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

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

10 Ways to Save on Insurance


Having insurance is great when the universe decides it’s time to give you a major (or even minor) problem. But when you can get a policy for practically anything, it’s easy to spend more on protecting your life than living it. Don’t worry, though. We can help you keep these expenses under control while still getting the coverage that you need.

Here are ten ways to be protected for less:

1. Assess Your Needs
Rather than buying coverage simply because you think you should, it’s important to consider your specific situation. Your life today and your future plans should dictate what insurance policies you need and how much coverage is appropriate.
Although there are lots of factors to consider for each type of insurance, you should think about the following to determine your needs:
  • Your assets: More assets (cash, investments, businesses, property, etc.) may mean more insurance
  • Your family: Having dependents typically requires more coverage
  • Your health: Poor health could necessitate a more robust medical policy or more life insurance

2. Shop Around
Before committing to any policy, get pricing from multiple companies. You may be surprised at how much variation you see. And remember — don’t just set it and forget it. It pays to do this before every policy renewal.

3. Bundle Policies
As you get quotes for coverage, ask each company for a bundle price (rider policies) on the types of insurance that you need. You could score big savings and simplify your bill paying process.

4. Get a Discount by Employer
Some employers might be able to get you a better deal on health, life, and disability insurance if you bought them from certain insurance company. Check with your HR department if there are any insurance companies that can offer you such deals.

5. Raise the Deductible
Increasing your policy’s deductible could be an easy way to save a few bucks each month. Be sure, however, that you can cover the higher deductible if you ever need to make a claim.

Recommended Post: Is Whole Life Insurance a Scam?

6. Keep Your Credit Report Clean
Poor credit history can cost you big time. Insurers may assign you an insurance score (similar to a credit score), with lower scores resulting in higher premiums. They believe, right or wrong, that a low score indicates irresponsibility and therefore more risk.

7. Save on Car Insurance
If you want to own a car, you need car insurance. The good news is that you can defray the expense with tons of different discounts. You might be able to save cash by comparing the offers between different insurance companies or driving safely (being an accident-free driver can save you a lot of money on insurance).

8. Save on Homeowners Insurance
If you have a mortgage, you’re probably required to have mortgage insurance - especially if you are buying a HDB. If you are buying a HDB, you probably can't save much since it is a requirement to have a mortgage insurance and they are pretty decently priced. However, if you are buying a private property, you can consider if you want to get a mortgage insurance or a life insurance with higher payout. The logic is: the mortgage insurance is used to pay for your home in the event of anything bad happens (fire, or if the buyer dies). And the insurance is usually required if you have a mortgage loan. Once your mortgage is paid up, you generally do not really need to have a mortgage insurance - that means the money you have paid for it is technically "gone". Rather, you could have just bought a life insurance with a higher payout that can cover both the require expenses for your dependents as well as pay for the mortgage. This is more complicated and best to seek advice from a licensed insurance agent. 
Tip: Use this guide to take an inventory of your belongings and determine the value of your stuff, which gets factored into your insurance requirements.

9. Save on Life Insurance
If you have a family to protect or want to leave loved ones a little something when you’re gone, you may want to purchase life insurance. There are a few different types, each with their own pros and cons, but generally, the most affordable type is term life insurance. Term life insurance will pay your beneficiaries a specified amount if you die within a certain timeframe (usually 10-30 years). There are a number of ways to save on life insurance such as paying the entire year’s worth of premiums upfront or getting a volume discount (aka getting more insurance for less money!).
Tip: Try this calculator to see how much life insurance you may need.

10. Save on Health Insurance
It’s no secret — medical care is crazy expensive. Adequate health insurance can save your wallet from a beating if you become seriously ill or injured.  If you’re in good health, don’t go to the doctor frequently, and have a cash reserve, consider saving money on your monthly premiums by choosing a plan with a high-deductible. You’ll pay the full tab if you go to urgent care with the flu or a sprained ankle, but you’ll (hopefully) pay less overall each year due to premium savings. 
Tip: Although a "all medical expenses paid for by Insurer" is a very happy thing to have, the premiums will also be exceptional high, which might not be that much of a happy thing afterall.

Final Thoughts
Insurance can be a significant line item on your budget, but there are many ways to minimize the expense. While this article isn’t an exhaustive list of ways to save, it gives you a good start to being covered affordably.

This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com.
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Thursday, 4 April 2019

How to Save Money Each Month While Paying Off Debt

You have tons of debt that you want gone. But you also have other important financial goals, like saving money, that need your attention. These competing priorities can make you feel like you’re trapped in a chicken or the egg cycle. If you pay down your credit card debt, you’ll have more wiggle room in your budget and can save that extra cash. But, if you save more money, you won’t have to whip out your credit card next time an unplanned expense pops up. So do you pay off debt or save? The short answer is: it depends
Here’s your plan of attack to slay debt and pad your bank account:

Divide and Conquer

To work on both goals simultaneously, you’ll have to split your available resources between them. But, you need a clear plan to ensure that you allocate your dollars in the most effective way.
To get started, prioritise your debts and savings goals, keeping these things in mind:
  • High-interest debt will sink you. If you only make the minimum payments on your credit cards, you’ll be in the debt for years and pay potentially thousands extra in interest. Get rid of this debt first.
  • Lower interest debt isn’t as urgent. While you definitely want to pay off all of your obligations, “good” debt like student loans and your mortgage do less damage to your financial health - as long as you pay them on time.
  • An emergency fund will save you in a pinch. A cash reserve will keep you from going further in the hole when something breaks or you lose your job.
  • Start saving for time-sensitive goals ASAP. The holidays, your sister’s destination wedding, and your car COE renewal are all known events. Save away a little bit here and there in the months leading up, and you’ll be able to pay for them in cash with ease.
  • Don’t ignore retirement. It may seem like a million years away, but delaying saving for retirement will have long term negative effects. You’ll miss out on the compounding interest that actually works in your favor. 

Choose the Right Mix

Once you’ve got your priorities in order, you need to divide up your funds in a way that makes the most sense for you. For example, from your monthly salary, you could put 5% into retirement, 20% toward your credit card debt, 10% toward your savings goals, and the rest to cover your monthly expenses. As you pay off debt and your goals are completed or change, be sure to adjust your mix accordingly.
Remember: While there are some good guiding rules of thumb, how you manage your money is up to you. Personal finance is personal!

Find the Dollars

To make faster progress toward your financial goals, try freeing up more of your existing resources, increasing your cash flow, or both. Here are some steps you can take today:
  • Review your spending. Is there anything you can scale back on or remove? (Netflix, Spotify, Magazine subscriptions, etc)
  • Buy smarter. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting groceriesclothing, or shopping online, there are countless ways to get what you need and come in under budget. Be it buying on big days like double 11, or using the credit card that gives you the best rewards for your purchase.
  • Earn more money. Consider picking up extra shifts at work, getting a second job, taking on freelance clients, or selling some of your unwanted stuff.
Remember: While it’s tempting to spend or reward yourself for paying down your debts, be sure to use the bulk of your budget savings and side income for your debt pay off and savings goals. 

Final Thoughts

It can be overwhelming to juggle multiple, seemingly-competing financial goals. But if you proactively map out what you need your money to do, you can strike a balance that allows you to live your best life.
This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com.
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Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Build an Emergency Fund: Avoid Financial Disaster

Life’s usually pretty amazing. But when it throws an emergency at you, can your wallet handle it? According to a recent study by the Urban Institute, nearly 22% of adults struggled to cover a $400 unexpected expense. People between ages 18-34 were hit the hardest and were more prone to using risky, high-interest means like credit cards to make ends meet, resulting in greater financial stress.
To avoid facing the same fate, you need to build and maintain a healthy emergency fund. What’s that? It’s a pool of money that’s only gets used when life throws you a major curveball. That way, when your car breaks down, your pet gets sick, or you lose your job, you’ll have the cash stashed away to deal with it without taking on more debt.
Follow the steps below and you’ll be well on your way to dealing with the unexpected with ease.

Determine Your Needs

Since everyone’s situation is different, there is no hard and fast rule about how much you need to have in your emergency fund. However, the collective personal finance mind says that you should strive to save 3-6 months of living expenses. If you’re the breadwinner for your family or your income fluctuates, it doesn’t hurt to save more than 6 months just in case.
To gauge your essential monthly expenses, take a look at your budget (or create one) and add up all of your must-haves like shelter, food, transportation, utilities, medicine, minimum debt payments, etc.
Remember, since some of your expenses can vary month to month, be sure to save yourself some extra money for those variables. Next, multiply your monthly budget by the number of months that you want to cover. The total is your emergency fund savings goal.

Open an Account

Your emergency fund should have its own account that you can tap into when needed, but that you won’t see or touch regularly. This will make it tougher to spend the money on other, less dire situations. And, although it may be tempting, avoid putting the funds into risky investments like stocks because you could lose money if the market declines. To get the best results, consider putting this cash into a flexible asset like Singapore Government Savings Bond (SSB) or a high-yield savings account. It will be safe, separate from your day to day finances, and will actually grow a little due to the slightly higher interest.

Stockpile the Cash

The first two steps are quick and easy to complete. However, depending on your needs and your means, you could be in this phase for a long time. Saving thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of dollars is a daunting prospect.
Don’t be discouraged! Start small and initially aim to get a few hundred in the bank. Then, work your way up and celebrate each milestone. What you’re doing isn’t easy. But when life inevitably throws a tantrum, it will be worth it.
Here are several ways that you can expedite the stockpiling process:
  • Cut expenses and bank the savings. Tight budget? Check out these tips.
  • Automate your savings. Set up a regular transfer from your normal account to your emergency fund account.
  • Earn more cash. Think about starting a side hustle, working overtime, or selling your unused stuff.
  • Put windfalls to good use. Gifts, bonuses, and tax refunds can make your emergency fund balance soar.
Remember: Don’t stick your hand in the cookie jar unless it’s a true emergency. (Getting a last minute invite to go on a cruise doesn’t count!)
Tip: While building an emergency fund needs to be a priority, it’s OK to juggle more than one financial goal. For example, if you have high-interest credit card debt, it’s a good idea to get that paid off ASAP. It’s important to find the right mix of saving and debt pay off for your situation.

Move on to the Next

Now that you've saved up your emergency fund, you’re in a great position to ramp up (or start) saving for retirement, put money aside for planned home repairs or upgrades, or open an account to fund the vacation of your dreams. You can also put more money toward your mortgage, student loans, or other debts. Of course, if you take money from the emergency fund, you should replenish it as soon as possible.

Conclusion

Building a solid emergency fund doesn’t happen overnight. Just like with retirement, it takes discipline and patience to save a large amount of money for “someday.” But — having that well-inflated cushion will allow you to rest easy and fully focus on living your best life.
This article was originally published at HiCharlie.com.
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Sunday, 31 March 2019

Alert and warning on BiteBTC

Dear Readers,

It has come to our attention that a cryptocurrency exchange, under the name of BiteBTC.com, has been FRAUDULENTLY using our name to operate and promote their exchange, cheating investors of their hard earn money through investments in cryptocurrencies on their platform. The footer of BiteBTC's website previously claimed to be operated by FinanceFirst Pte. Ltd and was located in Singapore with our rightful UEN identifier. After being alerted by various users, BiteBTC.com have since changed the footer of their website where it claims to be operated by a company named 'First Finance LLC', located in Seychelles (East Africa).

Investment Stab is a blog under the company, FinanceFirst Pte Ltd. We are not involved in any cryptocurrency exchange activities or stored value facility. Any activities by BiteBTC.com are not associated with or carried by us. As to reasons why our details and UEN identifier were listed and misappropriated by BiteBTC.com, this information can be easily obtained from ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) of Singapore by doing a search in BizFile. More details can also be easily purchased from BizFile at SGD 11.

Source: Business Entity Search on BizFile ACRA (Redacted for security reasons) 

When we searched for 'First Finance LLC', this company came up, and it is based in the United States of America (USA). It is evident that BiteBTC.com is probably using another company or is a non-existent company to continue their fraudulent business practice. No other information on its operating team or members were found on its website.

We have since lodged a police report against BiteBTC.com for theft of our identity and we trust that the police will investigate the matter. In addition, we were also told that there have already been several reports lodged against the BiteBTC.com for fraud.

In addition, we would also like to use this to educate our fellow readers on the issues surrounding cryptocurrency as an investment or trading instrument. Cryptocurrency currently operates in the legal grey area of many countries and is often not regulated. Due to the nature of technology, ambiguity and opaqueness are usually inherent where investors often do not fully understand its capabilities and promises. With such characteristics, combined with the promised hype of riches, it is a superior tool for scams and other illegal activities. We hope to warn readers and potential investors of any cryptocurrencies to carry out extensive research and exercise judgement on the accuracy of the information presented.

Investment Stab is a financial education platform. We aim to be the site where people can reach out to learn about personal finance, and we are committed to continuing towards that goal.
Thank you for your support.
We will keep you updated should there be any new findings from the police.

Thank you.

From:
The team at Investment Stab

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 HiCharlie.com.

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 HiCharlie.com.

Recommended Post: Paying my HDB with my CPF after 55 Years Old
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