with moats at reasonable prices.
Warren Buffett used to say as an investor; he was "85% Benjamin Graham, 15% Philip Fisher".
I would say I'm 80% Buffett and 20% Ken Fisher (Philip Fisher's son).


Invested in Hanwell Holdings Limited (DM0.SI)
Halfway through my investment learning journey, I got interested in Activist Investing.
'Activist Investing' is a form of investing where one invests in companies and try to influence change into it, often because the existing management teams mismanage the companies.
I thought that was an exciting part of investing, particularly with the lawsuits, boardroom fights, and the need to outwit the existing management.
These activist investors tend to invest in undervalued companies that have the following characteristics:
  1. Huge cash position relative to share price
  2. Operates less efficiently than its competitors
  3. Has valuable assets that can be sold off or monetised
Since I don't have any business experience at the time, I definitely won't be able to do point 2 and 3.
Still, I figured it shouldn't be too tough to find a company that has a huge cash pile and demand them to pay it out as dividends to shareholders if they have no use for it.
So that was the kind of companies I set out to look for on the Singapore stock market.
In 2014, I found an undervalued stock (Hanwell Holding) that had a huge cash position relative to its share price and invested several thousand dollars into it.
It had about $119 million in cash and a market capitalisation of about $140 million: about 83% of its market capitalisation was cash.
It had a net asset value (NAV) of $0.47 and a share price of $0.25.
I felt that a lot of value could be unlocked if management just distributed the excess cash they had hoard.
Hence, I had planned to attend its AGM and nudge the management to declare a one-time dividend payout of half its cash pile.
Well, if you didn't hear news of a kid (I was 20 years old then) making noise during a public company's AGM, it's because it did not happen.
I overslept, and I proceeded to sell my entire holdings the next week since I no longer had the opportunity to make management increase dividend payout.
The stock was trading then at its upper price range, and I figured that was a good enough time to cash out.
I made a small profit from that investment, although I would love it more if I managed to get the management to give a hefty dividend payout.

Time To Start A Index Fund
Well, if I can't be an activist investor, maybe I can try and be an index fund management firm.
So in the same year (2014), a couple of my friends and I got together to try and start a low-cost index fund company in Singapore.
What we had in mind was simple: we will get our investors to invest a fixed amount every month into the Straits Times Index (STI).
Instead of timing the market, we would dollar-cost-average and build up a long-term retirement portfolio.
Sounds familiar?
Yup, this is the Regular Shares Savings (RSS) plan we know today.
Back then, it was costly to invest a small capital every month into the stock market.
So we wanted to allow investors to invest every month into a broadly diversified portfolio of companies without paying high brokerage cost.
We went to consult a law firm on the regulations surrounding starting a fund in Singapore, and we left the meeting no longer adamant in pursuing the idea.
We needed a bunch of licenses, processes, systems.
Still, most importantly, if we proceeded without a license, it was a chargeable offence.
Ain't no 20-year-old kids going to risk huge fines or going to jail for a startup.

On hindsight, from that experience, I learnt a couple of things:
  1. Timing is the most crucial ingredient in creating a successful startup. If we went to the law firm a year later, maybe we could have been the next Stashaway or Smartly.
  2. Packaging probably could help. If we had added the word "technology" into our pitch to the law firm, maybe we might get the go-ahead.
  3. The right connections could jumpstart your career/business. Maybe we should have gone to a bank or FI instead of a law firm. Perhaps we would have gotten a different answer, like how many banks these days are assisting FinTech startups by "lending" them their licenses. 
  4. If it is good, just do it! Uber broke all rules before rules changed for them, same for Airbnb, and AliPay. Maybe the way forward is to break the old rules that don't make sense so that the world can progress forward. 
We could have started an excellent FinTech fund company, or we could have flopped.
We will never know, and that doesn't matter because we have to keep looking forward.
But that was a pretty interesting chapter on the whole journey.

Then Came Investment Stab
After two flopped attempts at starting businesses related to investment, maybe it's time to call it quits?
Then my friend called and asked if I want to start a financial blog with him and share our investment ideas with the public.
I thought it was a good idea since I could publish my investment thoughts on the blog.
Most activist investors have websites to share their investments and why certain things within the companies need to be changed, and I thought I should build the same thing too.
So if you ever went back to read our first few articles, it was about Yahoo!, how its shares were undervalued and how value could be unlocked.
I wrote them because I invested in Yahoo! at that time and I hoped Yahoo! investors would read and pushed for these changes.
Why did we give ourselves the name "Investment Stab", that is a story we will leave for another day.


NS and University
I went into NS towards the end of 2014.
Life goes on as per usual in my NS and university life.
I continued to invest my own money and continued blogging.
My investment returns were pretty decent, and the number of readers and readership grew nicely over the years.
We expanded our blogging topics to include personal finance and CPF.

Today, we have both graduated from university.
My partner has found a job while I'm still looking for one amid this COVID-19 situation.
My investments are not enough to allow me not to work and we failed to monetise our blog to sustain us either.
Blogging is now a hobby to us, to share our thoughts, to share our views, to share tips that we found were useful and think it will also be helpful to our readers.
There were times we wanted to call it quits but continued because of you, our readers, who continued to support us throughout our six-year journey, we persevered.

Moving Forward
It's been 8 years since I started investing and 6 years since I started blogging.
I still got the drive to create a startup, though I can't think of any brilliant ideas like Uber or Airbnb.
Watching the videos of Bill Ackman made me think that maybe I should try and start my hedge fund.
He started his first investment firm when he was 26, which is my current age, so maybe that's a sign?
Starting an investment fund in Singapore legally is tough.
You need either a Capital Markets Services (CMS) license or a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification before you can ask for funds.
Then again, I can probably start a small fund with friends and family members' money.
Though I can't make millions from fees and profit-sharing, at least it brings in some extra coffee money.
That while I continue to look for a job, and save my pay, and invest for the long-term.


Hey You!
If you have a story about your financial journey that you want to share, let us know in the comments below or email us at investmentstab@gmail.com.

PS:
If you have a job opening you want to recommend to me, let us know in the comments below or email us at investmentstab@gmail.com.


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Thursday, 26 March 2020

The Rich Owns Stocks And Why You Should Too

Don't take it from us, take it from the Fortune magazine.
They published an article saying why buying real estate is causing the wealth gap problem.
Link to the article below:
The rich own stocks, the middle-class own homes. How betting it all on real estate is a wealth gap problem

Not saying if it is true or not, I believe you can judge it for yourself.
But let's see the situation below.

Who Owns What?
The Rich: Owns stocks
The Middle: Owns homes
The Poor: Owns nothing

The Situation
The Rich: Gets richer
The Middle: Gets squeezed
The Poor: Gets poorer

Our Take:
I don't know about you, but from the situation above, I know I definitely want to be on the side of owning stocks.
Homes are great investments because of leverage (you borrowed $400k + your own $100k to buy a $500k home).
If the home appreciates by $50k and you sell it, you made a 50% return on your $100k investment.
If the home depreciates by $50k, you lose 50% of your money, but you probably will convince yourself that it will appreciate back up one day, and in the meantime, you can stay in that home so it's not that bad.
And because most of the transactions are in hundreds of thousands (or millions), it makes it seem like property is the way to make really huge gains.
But we are forgetting that if we accumulate our monthly mortgage payments, it will also be in the hundreds of thousands, and that excludes the property taxes, mortgage interest payments, and other costs associated to homeownership.
Once we factor in those costs, the return on investment from a home on a percentage basis actually no longer becomes as attractive as we initially thought.
It will be better than inflation or fixed income, but it probably would not be the stock market.
We are not saying that investment in property is bad, is it just that relatively speaking, stocks tend to outperform property.
So from an investment standpoint, is if fine to invest in properties, just not fine to have bulk or all of your investments in properties.

The Bulk of the Riches' Wealth
Jeff Bezos: Owns 11% of Amazon
Bill Gates: Owns a lot of companies (listed and non-listed)
Warren Buffett: Owns 16.5% of Berkshire Hathaway
Bernard Arnault: Owns 40.9% of LVMH
Larry Elison: Owns 35.0% of Oracle
Mark Zuckerberg: Owns 28.2% Facebook
Michael Bloomberg: Owns 88% of Bloomberg

These are the world's richest people.
None of these rich people became rich by buying real estates.
We hope you're now slightly more convinced that stocks are better than property.
And if you aren't, then here's another article we hope can convince you that stocks are better than HDB.
Article: 3 Reasons Stocks are Better than 99 Year HDB

Dear Reader!
As we progress towards the next phase of our journey, we would like to find out what would make you like us even more.
So we hope you could help us fill in a short survey of 8 questions (4 of them are MCQs) so that we can help better tailor our content to you.
Survey


WSG can provide you with a career coach that can help you with that. 
And if you are looking for a free career coach, visit Workforce Singapore via the link below.
They can link you up with the career coach and you 
might be able to find new opportunities on their jobs portal.
Link me up with a coach


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Thursday, 19 March 2020

Oil Price Drop = Stock Market Drop?

Source: 9gag

The stock market is obsessed with oil prices, with news outlet making end-of-the-world kind headlines every time oil prices start crashing down.
But does falling oil prices really have a positive or negative impact on the stock market?
We dug into the data to find out.

Crude Oil price chart from 1990 to 2020
Source: Macrotrends

S&P500 price chart from 1990 to 2020
Source: Yahoo Finance

Recommended Read: CPF: 4 in 1 Insurance Plan



Conclusion
After looking through the oil crashes from 1990 to 2020 and comparing them against the S&P500 performance, the conclusion we have is: CRUDE OIL PRICE HAS NO CORRELATION TO STOCK MARKET PERFORMANCE!
Crude oil prices and the S&P500 has a correlation value of -0.02, which means neither has an impact on the other.
Furthermore, not all crash in crude oil prices occurred are accompanied by a recession in the US economy.

Dear Reader!
As we progress towards the next phase of our journey, we would like to find out what would make you like us even more.
So we hope you could help us fill in a short survey of 8 questions (4 of them are MCQs) so that we can help better tailor our content to you.
Survey

WSG can provide you with a career coach that is able to help you with that. 
And if you are looking for a free career coach, visit Workforce Singapore via the link below.
They can link you up with the career coach and you 
might be able to find new opportunities on their jobs portal.
Link me up with a coach


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Have feedback? Tell us now!

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Wednesday, 18 March 2020

CPF: 4 in 1 Insurance Plan


Today's post will be on how CPF is actually four insurances in one.
Instead of looking at the CPF Retirement Sum (CPF RS) as a target where you can withdraw money at a certain age, look at it as a Savings + Medical + Life + Annuity insurance plan.
 
It is a Savings Insurance
It helps you save up money for housing, medical, kids' education, and retirement.
Furthermore, it pays pretty good interest.
Insert interest image

It is a Medical Insurance
1) We have got Medishield Life, Eldershield, and other medical insurance schemes that are paid by the MediSave Account. These insurance plans can pay for your hospitalisation fees when you need them.

2) You can also use your MediSave funds to pay for the cost of treatment for your immediate family members.

Recommended Read: Why are there 2 Schemes to Top Up CPF?

It is a Life Insurance
1) In the event that you passed away, all your CPF money will be passed to your dependents. 

2) If you bought the Dependents' Protection Scheme (DPS) for yourself, in the event of you passing away or becoming mentally or physically unable to work anymore, you will receive an insurance payout of $46,000.

3) There is also a Home Protection Scheme (HPS), a housing insurance that will pay your mortgage in the event that any mishap falls on you and result in you no longer able to pay your mortgage. However, we think this is not a great plan and we explained it in detail why in our previous article.

It is an Annuity Insurance
1) An annuity is an insurance that you pay premiums to an insurance company every month, and in return, when you reached a certain age (usually retirement age), the insurance company will pay you a fixed monthly payout for as long as you live. However, if you die early/young, the payouts will stop, which is not worthwhile if you paid 20 years of premium and took only 10 years of payouts (although there are plans available that pays out the unused portion of the premiums to your dependents/beneficiaries in the event of your passing).

2) When you reach 65, CPF automatically enrols you for CPF LIFE, which is an annuity plan that pays you a fixed monthly payout when you reached the payout age of 65.

3) However, it is better than just an annuity plan. In the event that you passed away before fully utilising the funds in your CPF accounts/CPF Life, the money unused will be passed over to your kids just like a Life Insurance. This feature is usually unavailable for annuity insurances.

Conclusion
CPF covers most of the important areas of finance pertaining to an individual, from having forced savings to healthcare, to retirement.
Are you now slightly more convinced that CPF is a pretty good scheme overall?

Dear Reader!
As we progress towards the next phase of our journey, we would like to find out what would make you like us even more.
So we hope you could help us fill in a short survey of 8 questions (4 of them are MCQs) so that we can help better tailor our content to you.
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WSG can provide you with a career coach that is able to help you with that. 
And if you are looking for a free career coach, visit Workforce Singapore via the link below.
They can link you up with the career coach and you 
might be able to find new opportunities on their jobs portal.
Link me up with a coach


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Have feedback? Tell us now!

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Tuesday, 17 March 2020

What Should I Invest In This Bear Market?

Caption: Don't fear. It's just a technical recession. Don't fear.

Last week we wrote a story on whether or not you should invest in the stock market now since we have entered a bear market.
Short answer: YES!
Full article here: Should I Invest now that We are in a Bear Market?

There is a lot of panic and fear in the stock market and in communities now.
Malaysia declared a lockdown and suddenly Singapore experienced another wave of panic-buying in supermarkets, although it was less severe than the first panic-buying wave in February.
Stock markets around the world entered bear market territory (dropped more than 20% from their peak).

I heard many people commenting that they expect the stock market to fall even more or that it will be a long time before stocks can recover from this shock.
These are not amateur investors, these are fairly good and experienced investors, many of whom often preach the mantra "don't time the market", but suddenly they all become market-timers and predictors of the stock markets.
Can you sense some irony here?

Now, we don't know when the stock market will bottom out and when the stock market recovery will start.
It is at this moment that I usually refer to Warren Buffett's famous quote.
He doesn't look at economic conditions, stock market conditions, or any other conditions.
He only focuses on 1 thing: Buying wonderful companies cheaply.
And crises are situations that allow stock prices to drop drastically such that he can buy these wonderful companies cheap.

What Businesses Are Wonderful?
Warren Buffett defines wonderful businesses as
1. Has a moat (strong competitive advantage)
2. Consistent earning power (growing revenues and profits)
3. Low/no debt (as little as possible)
4. Honest and competent managers (ran the operations smoothly over the years)

Our Thoughts
At the current stage, it might seem like no businesses are spared from the COVID-19 onslaught.
But remember, we are not looking at what happens during this crisis, but what will happen after this crisis, when everything goes back to normal.
Now is the time to invest in companies that you believe will outlive this crisis and resume their path to growth afterwards.

Don't think COVID-19 is going to make us stop buying things from Amazon, not use Microsoft Office, not use Apple services, or stop scrolling Facebook.
Now that most of us are stuck at home, we are probably going to be watching more Netflix, not less.
We are still going to watch Cable TV (if people still do such a thing) and use WiFi.
Industries that aren't directly affected by the COVID-19 situation but nonetheless got their stock prices falling, like technology, banking, telecom, or utilities, might provide good investing opportunities if you try to find those that are really well managed and funded.


Conclusion
I watched an interview recently made by the founder of Oaktree Capital Management, Howard Marks.
He was commenting on his fund's investment during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.
He said, "You don’t need conservatism, caution, risk control, discipline, patience, or selectivity. You need (to have) money and the nerve to spend it."
I thought this was a pretty appropriate quote to be used in the current COVID-19 situation as well.
Are you daring enough to make the move, and wait patiently for the recovery to come?

Disclaimer:
Do not make any investment decisions based upon materials found on this website.
Investment Stab is not a registered investment advisor, broker-dealer, and am not qualified to give financial advice.
Investors are reminded to do their own due diligence and invest according to their risk appetite.


WSG can provide you with a career coach that can help you with that. 
And if you are looking for a free career coach, visit Workforce Singapore via the link below.
They can link you up with the career coach and you 
might be able to find new opportunities on their jobs portal.


Dear Reader!
As we progress towards the next phase of our journey, we would like to find out what would make you like us even more.
So we hope you could help us fill in a short survey of 8 questions (4 of them are MCQs) so that we can help better tailor our content to you.
Survey

Remember to offer your opinions. If you don't put your two cents in, how can you expect to get change?

Have feedback? Tell us now!

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Subscribe to our newsletter too in case social media platforms decide to stop showing you our content.