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Working Adults

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Important Financial To-Dos Before You Start To Invest

The journey to begin to invest is a difficult path on its own. Most people are attracted by the high returns that investments could potentially provide but fail to understand the risks of investing. Many investors jump into the sea of investments and end up drowning. Fear strikes me when my peers get overly excited about “investment opportunities” and when they are too eager to begin investing before laying the foundations.

As with everything in life, we prioritise and take care of what is important first.

Debts, Emergency Savings & Essential Expenses

Debts: In our financial plans, we know that we first have to take care of our Debts. Do you know that many credit cards effective interest rate are at 24.9% and above per annum now? It would not be logical for us to invest before clearing these debts, loans and cash lines with high interest rates. It is not possible to achieve 24.9% investment returns per annum consistently.

Emergency Savings: An Emergency Savings of at least 6 months of our monthly expenses is recommended because this take cares in an event of a stoppage of our income such as an unexpected retrenchment. The emergency savings is also critical to cover unexpected expenses such as medical expenses for our loved ones, household, vehicle repairs and other unfortunate events.

Important expenses: If we expect expenses coming up such as hosting a wedding banquet, a house renovation or the birth of a child, we should save up for these expenses in cash. (These expenses could easily add up to S$60,000 and more in cash requirement for a couple) We cannot afford to invest and be forced to sell off our investments at a low when the bills are due.

Protection from Financial Risk

Insurance: To protect ourselves from financial risk means to “insure”. There are a few events which can impact our accumulation for retirement or financial independence.

  1. Medical bills: In the case where we have insufficient savings to cover for our own medical bills, we would be loaded with a mountain of medical bills if we fall ill.
  2. Loss of income due to medical crisis or death: Another risk of not having sufficient insurance coverage is that we are not able to provide for our dependents due to our loss of income (Eg. Spouse, children and parents) in our unfortunate death or disability.

The state of the insurance industry is that financial planners are mostly remunerated by commissions based on product sales. The amount of premiums we pay may not necessarily translate to the amount of insurance coverage we are covered for and need. The truth is that it is easy and possible for us to be adequately insured at a reasonable cost if we purchase the right insurance products.

Purpose & Type of Insurance Products

Event

Coverage

Type of Insurance

Death & Permanent Disability

Outstanding Loans

Children’s Education

Living expenses for Dependents

Term Life Insurance & Total Permanent Disability (TPD) Insurance

Disability

Monthly payout for Loss of Income due to disability/illness

Disability Income Insurance

Long-term Disability

Monthly payout for Care-giving cost

Long-term Care Insurance (Eldershield)
*For age 40 & above

Critical Illness

Alternative Treatment cost

Critical Illness Term Insurance

Hospitalization

Hospital bills

Private Integrated Shield Plan

It is possible for one aged 35 years old with average income and moderate needs to be adequately insured for S$200+ a month.

You can easily find out how much insurance coverage you need here: Click here to find out your life insurance needs and Click here to find out your critical illness needs.

Have you done the above must-dos?

If you have not, please do so now. We do not want to risk having our hard-earned savings and investment gains wiped out due to our own greed and carelessness by not prioritising. We have to protect our existing assets and plan ahead for any unexpected events first. The journey before investing could take years and it is important to be patient before diving into the markets.

Let’s encourage one another to clear our debts, build our emergency savings, plan for our important expenses and insure ourselves adequately now. We are not only doing ourselves a favour but a very important favour for our loved ones as well.

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Financial Responsibilities of Young Working Adults

After many years of formal schooling and being out of school, like all young working adults, I was eager to excel in the career that I had embarked on.

All of us would remember the time when we received our first pay cheque from our first full-time job. It was a sweet reward which we achieved all through our own effort. It was a significant moment and many of us would have celebrated this occasion by giving treats to our loved ones and friends.

Not fully realising, I have made the first step up to the next life-stage. And it is a time that I am going have the power to manage the most money I have come into touch with than ever before.

WITH GREAT POWER, COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.

With my parents laboring in the work force for decades, I begin to see the lines on their worn-out skin. I start noticing that there is now more hair left behind in the bathroom. The volume of their voices have also softened and they speak with a little less gusto than before

My parents are aging.

It is a time when we now want to reduce the burden on our parents and we initiate to take over our own personal expenses and contribute towards our monthly expenses.

And almost unknowingly, our material needs have increased. With more money in hand, we begin to eat a little better, wear a little better and buy a little more. The phase of a young working adult is also when many of us begin to make plans for our future with a life partner. Still at a young age, we need to make our biggest financial commitments and decisions on our housing and marriage needs.

Our financial responsibility skyrockets.

WHAT IF?

With these responsibilities, there is little room for error. I need to look out for any events which could occur that would prevent me from fulfilling my financial responsibility.

Getting fired: If I were to get fired, would I be able to replace this income? While this is going to be a stressful period, it is likely that I would be able to find an alternative job if I am not too choosy as I am still relatively young. This is less of a financial risk.

Falling critically ill and unfortunate demise: With little savings, would I be able to pay for my medical expenses and how can I replace my lost income? How can my parents and my loved ones not be financially impacted if I am no longer around to provide for them?

As a young working adult, we have little savings to start off with and we would not be able to provide for ourselves or our loved ones financially in the event we fall critically ill or pass away. Rather than taking on this financial risk ourselves, it is important for us to transfer this financial risk to a third party and this is where insurance comes to play.

THE HEADACHE

More often than not, most of us had an early and forced introduction to insurance. We were either approached by a relative, a friend or stopped by a stranger at a public place to complete a survey. For most of us, it is likely that we made our first insurance policy purchase through one of these channels.

While it is with positive intentions when they were introduced to us, we probably had little knowledge that the cost for similar types of insurance products across insurance companies can be very different. It is also essential that we understand the amount of insurance coverage we require for the right areas.

We do not want to be paying and still not be insured with enough insurance coverage, especially in areas of high priorities. For example, whole life insurance and accident insurance are not top priorities for young working adults.

PROTECTING OUR LOVED ONES AND OURSELVES

Insurance policies can be difficult to understand and comparing between the different insurers is a very tedious process. What if there is an insurance package which is comprehensively researched, compared between insurers and put together for young working adults?
DIYInsurance (Do-It-Your-way Insurance), Singapore’s First Life Insurance Comparison Web Portal has launched the Young Working Adults package to cater to specific need. The package provides for our insurance coverage for areas which are of highest priorities. Backed by key people with almost 2 decades of experience, all staff from DIYInsurance are salaried -based and do not participate in sales-based compensation or incentives of any kind. This package is also customizable according to your needs so do seek advice from the planners.

As we strive towards our goals, it is important that we are aware of our financial responsibilities. It is essential that we understand how we could transfer these financial risks away to protect our loved ones and ourselves from the heavy financial impact of any unexpected event.

5 Money Tips Fresh Graduates in Singapore Need to Know

Congratulations on your graduation! You have completed almost 2 decades of formal schooling. I savored the time when I graduated, I was on my own to forge my own path ahead.

Receiving my first full-time pay was exciting but the excitement faded as quickly as it came. Financial responsibilities of planning for my wedding, a home and kids soon came my way.

As a young graduate, you are required to make your most important financial decisions at still a young age.

I wish I knew these money tips before I started working.

1. Budget

The only way to not get into debt is to spend less than what we earn. Budgeting is so important yet often neglected by most of us.

Useful hacks: 

  1. Budget your monthly salary into four areas: monthly expenses, savings (eg. wedding, renovation), emergency fund, spare cash (ad-hoc expenses)
  2. Account sufficiently for ad-hoc expenses. It could be the ad-hoc birthday treat that came up, an unexpected taxi ride or a course that you want to sign up for.
  3. Do not stretch yourself too thin and do not spend more than what you have budgeted for.

2. Automate Banking Accounts

This ensures that we stick to our budget.
With new bank accounts (Eg. OCBC 360 and UOB One) that give us higher interest by depositing our salary and making a minimum spending from the same place, we are given incentives to save and spend all from the same account.
This could lead to overspending and we could be better off not earning from this extra interest.

Useful hacks:

  1. Setup four bank accounts for the four areas you have budgeted for
  2. Direct your salary into one account and set an automated transfer on when your salary is credited each month to the other 3 other accounts.
  3. Ensure that you do not have any ATM, debit or credit card access to your savings emergency fund bank accounts. It was so easy for me to touch these accounts when I had access to them!

3. Savings

This account allows me to save up for big-ticket items that are coming up. Even if you are single now, it is important to save. You should be financially prepared when the love of your life appears!

Useful info: 

  1. A wedding in Singapore is more costly than what most people think. One couple in Singapore had a dream $110k wedding and ended up in severe debt. An entire wedding celebration with a banquet at a hotel can easily come up to at least $40,000. Remember that A Wedding is a Day; Marriage is a Lifetime.
  2. The average amount spent on renovations is $56,000 in 2014. Together with your wedding celebration, this is a large sum of cash to save up for.
  3. If you are looking to purchase a car, you would need to set aside at least 40% of the purchase price in cash. A new Chery J3 requires a deposit of at least $30,000.

4. Emergency Funds

Many people underestimate the value of having emergency funds set aside. We need extra funds to tap on for an unexpected medical expenses of a loved one and to tide over in the event of a retrenchment.

Useful hacks:

  1. A good guide is to save up 6 months of your monthly salary so that there is enough to tap on in an unexpected event.
  2. Consider setting a portion of your emergency funds in Singapore Savings Bonds by the Singapore Government.  Aim to grow your emergency fund as your salary increases.

5. Insurance

This allows me to provide for my loved ones who are dependent on me financially. In the event of an illness or a disability, I will not be a financial burden to anyone.

Useful hacks:

  • Use term insurance to adequately insure yourself. Most of us do not need insurance for our entire lives, our dependents would no longer be dependent on us financially at a later point in our lives.
  • Always compare products from the different insurers, the price differences between the different companies are much greater than what you expect.
  • Ask your insurance advisor how he/she is being remunerated. Does your advisor earn more by selling you one product over another?

Investments?

While the world of investing and possibility of high returns seem exciting, it is critical that you do not dive into them until you have the above five financial areas planned for. Investing is for long-term and we should only invest if we have spare funds that we do not need for 10 years to ride the market volatility.

By implementing the above money hacks and if you are debt-free, you would have started off on a sound financial footing.

The journey to financial independence is a marathon and not a 100m dash. Plan well and you have won half the battle!

The edited version appeared in The Straits Times on 15th May 2016.