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

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Are you Suffering from a Debt Hangover?

Yup, the holidays are the time when you can get overboard (in every sense of the word). Who can resist shiny bobbles, Christmas markets and an adorable pair of shoes you’ll wear to a holiday party?
Next thing you know, you’ve swiped your credit card too many times and gone into debt. AKA a debt hangover — when you have trouble sleeping, avoiding your credit card statements, and even snapping at your loved ones.
It’s not exactly a fun topic, but it’s an important one. Instead of saying bad things about yourself, grab a cup of hot chocolate, curl up on your sofa, and read on to find out what you can do to fix the situation and prevent it from happening again.

What is a Debt Hangover?

Let’s say you go out with a bunch of friends to celebrate the fact you got a fancy new job promotion — you have a new office overlooking the city! You’re so happy you ended up buying a round of drink for your friends, then they return the favour. The next morning, you’re a bit sick and wondering what the heck happened last night.
A debt hangover is much like the story above, except that you spent too much money instead of going overboard on drinks. What typically happens is that you’re so caught up in the holiday mood, you go spend-crazy. We’re talking about presents, travel, activities, and food.
It doesn’t stop there. After all, Christmas shops are notorious for making irresistible deals and sales. Besides, if you received gift cards, you may spend more than the amount on the gift card. Your New Year’s resolutions can also make you swipe that card more than you should. Like declaring you’ll implement an exercise routine, so you buy new outfits or a yoga mat. Or you’ll eat healthier, so you go and buy a blender to make smoothies.
Come January, your financial ends up suffering. The credit card bills reveal the consequences of your actions, and it may not be pretty.

No Shame in This Game

If you’re in debt, there is no shame around it. It’s understandable you got caught up in the moment. There’s something about instagramable holidays, delicious food, and great travel trips that can turn anyone into a credit card swiping monster.
The important thing is how you deal with the situation. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you need to feel, then start working on an action plan. If you got yourself into some hot water with your money, there is a solution to get yourself out of it. The first step is to recognize you have debt and refusing to ignore it.

How to Cure Your Debt Hangover

No matter how much holiday-related debt you picked up, acknowledge how much debt is it and make a plan. As in, tally up all your credit card statements and see how much you owe. It’s OK, take a breath if you’re shocked by the number.Now you’re ready to take some action:

Start Paying Your Credit Cards

It’s pretty obvious you should pay down your debt. It’s important to remember that you need to make at least the minimum payments on those credit bills, more if you can. Paying the minimum payments gets you out of trouble with your creditors and paying more will get you out of debt faster.
It’s also a good idea to figure out a debt-free date. The beginning of the year is also a pretty lucky time — you may get year-end bonuses, cash gifts, and tax refunds. You might want to not spend so much this year and use the extra money to pay down your debts.

Enlist Help

We get it. Debt can be overwhelming. Instead of doing it by yourself, see if you can seek support — friends or personal finance tools — that can offer you suggestions to cut out unnecessary costs. Your budget may have seen better days, but now’s the time to see where you may be able to cut back to help pay off that debt.Think of simple actions you can do like cancelling subscriptions you never use, or negotiating down bills. You’d be surprised at how a simple 15-minute call can save you hundreds of dollars.

Take on a Side Hustle

If you don’t have enough money to pay down your debt, consider taking on a side job to earn more. There are lots of options — think grocery delivery services (GrabFood or honestbee), to giving out flyers on the streets — all you have to do is find one that works around your schedule.

How to Prevent Future Debt Hangovers

As the saying goes: prevention is better than cure. Take it as a lesson learned in that it pays to be prepared. It’s never too early to open a savings account to start your holiday spending fund for the upcoming year. And oh yeah, set a budget!
And when you do, make sure to take as much as you can into consideration. Think gifts, wrapping paper, and transportation costs — everything adds up!
It’s not sexy to think about preventing debt, but your future self will thank you when you leave the holiday unscathed and hangover-free.

This article was originally published at

Recommended Post: Paying my HDB with my CPF after 55 Years Old
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Monday, 18 March 2019

What to Do When You Miss a Paycheck?

You’ve finally got a handle on your budgeting and then the unexpected happens… your paycheck is late.
If the thought is already sending you into a downward spiral, hold up. 
Yes, missing a paycheck is a less than ideal situation, but you need to have an action plan in place before it happens.
Don’t feel like you have to take out a personal loan or grab your credit card. 
Go through the following steps first to see what makes sense for your individual situation.
Look at Your Bank Accounts
Seeing where you stand financially will help you set a plan. No matter how you feel, looking at the numbers gives you an objective picture of what is going on.
  • Look at all your bills (including debt) and see what you owe and their due date
  • Look at how much money you have in your checking and savings accounts

Once you have those numbers,  you can create an emergency budget to get you through the red.

Tap Into Your Emergency Fund
If you have savings set aside for emergencies, now’s the time to use it. That being said, it’s still a good idea to cut your budget down to the bare necessities just in case. When you start receiving paychecks again, then you can factor in a line item on your budget to replenish your emergency fund.
For those who don’t have emergency funds, now’s not the time to feel shame around it. Take this as a reminder that an emergency fund is there to help you when times are tough. Once your situation is back to normal and you’re receiving a regular paycheck, consider setting aside money in case an emergency happens.
As for how much to aim for, most experts agree that $1,000 is a good amount to strive for. Once you’ve reached that milestone, then aim for more — three to six months of your expenses.

Make Sure The Necessities Are Taken Care Of
Now is the time to focus on the essentials, literally. Right now, your essentials are shelter, food, utilities, and transportation AKA the items you need to ensure you still have a place to live and food on the table. If your last resort is eating at home with your parents for a week, you do what you gotta do.
The last step had you list out all of your bills and debt. Go ahead and include expenses and list them in order of importance. Once you have that, look at your emergency budget to see if you’ve allocated money towards the essentials. If not, adjust your budget accordingly.
Let’s say you have $500 in your savings account. Take a good, hard look at what you need to purchase until the next paycheck comes in.
For example, you tend to buy groceries once a month, but you notice that your pantry is pretty well stocked. Can you get creative and make meals based on what you already have? Or can you buy sale-only grocery items?
Slash and Burn Unnecessary Items
Remember — this is temporary. Once your paycheck arrives you can get your subscription services (Netflix & Spotify) back if it makes sense. It sucks to think about giving up on things like Netflix and meal delivery kits. However, cutting back will help provide some relief when money is tight.
If there are services you can suspend or cancel temporarily, great. If cancelling them means paying a hefty fine (like many cable subscription packages), see if you can negotiate with the company to see if there’s anything they can do. Charlie can help you with that! Just say “Help me cut my bills” and he’ll lead the way.
Same goes for any necessary expenses. Call up your mortgage or insurance provider and explain your situation. Some companies —  though not all — may help provide some relief by allowing you to defer your payments.

Sell Your Stuff
If cash is really tight, consider selling some of your unwanted items. Go through all your goods to see what you can sell — think baby clothes, designer items, books, CDs and even jewellery. There are plenty of resale or consignment stores that will take those items off your hands and pay you cash right away.
You can also consider selling your time and skills, like giving out flyers or tutor kids in the evenings. There are tons of ways to put a few extra dollars in your pockets. Get creative and you may be surprised and what you’d find!

If you do miss a paycheck, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Breathe, try to relax and look at your financial situation objectively. There are solutions. And if you need to ask for help from friends, family or in the form of a loan, so be it.

This article was originally published at

Recommended Post: Paying my HDB with my CPF after 55 Years Old
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Monday, 4 March 2019

6 Steps to Ditching Your Debt

Let’s face it — debt sucks! Keeping up with the payments means less cash to do what you really want. And, the interest makes the burden grow, often faster than your payments reduce the balance due. With a solid plan and a lot of determination, you can ditch your debt and get back to having more fun. 
Not sure where to start?
Here are Charlie’s 6 steps to ditching your debt:

Stop the Bleeding
Unless it’s completely unavoidable (like that student loan for next semester), don’t take on any more debt. Avoid new credit cards, lock up/cut up the ones that you have, and consider freezing your credit. It’s important to take control.

Assess the Damage
Now, it’s time to see what you’re up against. Make a list of all of your debts to include who you owe, how much you owe, the minimum monthly payment, and the interest rate. Then, brace yourself and determine the grand total.  (It’s OK to have a glass of wine, a chocolate cake, or a bubble bath after this step!)

Choose Your Strategy
There are two main ways to tackle debt: the snowball method or the avalanche method. With the snowball method, you pay your debts off from smallest to the largest amount owed. This is great for momentum building — you’ll feel like you’re #winning pretty quickly. With the avalanche method, you pay off your debts from highest to lowest interest rate. Ultimately, the math works out in your favour here because you’ll pay less in interest overall. If you’re paying off debt, ignore any haters, because it’s a victory regardless of how you do it!

Tighten Your Purse Strings
Trimming your budget may be painful at first but crushing your debt will feel amazing. There are some easy places to cut spending first: eating out, shopping, travel, entertainment, etc. If there are things you can’t cut completely, find hacks to spend less. Use gift cards, skip the expensive cocktail at dinner, or shop thrift stores. If you can’t cut these categories any further, consider going more extreme. Get a roommate, sell your car, or move back home. These strategies are hard and may not be possible for you (or you’re already doing them!), but every dollar helps.

Hustle for Extra Cash
In addition to cutting your spending, try earning some extra money specifically to go toward your debt. Look for side gigs, sell your stuff, or offer freelance services.

Track Your Progress
Ditching your debt is hard work. It takes commitment and willpower. This process could take a long time, so it’s important to track how far you’ve come to keep your motivation level high. Be sure to reward yourself (in a budget-friendly way!) as each account balance hits zero.
Recommended Post: 23 Days in Seoul, Spent $2.9k
This article was originally published at
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Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Seoul Travel - $2.9k for 23days

I visited Seoul, South Korea with 2 other friends during the December period (20th December to 12th January).
It was a pretty interesting (budget yet fun) experience that I thought you might be interested to know.

Exchange rate: 822 won : $1 SGD
Travel size: 3
Travel period: 23 days

Total: $2,881.60 ($125.30 per day)

China Eastern Airline (transit at Pu Dong International Airport)
Cost: $700.65 ($2101.95 / 3)
Flight from Changi to Pu Dong was about 5 hours, transit about 2 hours, then another 2 hours flight to Seoul.
The return flight is about the same.
We booked a little late (less than 1 month before departure).
If you booked earlier, it might be a little cheaper.

Airbnb near Mapo Station (fairly central location)
Cost: $938.16 ($2814.50 / 3)
Staying near most of the popular area like Hongdae is pretty lit and convenient.

Sim Card:
Got a 30-day unlimited data-only plan at Seoul Airport.
Cost: $90.21 (71,500 won).
A little costly, apparently my friend told me it'll be cheaper if I bought online.
And, depending on which mobile operator you have in Singapore, it might also be cheaper to get from them than to buy a new sim card in South Korea.
But there is an advantage in having a Korea sim card - if you want to book a cab or food delivery, but don't want to pay for roaming charges (which can be insane), then this option of getting a sim card there is awesome.
Trust me: there will be times where you want to order food delivery (because it's good and convenient) and times where you want to get a cab.
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I spent a total of almost $140 on transport - which can be cut down
Cost: $138.20 (113,600 won)
There are 2 types of transport cards: Normal and Concession cards.

Normal Card
Used for train/bus/cab payment
4,000 won for the card
Top up additional money for additional use
Can refund the card at the Airport to get back the remaining funds in the card + 4,000 won - 500 won fee
Each train ride cost minimum 1,250 won
Each bus ride cost minimum 1,200 won
Purchase from convenience stores or vending machines

Concession Card
Used for train rides in Seoul
2,500 won for the card
Buy the concession at the value top up machine
Concession is 55,000 won for 60 rides
Each train ride cost minimum 1,250 won
So (55000 + 2500)/1250 = 46 rides
If you took more than 46 rides, you already made your money worth
Purchase from the train station's control station

I spent 1 week in Seoul before I discovered the availability of the concession card.
Hence I spent extra to get the concession but did not maximise the full 60 rides
I spent quite a bit topping up my normal card in the first week and used about 50 rides in the next 2 weeks.

If you are going to travel a lot, get the concession.
You probably won't need the normal card since most places are accessible by train.

K-BBQ, Skewer, Street Food, Cafes, Restaurants, Family Shops, etc.
Cost: $893.55 (734,500 won)
Meals are generally expensive there, but the portions are fairly huge.
An average meal can cost about $10 to $15 SGD.

If it costs 5,000 won or below, it is a snack.
If it costs above $5,000, it is a main course

We went Everland, Seoul Tower, and Demilitarised Zone (DMZ)
Cost: 120.81

Book the tickets online - it is a lot cheaper than buying on the spot

Others (Optional):
Nami Island, Souvenirs, Masks, Historical Korean Costume, Sauna, Dumb Stuff
Others: $463.26 (380,800 won)
Discretionary spending - really depends on what you want to buy.
I spent like 70% of the money on gifts and souvenirs.

Other Stuff to Note:

If it has an English menu, it's probably a tourist trap

If you speak Chinese there, you are probably going to get judged real bad

They will love you if you are a tourist but can speak their language.
It is not an English-friendly place. Most people there cannot speak English. Google Translate is your best friend there.

Reach the airport half hour earlier than check-in timing to do the GST refund process.
More details can be found HERE

The process is strange.
Your items get checked outside the custom (you need to still have them with you)
After they have verified, they will chop your receipts.
You then proceed to check-in your baggage.
You get your refund (in Korea won) after you passed the custom


Recommended Post: What if I can't meet my CPF Retirement Sum?

Fooding Places:
This is not a food blog, but there was some food that was really great that I thought it will be good to share

K-BBQ at Chungmuro Station
Chungmuro Station Exit 1, walk straight all the way. It's on the right
The beef is good, the pork is so-so.
More info can be found HERE.

Egg Drop
It's a good breakfast, and it's available in quite a lot of places
Must try breakfast!

Lamb Skewer
We ate at this place thrice - and spend $200 in just 3 visits
There's 2 types of lamb meat there, a 10,000 won and 12,000 won.
We recommend trying both and see which you prefer.
Address: Tojeong-ro 37-gil (nearest station: Mapo Station, exit 2)

Waffle University
Value for money - not the nicest, but extremely value for money
Decent waffle, huge servings of softy ice cream
Address: Majo-ro 1-gil (nearest station: Wangsimni station, exit 6)

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Friday, 11 January 2019

Paying for my HDB with CPF after 55 Years Old

We have got many readers asking us if they can utilise their CPF to pay for their homes after they reach the age of 55.
We have found the answer for you!

Answer: YES YOU CAN!

When you reach the age of 55, the money in your CPF Ordinary Account (OA) and Special Account (SA) gets transferred into a new CPF Retirement Account (RA).
2 points to note when using your CPF money to pay for your house after you reach age 55.

1) You may use the money in your Retirement Account in excess of your cohort's Basic Retirement Sum (BRS).
Eg; you turn 55 in year 2018. Your cohort's BRS is $85,500.
This means you can withdraw your RA savings above $85,500 to pay for your house.

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2) You may use the money in your OA to pay for the remaining outstanding amount (or loan).
After setting aside money into your RA, if your OA still has money to cover your outstanding housing amount, it will be used to pay for it.
However, if there is insufficient balance in your OA currently, your monthly OA contribution will then be used to pay for the monthly installment for the housing loan.

However, you cannot touch the money in your RA to pay for your outstanding home loan.
Eg; you transferred $30k from OA and $40k from SA into your RA when you reach age 55. Now your RA has $70k, but the BRS for your cohort is $85k. In this case, you will not be able to use any of the $70k to pay for your home loan. Instead, the amount for your home loan will be deducted from your monthly CPF contribution.

Recommended Post: What if I can't meet my CPF Retirement Sum?

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Thursday, 3 January 2019

1,000 yen more Expensive to Travel to Japan

It just became 1,000 yen more expensive to travel to Japan, but it sure is not going to deter us from visiting that beautiful country 😍
With the new departure tax being implemented, many are wondering how it will be charged.
So we did some research and tried to answer some possible questions below:

Q1. How will it be charged?
A1. It will be charged when you buy your air tickets. The tax is automatically included in the plane ticket you buy

Q2. Is it a tourist tax?
A2. It is not. It is charged on every passenger travelling out of Japan - tourists and Japanese are all charged that 1,000 yen tax

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S1. Buys a ticket now, fly to & from Japan before 7th.
A1. No need to pay the 1,000 yen departure tax

S2. Buys a ticket now, fly to Japan & returns on the 7th.
A2. Needs to pay the 1,000 yen departure tax

S3. Buys a ticket now, fly on/after 7th, & returns on the same day.
A3. No need to pay the 1,000 yen departure tax

S4. Buys a ticket now, fly on/after 7th, & returns on a different date.
A4. Needs to pay the 1,000 yen departure tax

Got any more burning questions you have about the new departure tax that you want to know?
Comment to us and we will try and help you find the answers.

Recommended Post: CPF: Better Interest than Fixed Deposit, But~

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Friday, 5 October 2018

CPF: Better Fixed Interest than Fixed Deposit

This post will contain a tip on how to increase your CPF returns, namely in the form of interest.
One way to earn more interest from CPF is to transfer your extra money, into your CPF Special Account.

Your Ordinary Account currently earns 2.5%, Special Account and Medisave Account earn 4% interest while your normal bank Fixed Deposit earns less than 2% annually.

Real Life Example:
My mum is 49 this year. She wanted to buy a 10-year Fixed Deposit which earns less than 3% per year. I suggested that she put her money into her CPF to earn the CPF interest.

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Based on Normal Voluntary Contribution, the money will be split into the 3 accounts in the following allocation:
OA: 51.36%
SA: 21.62%
MA: 27.02%

Assuming she puts in $1,000, the allocation will be as follow:
OA: $513.60
SA: $216.20
MA: $270.2

Based on the above, my mum will get an average 3.23% interest on her $1,000 contribution.
She will not, however, get a tax deduction for the $1,000 contribution she put inside.
Based on Additional Medisave Contribution Scheme, the money will all be put into her Medisave account.
OA: 0%
SA: 0%
MA: 100%

Assuming she puts in $1,000, the allocation will be as follow:
OA: $0
SA: $0
MA: $1,000

Based on the above, my mum will get an average of 4% interest on her $1,000 contribution.
In addition, that $1,000 that she contributed into her CPF is also eligible for tax deduction.
Based on Retirement Sum Topping-Up Scheme, the money will all be put into her Special Account, or into her Retirement Account (if she is above age 55)
OA: 0%
SA: 100%
MA: 0%

Assuming she puts in $1,000, the allocation will be as follow:
OA: $0
SA: $1,000
MA: $0

Based on the above, my mum will get an average of 4% interest on her $1,000 contribution.
In addition, that $1,000 that she contributed into her CPF is also eligible for tax deduction.

She will also get to withdraw the money out when she reaches age 55.
Of course, if my mum fails to meet her minimum sum, the money that goes into her CPF will not be returned to her at the "end of the maturity" - instead, she will get it back as future monthly payouts.
But there will be other factors to consider such as how flexible you want to be able to withdraw the money.

All in all, if you wish to have a higher interest rate than Fixed Deposit, risk-free and not in need of the money being withdrawable, you can consider putting your money into your CPF, especially if you are near 55 years old - where the risk-return profile is more skewed in your favour.
Of course, if you want liquidity - the ability to withdraw the whole sum of money when you need it, this probably is not suitable for you. But, if you have way more than the required Retirement Sum, putting money into your CPF to earn the higher interest and withdraw before the Retirement Sum climbs too high sounds like a good way to make extra money.

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