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3 crucial things every newbie investor must know

3 crucial things every newbie investor must know

The hard truth is that, in Singapore, it's difficult to earn lots of money if you only park your monthly salary into the bank and expect it to grow. It will not grow much at all. 

The only way to make your money work for you is to invest in it, and similar to how learning never ends, becoming good at investing money is a never-ending journey. It goes without saying that you should have read up on, spoken with experienced investors, and have a relatively solid understanding of the investment products and strategies before getting into it.

But there are, however, 3 crucial things that every investing beginner must know before they even put money in. Here they are: 

1. Know your investment goals

If there's one thing that bears repeating in the investment world, it's this: What are you working towards? It's very important to have a goal, or goals, in mind to work towards in order to effectively figure out how to get there. 

When people talk about investment goals, most would assume that it's a number they are trying to get their money to climb up to and achieve. That's not false, but what a lot of people fail to realise is that investments take time. An investment goal should not only take the number into consideration, but the time factor as well.

Is your investment goal short term, or long? If it is short term, is the number you have in mind realistic based on the time frame allocated? What type of investment products will best help you hit your goal? These are all questions you have to ask yourself before starting on your investment journey. 

2. Know your risk appetite

When you hear the phrase 'risk appetite', it basically means how much are you willing to lose? A lot of times, you will hear (mostly from banks) that risk appetite is related to the types of investments you make. For example, buy more equities when you are in your twenties or thirties because you are at the stage of life where you can afford the volatility and higher risk. Buy more into fixed income products when you are older because they tend to be more stable (low risk) but at the same time also won't return as much.

Whatever it is, risk appetite is an extremely important factor that people don’t fully think about when they start out investing. That's because no one goes into investing their money immediately thinking they are going to lose money - that completely defeats the purpose of investing your money. But it is still important to consider because this will have repercussions further down the road in your investment journey. 

Take the time to read up on the various investment products and understand how they can work for or against you at various stages of your life. This will allow you to weigh your risk appetite properly and plan a long term strategy that will prevent you from losing money unnecessarily. 

3. Know your investment behaviour

Knowing your investment behaviour also starts with knowing yourself. If you're a naturally lazy person like me, I'm going to optimize technology to help me manage the time I spend managing my investments so it doesn't become tedious and eat up into time I can spend elsewhere instead of staring at a screen full of numbers. 

Another trick is to leverage off algorithmic trading. It's a godsend for people who know they are not going to have the time to decide on trade decisions all the time. As you can choose to automate your trades, it can also help those who tend to be too overly hands-on to have some form of discipline.

Knowing what type of a trader you might be, and what sort of behaviour you'll likely have, is a boon to deciding what sort of tools will be useful for you. And that is a huge plus point if you are trying to find your footing at the start of this journey.

3 things parents do that make their child terrible at managing money in future

3 things parents do that make their child terrible at managing money in future

All parents want to do what's best for their child. The question is: What is considered "best" for their kids. 

Some parents believe in "sparing the rod and spoiling the child", some believe that their kid having a happy childhood is more important. Some want their kids to have all the creature comforts they could possibly desire including iPhones and iPads, while others think it’s more important to teach their kids the importance of earning their rewards.

But nobody wants their child to not be able to handle their own finances when they grow up. Here are three things parents might be doing that could turn their kid into a financial disaster:

1. Buying their child everything he asks for

Kids these days want a lot more than just Legos or the latest Disney princess figurines. A majority of parents know not to give in to their every kid's whims and fancies. Even if not for the fact that it would drain their retirement fund paying for all the iPads, X-boxes and electric scooters, buying every single thing their kid asks for also run the risk of raising a spoiled child who has to have everything he wants right now.

But the fact is, all these head knowledge flies out the window the moment their kid is rolling on the ground throwing a massive temper tantrums in the middle of Toys R'Us when they say no to what he wants. Caving in to everything a kid wants is the most counterproductive thing a parent can do at that point.

This is because one of the biggest lessons in managing money is of Delayed Gratification. Kids should learn that it's important to save for the future for "better" things instead of spending all their cash all the time on what they want now. By not teaching a child to take “no” for an answer, it could turn him into the sort of adult who has no self-control in a shopping mall, and no sense of being financially prudent in life. 

2. Encouraging their child to enjoy the high life

Some parents think that by giving their kids an appreciation of the finer things in life, they’re motivating them to work hard for their own future. The irony is that it's usually poverty that motivates people to want to work hard and rid themselves of their current situation. It drives them to want to manage their finances better.

Riches that's been doled out for free by doting parents are not going to spur someone to work hard and better himself. That being said, it's not wrong to want to teach your kid to aspire for a life free from financial woes.

But how about instead encouraging your kids to live lavishly, show them how to enjoy the simple things in life instead. Spend time with them instead of buying them more stuff, encourage them to give back instead of taking things. Then, you can rest assured that your beloved son is going to spend on the important things in life instead of fancy cars to impress chicks. 

3. Telling their child he’ll inherit your wealth in future

Remember that scene where Mufasa tells Simba “One day son, all this will be yours?” Pull that stunt in Singapore and you can bet every kid will be twiddling their thumbs until the day their human ATM drops dead. 

"Son, when that day comes let's hope you won't toss me in an old folks' home"

"Son, when that day comes let's hope you won't toss me in an old folks' home"

When parents do that, they’re sending out the message that their child will be financially taken care of in future. Even the inheritance of a simple HDB flat can be a huge financial boon, given the high cost of property in Singapore. No matter that that's not the intention in the first place, It still subconsciously plants the mindset of "why bother to work hard when there’s going to money coming my way in a couple of decades?" in a child.

Save that conversation for when the child is in his twenties or thirties, when he's more mature, and when he has already learnt the value of hard work and financial discipline (most likely from his first job).

5 ways to travel on a student's budget

5 ways to travel on a student's budget

Nowadays, it's practically impossible to open up Instagram and not be swamped by pictures of young people frolicking in exotic places. These are often also peppered with hashtags like #wanderlust, #blessed and #YOLO - making it harder not to get sucked into this dream of dropping everything right now to travel the world.

In the midst of studying your asses off, is it even possible to see the world before getting tied down to your first career? Especially when you barely have enough at the end of the month to scrape by? 

Here are 5 ways to make that possible. (the budget way, of course):

1. Turn spare foreign currency into money

One of the coolest things to be launched recently at Changi Airport is a TravelersBox kiosk that aims to make leftover foreign currency useful again. By depositing foreign change into the kiosk, you can select from redeeming gift cards from a range of brands, adding the cash into your PayPal account, or choose to make a donation.

Accumulate spare foreign change from your family and friends, and exchange them for PayPal dollars just before you head off for your flight. If you're heading to a country that also has Grab, you can get a Grab gift card to save on transport getting around the city you're visiting. 

2. Book your flights at promotional prices

When it comes to getting those dirt cheap fares, it’s all about the off-peak periods. This includes booking your flights at the weirdest timings possible. I once woke up at 4am just to take advantage of Jetstar's 2nd Anniversary offer and snagged a $0.02 flight to Hong Kong!! Even with flight taxes and fees, my ticket still amounted to less than $40.

The difference between a few days and a few hours can very well save you and your traveling buddies a couple hundred bucks. Flights tend to be cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, while mid-day flight timings like 2-6pm fetch lower rates.

Budget carriers such as Jetstar, Scoot, and Tigerair usually have promotions every week too, so you might want to subscribe to their emails and keep a lookout for their weekly budget flight sales.

Here’s a list of the weekly sales:

You can also take advantage of exam periods in Singapore (around the April/May and September/October period) where flights out of Singapore are at their lowest due to most families with young children likely not travelling so as to prepare their kids for exams.

Research done by Skyscanner also show the best timings to book your flight tickets; booking between 21-25 weeks prior to your travel date can save you up to 22%! 

3. Cheaper accommodation doesn't mean crappy ones

You can easily save a few hundred dollars on accommodations simply by searching for cheaper alternatives. Nowadays, websites like Airbnb allow you to rent rooms, houses, villas at much lower cost than a hotel or even a bed & breakfast. It’s one of my favourite choices since cash never trades hands - the payment is fully transacted through Airbnb’s website. Although I do like to bring some Singapore souvenirs like a Bengawan Solo pandan cake to gift to my host. 

If you are traveling with a group of friends (it helps if they are muscular and scary), you can even consider couch-surfing at a local's home. Alternatively, you could just scroll through your Facebook friends list to see if a foreign friend can host you for the period you’re travelling. That way, you don’t even have to pay!

As a last resort, websites such as Groupon, Agoda and Expedia also offer bundles and secret deals if you have the time to read through the various fine print to see whether the terms and conditions are fair. 

4. A portable wifi router is the new prepaid SIM card

Gone are the days when you had to buy sim cards for international calls back to Singapore and activating your auto-roam. You can now save costs by renting portable wifi routers with fares are usually charged per day. Bonus: they can be shared with up to 8 people.

You can pick them up either at your travel destination - we recommend the Klook app for renting wifi routers for as low as $3 per day, or you can also rent them from our very own Changi Airport. Simply book online and collect just before you fly. Pro Tip: Do check the Changi Recommends Facebook page as it frequently posts wifi router rental promo codes.

5. Skip the tour and get around the city yourself

Tour agencies usually charge extra for their services (duh) and wind up bringing you to the most touristy places to eat or shop so they can earn a fat commission for themselves. Instead of signing up for a tour package with a travel agency, read up on TripAdvisor and travel blogs for the best places to go. Usually, most of the places the locals go to are relatively cheap, and even free! 

If you're heading to a major city, it helps to download an app like Google Trips and Citymapper that suggests walking tours as well as cool places to eat, drink and check out based on locals' (and tourists who have visited previously) recommendations. Those apps also have offline maps (with routes for buses, trains, trams etc) offline for easier navigation.

4 lifestyle choices that are way too expensive in Singapore

4 lifestyle choices that are way too expensive in Singapore

You probably regretted buying that crazy expensive bag/watch/wallet/pair of shoes that cost hundreds of dollars with your very first paycheque. Look on the bright side, that moment of splurge is now in the past and it will likely be a long while before you spend your money in the same way again. 

However, there are certain lifestyle choices we make where the spending never stops. Especially in Singapore, we may not think about it on a day to day basis, but in the long run it all adds up to a huge chunk of money. Money that could be better spent on better stuff like investments, or buying a large hunk of gold to trade with in the event of a zombie apocalypse and no one is using cash anymore.

Here are 4 lifestyle choices that are way too costly when living in Singapore. 

1. Owning a car

When it comes to driving a car in Singapore, unless you're a taxi, Grab or Uber driver, there's no way in hell that the car is an asset in your life. That’s just the way the system is in this country. We're such a tiny island, everything that has to do with owning a car - from COE, to fuel, to parking, to ERP - has to be hideously inflated to discourage the vast majority of Singaporeans from driving on the roads.

Want to know how hideously expensive compared to other countries? Here are the cast of The Fast and Furious film series with their jaws on the floor when they heard of our car prices. 

For most Singaporeans, because the car itself already costs so much, even if you cab everyday for a year, it will still cost less than owning a vehicle. 

2. Owning a pet

One of the worst things to do when you walk into a pet shop/animal shelter (all the while telling yourself that you're only browsing) is to make eye contact with the animals. Once those limpid eyes gaze into your soul, that's it. You can't say no to Whiskers / Max / Genie. What the heck, you tell yourself. You're doing a good deed by giving that furry friend a forever home. 

But a pet can be a significant expense that just keeps adding up over the lifespan of the animal. First off, there are the vaccinations and annual checkups. Followed by all the toys and pet merchandise you wish to shower on your fur baby. Pet food on its own might not cost that much, but if your pet develops health problems later on in its life, it’s likely that you'll have to upgrade to more expensive specific food, as well as foot the medical bills for your beloved pet.

Dogs can live up to 15 years, while cats can have a lifespan of up to 20 years. Ask yourself if you are prepared to spend constantly within that timeframe.

3. Smoking

Smokers get a lot of grief in Singapore. Cigarettes have been getting more expensive every year, while the number of places where you can light up has been steadily decreasing. There's a higher risk of health complications that come with being a regular smoker, which also means higher chance of spending on medical bills. 

Even if we set aside the health issues, in terms of cost, Singapore is an expensive country to be a smoker. The cost of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes is about $13. If you add that up, smoking a pack-a-day can cost you upwards of $400 a month. That's $4,800 a year of pure lighting up and puffing. 

4. Having children

While there are many other reasons the birth rate in Singapore is pretty much rock bottom, the cost of raising children cannot be ignored. It can cost upwards of $200,000 to almost 1 mil to raise a child in Singapore! On average, a family will spend close to $350,000 within the child's first 8 years. 

Of course, the financial reason will never outweigh the joys of having a child to call your own. But the truth is that starting a family will have a lifelong financial and emotional impact. With a child or two under your care, it will be your responsibility to keep them afloat no matter what happens. This means basic healthcare, a roof over their head, a solid education, their wants, their needs, their hobbies and interests, etc. 

In future, only think about having kids when you're sure it's what you and your spouse wants. Not because you are sick of your parents or in-laws pressuring you for grandkids every time Chinese New Year rolls around.

Before you apply for that credit card, ask these 3 questions

Before you apply for that credit card, ask these 3 questions

Just because a wallet contains many card slots, doesn't mean one has to fill them all. When you've finally "adulted" after some time and are beginning to earn a stable income, you may be considering applying for a credit card. 

How do you know what to look for when selecting a credit card to sign up for? Other than having a cool card design to look good when footing the bill at the restaurant, here are 3 questions to ask yourself when you apply.

1. "What are the card benefits?"

Practically all credit cards will cost you nothing when applying, and most of them will waive the membership fee in your first year or two of owning the card. Still, you'll need to read the terms and conditions thoroughly to find out how much annual fees you may end up incurring if you don't manage to hit a certain spending threshold to automatically waive those fees, or if you simply forgot to ask for a waiver.

So don't simply apply for a card because the ad claims that it's the perfect card for dining out/traveling/clubbing/shopping online, or because you felt pressured by that pushy credit card roadshow promoter. Read the terms and conditions yourself and ask if you're unsure about anything.

Frequent flyer miles may sound like a wonderful thing to have, but if you don't travel frequently for work, then there's not much you can actually claim. One of the most useful things I find about credit cards are the cash back - since you are going to use the card, why not get some free money out of it.

2. "Can I even qualify for the benefits?"

Adding on to the above points on card benefits, most of them seems too good to be true. And that's because most of them are. Most of the time, there are frequent terms attached to the benefits. For example, the card might be offering instant 5% cash rebates on your shopping ...BUT only if you spend above $1,500 a month on the card. 

Based on your spending habits, you'll be able to know whether you can benefit from the credit card you'll looking to apply for. If you only spend up to $800 a month, there's no point getting a card that requires you to spend above $1,500 to reap its benefits.

One tip is to only allocate one main credit card for all your spending. Choose a card that can reward you the largest amount of cash back, and use that as your main credit card. 

Obviously, the banks are not going to advertise what the spending requirements are in their promotional materials, so some digging through the card's terms and conditions PDF document will be required. 

3. " How can the credit limit and balance transfer benefit me?"

I can't stress how important it is to know what your credit card limit is so you don't end up standing red-faced at the checkout counter of H&M with 15 people in the queue gawking at you while payment is being repeatedly denied by your card.

If you've just started working for about a year or two, a good credit limit to start off with is $3,000-$5,000. This is so you don't cultivate a habit of spending beyond your means. 

It will also help to ask the bank how much a balance transfer on your card will cost. Depending on the interest rate, if ever you find yourself in debt and unable to pay off a credit card bill, you might want to pay off the bill using a card with a lower interest rate rather than incurring the penalty of not meeting the minimum payment.

Be warned, you could end up having to pay other penalties, or be subject to a higher interest rate after a period of time so do check with the bank on this clearly. 

4 Singaporean things you should stop wasting your money on

4 Singaporean things you should stop wasting your money on

In this day and age of online spending, we're often spoiled for choices amidst thousands of e-commerce sites (most of them with free shipping too!) that it has become incredibly easy to overspend. This habit even bleeds offline into spending on things we don't even need in the first place. 

Scrutinise the spending habits of any Singaporean and you're sure to roll your eyes at some people's expenses. But like how one man's trash is another's treasure, just as you're sniggering over somebody for spending $1,000+ a month on Gudetama merchandise, someone is judging you for spending $25 to Instagram Story an ice cream falling onto a molten lava cookie. 

Here are 4 money wasters that Singaporeans seem to spend most on.

1. Hipster coffee

Any caffeine addict will tell you that life begins after their first cup of coffee. But life shouldn’t begin after their first cup of EXPENSIVE coffee. With so many (too many) hipster cafes and coffee joints crammed in our tiny island, it has become a daily norm to pay up to $6 for a cuppa joe. 

Coffee is an expense that can swiftly and quietly escalate without noticing. That daily latte at Starbucks can balloon into an exorbitant amount. Worst if you do two coffee runs a day instead of one. 

Scare yourself with this handy Starbucks calculator that will show you how much you spend on expensive coffee in a month, a year, and in 30 years. We guarantee your jaw will drop. 

2. Taxi/Grab/Uber rides

While there will be moments when you're stranded in the rain or in some ulu neighbourhood and are in need of a safe ride home, such occasions are rare.

But most of the time, it's a matter of laziness, oversleeping, or worst, drunkenness, that see us hailing that cab. With all sorts of hidden charges like booking fees and peak period surcharge nowadays, there's no worse feeling that getting out of a cab and realising that you've just paid up to 8x more what you would have if you had just taken the train or bus. 

3. Mobile phone games' in-app purchases

If you’ve ever been tempted by, or have succumbed and plonked down $19.99 USD, for more lives to continue in Candy Crush or more incubators in Pokemon Go, then this video is for you: 

Free mobile games make money off in-app purchases. They usually do this by making gameplay as frustrating as possible so you will cave in and spend a few dollars for immediate gratification. It's basically manipulating you into forking out that cash to bring about short-term satisfaction. 

If you don't mind spending money on mobile games, how about giving it to those developers that take a one-time purchase payment in exchange for a fully playable game that does not have in-app purchases. 

4. Corporate clothes

So you've got your foot on the first rung of the corporate ladder and on day one, everyone in the office looks like they have just stepped out of a G2000 catalog. Many a rookie executive will be drawn into the "glamour" of working in the CBD area and can go a little crazy spending their first few years of salary on crafting an unnecessarily huge corporate wardrobe. 

For men, it will be the pursuit of that first expensive watch or pair of Bally shoes. For the ladies, perhaps queuing for Reebonz private sale just to snag that Bao Bao for cheap. These purchases won't make our lives any better, or us any happier, but still we persist. 

Can you live comfortably without a huge paycheck?

Can you live comfortably without a huge paycheck?

So, you've left the relative safety of Singapore Education System and are now about to embark into the big scary world of Singapore Working Adult. 

Chances are looking at your first paycheck is going to fill your mind with doubts on whether you can live comfortably in the most expensive city in the world. Many people will tell you that Singapore’s great for the rich, but not so great if you’re not making tons of money. 

But unless you have a deep burning desire to own a Lamborghini, most middle income Singaporeans are actually totally capable of affording to give themselves (and their families) a comfortable life. Here are 3 tips for scaling down on expensive stuff yet still living a joyful experience of fun, friends and frivolous things once in a while. 

1. Pause more often before spending money

We don't mean a joyless existence of torturing yourself by never forking out more than $10 a day. It's about pausing to think before you spend.

Most of us fall prey to impulse spending and, worst of all, lapses in judgement because you feel pressured by a salesperson to buy something. If you know you are someone who frequently get pressured into buying stuff you ultimately don't need, or spending on a big ticket item without doing your due diligence like reading up about it on the Internet or asking around, you may find yourself spending in ways that ultimately don't benefit you or make your life more fruitful. 

If you are prone to impulsive buying, simply pause to ask yourself whether spending this money is going to make you happier one month from now. If you are easily pressured into buying things, simply pause to think twice (or thrice) before you decide to pay for it. By stopping to ask yourself those questions, you can cut down quite a bit on your spending habits. 

2. Understand that saving money is not about depriving yourself

One of the biggest ways to start saving money starts from a change in mindset. If your idea of saving money means eating cai peng with no meat every day and showering only once a week to save water, it's no wonder you think spending less equals a miserable life. 

In the journey towards saving more money, the first things that should stop spending on are the ones that you don’t even notice you have, or that you don’t benefit from. For example, an expensive monthly mobile data plan when you're actually not using up that much data. Or facial packages or gym memberships that you rarely use, but are paying money on a regularly basis for anyway.

Once you've stopped spending on those things, it will make it much easier to be in control of your finances. Kind of like bandaging up a wound that you didn't notice was bleeding you out slowly. 

3. Learn a new skill in order to save money in the long-term

There's no point envying that ex-schoolmate who has a first class honours degree, is currently working in the bank, and doesn't seem to have any money problems to worry about. Oh, and he also has his daily lunches at fine dining restaurants. 

Well guess what, coveting someone else's lifestyle isn't going to miraculously transform yours overnight. Which means we will have to improve in some areas in order to help ourselves live more comfortable lives. We might have to acquire some new skills just so we stop paying for other people to do it for us. 

For instance, cooking is one skill I believe every Singaporean who cares about their health and wallet should have, but that many unfortunately don’t. Learning to cook simply will cut down on dining out or ta bao-ing regularly. Learning how to make simple repairs on your bicycle, home appliances, and computers can also help save you on hiring someone to do it for you. It will also help you become more self-reliant.

 3 mistakes to avoid making in a new relationship

3 mistakes to avoid making in a new relationship

It's that time of the year again. Where love is in the air, and florists do roaring business. Ah, young love. In the early days of a fresh, new relationship, many couples are willing to move heaven and earth to do things they wouldn’t normally do just to please their sweetheart. 

You might be that girl who goes to lectures with no make-up on every morning, but now you spare no expense in Sephora stocking up on the latest lip colours and volumizing mascara. 

You might be the guy who have no idea what to do with the multiple forks and knives at fine dining restaurants, but now you've watched at least ten YouTube videos on proper dining etiquette just so you can impress your date at that fancy restaurant.

Assuming you both actually go on to have a long-term relationship, be prepared for lots of conflicts over unmet expectations if you keep this up. Here are three things to avoid doing in a new relationship:

1. Trying to impress your partner with expensive dates & gifts

First dates can be nerve-wracking, and it’s understandable that you want to show yourself in the best light possible. But remember that showing yourself in the best light means being the best version of yourself, and not the best version of someone else.

If you’re always lavishing your date with expensive restaurant meals and Pandora bracelet charms, followed by Gold Class movies and going to chic bars where a bespoke cocktail costs $30, you’re either going to go broke keeping up this image; or you’ll revert to your former self after a while and your date, having built up certain expectations, will wonder why you no “longer put in effort”.

In life, there are going to be people whose lifestyles aren’t compatible with yours. It's always better to find out sooner rather than later, instead of trying to build a relationship on pretence.

2. Not being honest about your lifestyle

You don't need to tell your date how much you have in your bank account in the early stages of getting to know each other. But you do need to be upfront about your lifestyle.

If you’re not the sort of person who goes to fine dining restaurants often, and the most expensive restaurant you’ve been to so far is Swensen’s, there's nothing to be ashamed of. Don’t pretend to have a life that you don't. When you do that, you rob yourself of the chance to be authentic in a developing relationship with someone you genuinely like. The last thing you want is to start getting serious, but deep down knowing that your other half have no idea of who you truly are.

Being evasive can also mislead others about who you really are, such as nodding your head when your date talks about travelling to countries you've never heard of. It's totally normal to ask, even better can a great way to kick start a relationship is open communication. 

 3. Being financially responsible for the other person

I've seen people get their partners to pay for their phone bills, their meals, and think nothing of getting them to foot the bill for all their friends at outings.

You might think your relationship is as solid as a rock simply because your other half is crazy about you, but that is never an excuse to start becoming financially responsible for him or her at early stages in your relationship. If you’re wondering why you seem to be paying for so many aspects of your new partner’s life and it bugs you, stop being a doormat and put a stop to it.

Unless you are from a super wealthy family and probably don't have to work for the rest of your life, and are willing to support your partner with both your eyes wide open. But that’s different from if your partner is making use of you to live in a way that they are not able to afford themselves.

Selecting the right saving accounts for your child

Selecting the right saving accounts for your child

Sometimes, I suspect that Chinese New Year is an initiative by the government to encourage one to have more children – the more kids you have, the less the monetary loss to your family as a whole. Additionally, if you are a mean parent who confiscates all of your child’s ang pao money, because to quote you, “mother knows best”, then you will see your net value shoot up by a few hundred to a few thousand dollars every CNY, directly proportional to the number of kids you have.

"Ang Pao na lai! (hand over that money)"

"Ang Pao na lai! (hand over that money)"

However, if you are one of those nice parents who choose individualism over paternalism, then Chinese New Year will be a time when you gain more than just a few Kg; you also gain a few strands of white hair fretting about what your child will do with his/her sudden wealth. Will she spend it all on sweets that will rot her teeth? Will he spend it all on gaming products that will spoil his eyesight? Will they know how to manage their own money?

This is where a bank account comes in handy. Talk/coerce your child into depositing all his/her money into the bank. And from there, you can teach them healthy spending habits and instil in them a sense of ownership of their own money.

But… There are so many banks offering children accounts out there, which one do I choose?

Well, that depends on your child’s needs. Here is a comparison chart for your reference:

Just looking at the interest rate, CIMB offers the most attractive rate. However, there are only 2 CIMB branches in Singapore, compared to the 100 plus that DBS and POSB jointly have (the two have merged, in case you didn’t know). Complicating the matter further are the add-ons. Is insurance something that will tip the scale? Or do you already have an insurance plan for your child? I suggest you sit down and think about what are the features that you or your child need the most, and then choosing the bank account based on those criteria.

When creating a bank account for your child, it is advisable to bring your child along. Involve him/her in the process of submitting the necessary documents and handing over all his/her money. After all, what is the use of creating a separate account for your child if the owner does not take ownership? You might as well be one of those mean parents who confiscate their child’s ang pao money.

3 ways to save money on iPhone repairs

3 ways to save money on iPhone repairs

You walk onboard the MRT spying an empty seat and rushed to sit down only to hear a heartbreaking craaaaaak. Yep, you just sat on your iPhone, and now your precious is in shambles.

Whether the sat-down-on-my-phone story, or screen shattered after a hard night of partying, or even your two-year-old niece jabbed a toy into your iPhone's charging port and completely destroyed it story, we've all had accidents with our iPhones before. The big question to ask is "now what?"

Do you take it to an Apple Store to have it fixed? Or take your chances and Sim Lim Square? Or head to your neighbourhood repair shop instead? We have 3 ways to help you weigh your options:

1. Know the difference between authorized & unauthorized repair shops

Apple stores and Apple authorized service providers like A.LAB will almost always charge lesser than anywhere else for repairing your damaged iPhone. For example, an iPhone 6s without AppleCare+ coverage will cost around $189 for any screen repair. That same repair will cost you around $100-$150 more at your local repair shop. 

Why does it cost higher at local repair shops? The short answer is — there's a middleman. Local repair shops basically charge extra to cover original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. OEMs are manufacturers who resell another company's product under their own name and branding. They will also add on about $20-30 for labour cost to earn a little profit. 

However, if you don't mind not having original Apple parts, you can pay a whole lot less at local repair shops and have the replacement done in as little as 10 minutes too. Apple and Apple authorized service providers usually require that you schedule a repair appointment. Keep in mind that having non-original Apple parts will affect your resell value when you decide to move on to a newer model. 

2. Ask about warranty

No matter how smooth a repair goes, parts aren't perfect, and sometimes you may find yourself returning to the store over issues such as a screen coming off its frame due to poor gluing on techniques or specks of dirt inside the screen from the repairer not wiping the screen properly.

Always be sure to ask what a store's warranty policy is on their parts and repairs. This will ensure that you don't end up paying more even after the repair job is done. Warranty policies can differ wildly from store to store; from one week all the way up to 30 days against defects and negligence. Stores with longer periods are the obvious choice; ones that have great policies often take pride in their work and the parts (OEM vs. third-party) that they use. 

If you have a history on constantly "abusing" your phone by dropping it or cracking the screen at least twice a month, it may be a good idea to get an AppleCare warranty. This ensures you additional hardware coverage for your iPhone, including up to two incidents of accidental damage from handling.

3. Do your research

Ultimately, it's up to you to do your due diligence. There is really no reason you can't find the best (and cheapest) option available by doing some research and checking out reviews online.

A repair shop is still after all, customer service-based. You can have the best tech guy miraculously revive a rusty iPhone that drowned at Siloso beach, but give the worst customer experience that will get his shop a ton of negative reviews on Facebook. 

So read reviews on shops that you're thinking of visiting. This works especially well for shops located at Sim Lim Square. There are forums dedicated to weeding out the sleazy salesmen out to cheat your money. The last thing you need when getting your device fixed is to be treated like an idiot and pay more than what you should. So, do your research!

4 tips to lower the cost of music lessons

4 tips to lower the cost of music lessons

Ever been envious of people who get a guitar passed to them at parties and they are seemingly able to cover any song, and play that instrument as if it is as easy as breathing? Learning to play a musical instrument is definitely a great hobby to have. But it helps if you are passionate about picking up a particular instrument. Whether guitar, piano, ukulele or saxophone, here are some tips for lowering the cost of music lessons.

1. Buy a used instrument

You can't even begin practising without an instrument, so your best bet is to do some research online and check places like Carousell and Qoo10 to see if anyone is selling old instruments of reasonable quality at a good price. 

When you're just starting out, your playing dexterity may not be as skilled yet so there's usually no point spending thousands of dollars on a branded model. It's better to get a good, used instrument to start off with first and then replace it as your skills improve and you start to require better control over the sound.

2. Learn from YouTube tutorials 

If you're picking up an instrument that is not dependent on being taught by a real live teacher, such as a guitar or ukulele, YouTube can be a free way to learn and practice in the privacy of your room. Some of the famous YouTube cover musicians started out by watching online tutorials and then try to build upon what they have learnt.  

The best part about online tutorials is that you can repeat them over and over again if you're unsure about a particular part. Try doing that with a music teacher and he/she might start strangling you. Here's a list of some guitar tutorials to start off with

3. Do fortnightly lessons instead of weekly ones

If you're mastering an instrument in which progress is largely dependent on being taught by a real live teacher (such as the piano or saxophone), try taking up fortnightly lessons instead of weekly ones.

80% of your progress is going to depend on how hard you practise. Your parents can resurrect Mozart himself to teach you, but if zero practice takes place in between lessons, better music will be played through Spotify instead of your hands. And to be honest, most of us don’t practise enough to warrant weekly lessons and would do better with fortnightly lessons instead.

This gives you an extra week to practise whatever new material is taught in class, and also instantly halves the amount you pay for lessons.

4. Consider hiring student teachers

A full-fledged music teacher with a music degree or performing experience can be quite costly to hire. On the other hand, hiring music students studying for diplomas or degrees in music at NAFA, Lasalle or the NUS Conservatory can not only reduce your cost significantly, but may also result in the same quality. 

They might not be as cheap as your next-door neighbour who’s been learning the violin for four years and now wants to make some extra pocket money, but the quality of their playing will be much higher. Not to mention, you'll also be helping a brother out with his music school fees. 

6 free or cheap places you can study at

6 free or cheap places you can study at

One of the most common fixtures in Singapore's Starbucks and fast food outlets are the phenomenon of students hogging seats for hours on end to study, often nursing only a single drink. Some of them can even be spotted sleeping. 

Did you know you can save up to $766 a year by foregoing your usual Starbucks drink? Instead of hogging the tables at eating places with books and lecture notes strewn everywhere, here are 6 free or cheap places where students can study at.

1. Libraries

Libraries these days are getting pretty swanky with aesthetically pleasing interiors and plush seats. Library@Orchard has stylish reading corners, while the main National Library branch has a dedicated study room and a rooftop garden where students can take a breather in-between cram sessions. 

They also have numerous power points for laptop/phone charging, and some libraries like Ang Mo Kio Public Library and Woodlands Regional Library even have Cafe Galilee outlets inside so you can easily get a cuppa as you study. 

If you can fight the urge to stop and pose for fancy Instagram selfies, these are really conducive spaces to get lost in your lecture notes. 

2. Community Clubs 

No, community clubs (CCs) are not just places for senior citizens to go and learn sewing or do taichi, neither are they just places for you to meet your MPs during Chinese New Year. Most CCs have conducive, well-equipped study rooms. 

In Nee Soon South CC, there's an air-conditioned study room with about 20 seats opened from 9am to 10pm daily. They charge a membership fee of $12 per year. Comparatively, that's the equivalent of 2 trips to Starbucks!

Bishan CC also has a study room with about 15 tables, open from 9am to 10pm daily. During exam periods, it opens 24 hours, with snacks and drinks available for free.

3. Airport

Ranked one of the world's best airports, and in the eyes of local students, also ranked the most popular study haunts in Singapore. It's open 24/7, has free Wi-Fi, and not to mention free air-conditioning too. There are also multiple eateries for you to find comfort food when you're feeling peckish from exam stress. 

There are many peaceful common areas, like the aviation gallery at Terminal 3, where you can find students sprawled on the carpets concentrating on their Ten Year Series.

Just remember to never to leave your belongings unattended because with the high security in the area, people might notify the police if they feel your belongings are suspicious. Wouldn't want to lose that laptop three days before an exam, would you?

4. Universities

Studying here would make total sense, because these buildings are literally meant for education. Most people do not know this, but some parts of university grounds are open to public access.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has numerous study spots. One of the more popular spots is the area in front of the Basement 1 Starbucks. It's technically the Education Resource Centre and not owned by Starbucks, so you don't really have to buy a drink to sit at the tables.

Another favourite (possibly since it's situated in the heart of town) is Singapore Management University (SMU). At the ground level and basement level, there are empty chairs and tables all around the public access areas with power plugs and Wi-Fi. So grab a table, blend in, and study away. 

5. Pay-per-use study areas

Pay-per-use study areas such as Desk Next Door and The Study Area have sprung up recently, with entrepreneurs tapping on the increasing competition among students vying for good study spaces. For a flat fee, students can book a desk space to study for hours at a stretch, and have access to Wi-Fi and power points, and even beverages and snacks.

Most of the services charge an average of $1 an hour, with cheaper rates if you book a seat for longer stretches of time. This can spur students on to study more, since the longer you sit there the less you pay. 

6. Hospitals

So I learnt this recently for myself while visiting a sick relative at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun. There were students all around the ground level hanging out and studying at the available tables. I guess they enjoyed the quietness and sense of calm and serenity. If you're not germophobic about catching a virus, the area can be quite conducive and beautiful with the sprawling view of Yishun Pond stretching into the distance. 

Hospitals are also open round the clock. While there's no convenient access to power plugs, there’s usually free Wi-Fi courtesy of Wireless@SG.

4 fun things to do when your friends come visit this Chinese New Year

4 fun things to do when your friends come visit this Chinese New Year

There's nothing greater than heading over to your buddy's house to "bai nian", spend some quality time with friends, and receive an ang bao on top of having fun.

Most Singaporeans will go to a karaoke lounge or darts bar to amuse themselves, but how about turning your home into a space to do those exact same things so you don't have to spend your ang bao money that soon.

Here are 4 fun (and free!) things to do with friends this Chinese New Year:

Sing KTV

Have you ever asked yourself, in the middle of a karaoke session with drunken friends, why you were actually paying $30 to listen to the world’s worst singer for 2 hours? Now, your life would have been so much better if your friends had been singing back at your place. Not only would you not have had to pay to listen to awful singing, your neighbours would also have promptly put a stop to the tone-deaf warbler.

Easily recreate the KTV experience at home. And no, you don’t even have to spend a few hundred bucks on one of those overpriced karaoke machines loaded with Jay Chou songs.

First, get two wireless microphones, which can be bought on Qoo10 for less than $20. Then, find the karaoke version of virtually every song that exists in an actual karaoke lounge on YouTube (The karaoke version is the video whereby the singer’s voice has been cut out and lyrics flash across the screen).

Coupled with an internet connection and a laptop, you have your very own personal karaoke system! (angry neighbour not included) 

Throw Darts

I personally think dart bars are one of the dodgiest places with the garish neon lights and rows of blinking dart machines. But they are actually one of the popular past times of Singaporeans who consider the game a challenge. Of course, most others would see it as just another way to keep you occupied when there’s an awkward lull in the conversation.

Why pay when you can buy your own dart board for less than $40? Get a basic set on Qoo10, or if you’re a more serious player you might want to invest in a better board from a merchant like this one. Buy a few bottles of beer from the supermarket, and you and your buddies are all set for the night.

Watch Movies

The average Singaporean visits the cinema 4.2 times a year, which is remarkably high by global standards. Most don't realise that all this sinking into cool, springy seats in the air-conditioned darkness of a cinema adds up to a lot of money spent. 

Watching a movie on Chinese New Year for example, can cost on average $12. Even higher if it's a blockbuster that's newly released that week. 

If you're not in a rush to catch the latest movie once it's out, get a VGA cable on Qoo10 for less than $15 to connect your laptop to a bigger screen like a tv or another computer screen. If you or your friends have a Netflix account, you can stream the latest movies for free. Even if none of you have an account, you can sign up free for a month, but don't forget to cancel the account before it starts charging. 

Buy some chips or microwavable popcorn from the supermarket, and enjoy the show.

Play Mahjong

The quintessential sound of Chinese New Year is either "gong xi gong xi gong xi niiiii~" blaring through the shopping malls' speakers, or the shuffling sound of mahjong tiles.

In mahjong, there is some skill and memory work involved. (It has been scientifically proven that mahjong prevents dementia) And for some reason, the Chinese like to put their hard-earned money in the hands of fate when playing mahjong, to try and reap more than what they have put in. 

Because we live in an amazing world, if you don't have mahjong tiles or table, you can now rent one for $20 from here. Mahjong tiles can also be bought for as low as $2 at Cash Converters. But based on personal experience, I have knocked on neighbours' doors to ask to borrow a mahjong table before and been successful. Nothing beats the spirit of community during the Lunar New Year. 

3 ways to save more money this Chinese New Year

3 ways to save more money this Chinese New Year

If you haven't already noticed the "Gong xi, gong xi, gong xi niiiiiii~" blaring from every shopping mall sound system, Chinese New Year is upon us this week. There will be the moments that you secretly hate doing, such as visiting relatives you suspect also secretly hate having everyone over at their houses. There will also be moments that you look forward to, such as stuffing your face with all-you-can-eat bak kwa and counting all the ang bao cash you're going to be receiving.

However much you might wish it wasn't necessary, this is also the best time to be putting aside most of the ang bao money as savings. In fact, in order to make cultivating the habit of saving and investing relatively painless, here are 3 ways you can save your money this festive season: 

1. Keep your cash in a savings account that cannot be accessed easily

One of the common mistakes that many Singaporeans make is to store their long-term or "rainy days" cash savings in the same bank account that they withdraw daily cash from. if you do that, you’ll be relying 100% on sheer willpower and discipline to prevent yourself from spending that extra cash.

It's a lot more effective to stash your extra savings (such as all that sweet red packet dollars) in a separate account. Even more effective if it's an account that you do not have an ATM card for. With an ATM practically located in every MRT station, this will prevent you from withdrawing cash easily.

2. Track your finances regularly

Remember just three weeks ago how it felt like to start a brand new year? You swore that 2017 was going to be different. You'd finally get your act together and study harder, score better and spend lesser. Everything was under control. 

Fast forward three weeks later, after spending four nights in a row playing Call of Duty instead of keeping up with your school work. Before long, that feeling will start to seep in of "aiyah, I'll study harder when exams are nearer", and that's when everything will start to spiral out of control. 

It’s just as easy to lose control when it comes to your finances. Just like how it’s practically impossible to score well if you only cram the night before, it's hard to come up with a savings plan if you have no idea how much you spend each week or month. By monitoring how much and often you spend, the more you know about how much you save each month, and the better control you will have over your money. 

Download an expense tracking app like Wally that will help you track your expenses. A good tip is to break your expenses down into various categories like food, shopping, movies, etc to help you have a better overview of where your money is going each month. Once you pinpoint the areas that you spend the most in, you’ll be able to see where you can start cutting back on.

3. Know your annual savings goals 

Stop doing what is easy. Start doing what is right.
— Roy T. Bennett

This applies in all aspects of life, including for saving money. In order to motivate yourself to save more, you should know exactly why you’re doing so. Maybe you’re saving up for your very first branded bag to carry to your first job, or to treat your parents to a cruise trip for their 25th wedding anniversary. Or maybe you just hate the feeling of constantly seeing only two-digits in your account balance and want to attain some financial edge so that you can buy whatever you want, whenever you want. 

If these goals aren’t enough to motivate you, try to define them even more specifically. Come up with an exact figure you wish to save up by the end of this year. If your goal is that branded bag, calculate how much you need to set aside every month and start achieving that goal for yourself. The more specific your goals are, the more you can understand exactly how much that ang bao from your favourite auntie is going to contribute to your success.

12 tips to save money if you're intending to study overseas

12 tips to save money if you're intending to study overseas

There's nothing more exhilarating and nerve-wrecking than going abroad to study (other than a roller-coaster ride, maybe). Suddenly, for the first time ever, you're thrust into a foreign country with your parents miles away, and left to fend for your own. 

Even if you have your school fees covered by a scholarship, or managed to get a work-study visa that allows you to take on a part-time job to earn a bit of money over there, the cost of living in countries like Australia or Ireland does not come cheap.

So how do students studying in overseas universities save money? Here are 12 top tips that may help you save a bit of dough: 

1. Cut out vices

Yes yes, we get that you're finally tasting freedom. But all that smoking and binge drinking is not only damaging to you in the long run, but terrible for your bank account too. Set limits to how much alcohol to consume in a week, and stick to it. And bum a cig if you have to, etiquette be damned. 

2. Buy or rent used textbooks 

Don’t buy books you will only need for a short period of time – check them out from the library instead, or buy them from seniors that have no need for them anymore. If you really must make those big ticket purchases, sell last semester’s books back. 

3. If you have a credit card, pay it off asap

Always pay bills on time to avoid late fees. Be late even once, and some credit cards' interest rates can go as high as 24% or higher! Take note of your credit card billing cycle so you'll know whether you need to pay at the end of the month, or at the start of the month, and can set aside money for paying off your charges. 

It's also good to remember exactly when the last bill payment day is. If that day falls on a public holiday (or any non-banking day), you'll know that the payment needs to be in on the working day before that. 

4. Give yourself a weekly limit on the number of times you eat out

A recent poll among Americans revealed that eating out is the number one cause of personal debt! That doesn't mean it's cup noodles for dinner the entire semester, but If you eat out, take steps to stretch your meals as long as possible to save money. Split the meals, keep the “liao” and cook rice yourself. For example, if you buy chicken parma and it’s a big piece, split it into two and “dabao”. You can also invest in a heated lunchbox to store these cooked leftovers.  

5. Shop at places that offer student discounts.

There are so many places that offer discounts to students with a school ID. Websites like myunidays.com offer 10-30% discount off shopping, food and even music. If you'e intending to do some sightseeing (you're in a new country, you totally should!), make use of your student ID to get tickets for shows, transportation and tours on the cheap too. 

6. Make your own coffee/tea

If you are one of those people that need a caffeine fix every morning, invest in a good flask and make your own coffee or tea. While coffee shops like Starbucks or one of those hipster cafes are convenient and cool, they charge hefty prices that can really add up over time. If all else fails, you can use this calculator to calculate how much those cups of coffee are costing you. You may just scare yourself into saving some money.

7. Shop at farmers' markets instead of the supermarket

Buying fresh produce from the supermarket? It's a HUGE rip off. Getting your produce from the farmers' markets can save you up to 40% off your budget for meals. Chances are you’ll meet plenty of bona fide producers at your local market too, and they can offer tips on how best to prepare and your fresh produce for yummy meals. 

8. If you have to shop at the supermarket, up your kiasu level!

Most supermarkets usually give discounts for their items after 6pm. This mainly happens for food items. As the night progresses, the discount increases - for example from 20% at 6pm to as much as 50% at 10pm. Depending on your ability to snatch that heavily discounted sushi before other like-minded foreign students do, you can save a lot of money this way. And of course, the golden rule: Never go shopping when you’re hungry.

9. Exercise at the campus gym or outdoors

Instead of signing up for a gym membership (which can be costly and also cause you to spend money on a monthly basis if you get on an instalment plan), work out at the campus gym instead. Many colleges offer memberships for free or at a reduced rate for students. Better yet, you get to work out with your buddies and get that added peer motivation to sweat harder.

10. If you're driving, save on petrol as much as possible

Considering how ridiculously expensive owning a car is in Singapore, one of the luxuries of studying overseas is renting a car and driving for cheap. Learn to monitor price fluctuations of the petrol kiosks around your campus or apartment. They usually occur in a weekly pattern, so note the pattern and keep pumping when the price is low. You can also look at supermarket receipts for extra points/coupons for petrol.

11. Sell what you don't use or need

There are plenty of secondhand stores and websites, like Craigslist, where you can sell your used clothing, furniture or tech stuff. You can even organise a dorm flea market or swap meet, where residents of the same residence can sell or barter their used goods. 

12. Most importantly... GO TO CLASS

You’re paying for it and skipping is like throwing money out the window!

Personal finance hacks all students starting university should know

Personal finance hacks all students starting university should know

Many Singaporean students graduate and embark into the working world or further university studies without knowing even the basics of money management. How do you create a monthly budget? How can interest help you get more savings? What do you do in an event of emergency? If your JC/Poly didn't have a Budgeting 101 module, and your response to those questions was something like this:

Let this article be a crash course into simple personal finance basics. 

Start tracking your spending

Remember when as kids, we finally upgraded from getting pocket money from our parents to getting our very own bank account to put our ang bao money into. There was that feeling of "There's money in my bank account, I can now buy many many things!". This feeling is going to be intensified a hundred fold when you finally start working, and money magically appears every month when your salary is automatically deposited into your account.

This can result in many people spending blindly. If you do not track your spending, there's a danger of never knowing where your money went and finding yourself unable to pay bills at the end of the month. Tracking your spending allows you to understand exactly where your money has gone. Most importantly, it can help you identify places where most of your money is going into so you can start adjusting your lifestyle. For example, you might be eating out a lot at expensive places on weekends when you can choose alternative places to chill at that cost a lot less

Expenses tracking apps like Wally (it's free!) are especially useful to help you start out and develop a habit of watching where your money goes.

Create a simple budget to stick to

Tracking your spending and having a budget are two halves of the same piece. Once you know where your money is going, a budget can help you figure out where you want it to go. Basically, spending money without a budget is like going to a new country without a map – sure, you’ll probably be able to get around eventually, but it will be more effective and a lot less stressful if you have a map to guide you.

The best way to start is to determine how much you are spending on a monthly basis and divide these expenses into categories. If you have been tracking your expenses, you should probably have a clearer picture of this. Enter this information into an Excel sheet or an online budgeting app like Mint - which basically crunches the numbers so you don't have to do it yourself to let you know if you are overspending or underspending. Based on this knowledge, you can make then adjustments to your lifestyle in order to live within your means. If you find yourself overspending, drink a little less Starbucks, eat at home more often, whatever it takes to keep your finances in check and stick to the budget you've created.

Let your money work for you

When you save money in a bank account, it earns interest. And that interest earns more interest too. All it takes is time. That’s why it’s a good idea to start saving money as soon as you can, even if it’s only $5 or $10 a week.

If you put $100 in a savings account that accrues an annual 5% return rate, and you add $5 every month; after 50 years, you’ll have over $14,000! Here's a list of the best savings accounts currently available. Pick one, and start saving as soon as you can.

Be prepared for an emergency

Not to say that your parents won't be able to help you out if ever you find yourself in need of financial aid. But having an emergency fund is the best way to reassure yourself that you'll be OK if you're ever in a jam.

Start with a simple $10 every week. It will accumulate over time, so if your cat rips a hole in the cat food, gorged itself on 3kg worth of kitty kibble and needs to go to the vet, you can pay for it without stressing over having to find the extra funds needed. 

Nobody needs a credit card

Research has shown that our brain actually registers pain when we pay using cash, then if we pay by swiping the debit/credit card. Seeing money leave your hands can actually help curb unnecessary spending. This isn’t to say that credit cards are bad. As long as there's a regular income coming in to allow for paying credit card bills on time, a credit card can be a great help in times of emergencies, or in accumulating benefits like airline miles and cash back.

If you do choose to use credit, the important thing is to never put more on a credit card than what you can pay off that month. 

 

5 reasons why you overspend when shopping

5 reasons why you overspend when shopping

Ask any Singaporean what their favourite pastime is and you'll likely get 'Shopping' as an answer. Shopping malls provide free air conditioning in the frequent Singapore heat, and most online shopping websites offer free shipping so you can even get your shopping done from the comfort of your couch. 

But do you know that most retailers have cultivated a myriad of psychological tactics to get you to part with your hard-earned cash without you even realising? We are going to shed light on 3 ways we get manipulated into buying stuff we don't need. Remember them the next time you set foot in a shopping mall, or click to add that additional item to your shopping cart.

Buying something because it's on sale.

One of the best ways you get someone to spend money on a product is to proclaim that it's on sale! If you have ever been to one of those IT fairs at Suntec Convention Centre or, worse, an H&M sale, you would understand that feeling of fighting the crowd and queuing for ages. If you end up not buying anything, it can feel like you're losing money if you don't make a purchase from the discounted goods. Those Beats by Dr. Dre earphones which used to cost $299 is now selling for $189! That means you save $110 by buying it, and if you don't buy it, you are LOSING $110! Right? Right? 

Worse still, it can feel like you've wasted your entire day. So you end up desperately searching for something (anything!) to buy so as to take full advantage of the sale. But the ones who are really benefitting are the retailers. They do this by tapping into the 'kiasu' mentality of most Singaporeans who are afraid of losing out on something worthwhile. 

Buying something just because you have a voucher

It's quite common to receive vouchers as gifts during birthdays and Christmas. Personally, I find vouchers a much better gift to receive than another lame novelty mug. Unfortunately, vouchers force us to spend more on stuff we do not really need. Simply because we do not want the vouchers to go to waste.

Most retailers will use the marketing tactic of offering a small voucher that can only be redeemed after a minimum spend is made, or offer a discount off a place where the products are generally expensive. 

Falling for pricing tricks

You may think that all the purchase you make are a conscious decision on your part. Sure, you busted your allowance for the month, but it was you, and entirely you, who decided that pair of shoes was totally worth it! 

Well, think again, it is the retailers who employ numerous pricing tricks to fool you into believing you have made an objective buying decision when in fact they have employed years of marketing research into leading you to that final decision. From pricing something at $19 instead of $20, to employing buy-2-get-1-free offers, to even giving you a loyalty card offering free perks on your birthday month. All these are tactics designed to push you closer to tipping over the edge. 

Paying more for something you can touch

What is the first thing you notice when you enter an Apple store? Their products, from phones to laptops, are placed out in the open for you to touch and to try out. 

Caltech researchers conducted a study to compare what customers would pay for the same item when it was presented as a word description, a photograph, and in real life. Test subjects said they would pay about the same price for the first two, but were willing to pay 50% more money when the item was placed in front of them and they were able to touch it! This means you should be aware that you will be prone to overspending when you can touch, smell, and see an item up close. It's just the way your brain works!

Keeping you inside as long as possible

If you've ever been to IKEA, you would have experienced the maze-like layout of the store. Time seems to slow down, and you emerge hours later with stuff you didn't even come in for. You only came for the meatballs! What happened? 

This is a classic retail maneuver that keeps shoppers in a store for as long as possible so as to tap into the impulse buying mentality. The longer you walk past other items, to higher the chances you will toss some into your shopping basket.

To prevent this from happening, it helps to write down a list of items you came to shop for and stick to the list once you enter the store. Cutting past all the other distractions to head straight for the aisle that contains what you are looking for.  

Hopefully, by understanding a little bit more about retailer tactics, it may help to keep your shopping experience (and wallets) more intact. 

Financial Literacy

Financial Literacy

The title of this article contains two big words rarely seen in the lives of primary, secondary or even junior college and even some tertiary students. This is extremely surprising given the importance and impact of financial literacy on an individual’s life. Financial literacy is the ability to make informed money management decision.

The Importance of Financial Literacy

People with low financial literacy suffer from the lack of knowledge in almost every stage in their lives. They tend to borrow more, accumulate less wealth and pay more for financial products.

People with low financial literacy suffer from the lack of knowledge in almost every stage in their lives. They tend to borrow more, accumulate less wealth and pay more for financial products. They experience difficulty with debt as they are unsure of the terms of their mortgages and loans and are less likely to invest. The cost of this financial ignorance is high, from making late charges to their credit card fees to overspending their credit limit. Whereas, those with higher levels of financial literacy start planning for their retirement early on by saving and investing, accumulating wealth for their later years.

While this may look like an individual problem, in a broader perspective, financial literacy is also important for a country as a whole. In addition, the lack of financial literacy is not only the problem of the developing world- consumers in developed countries also fall short of grasping basic financial principals to navigate the financial landscape. All one needs to do is to look at the 2008 financial crisis saga to see the impact of how the lack of understanding can affect not only the country’s economy but also the world’s economy.

The impact of 2008 financial crisis

The 2007-2008 financial crisis has been cited by economists as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s. It threatened the collapse of large financial institutions, which was prevented from the bailouts of banks of national governments. Nonetheless, stock prices worldwide dropped drastically and many around the world were left unemployed and their savings, gone. Even though it initially began in the United States, the vast amount of interconnectivity between countries affected almost every other country in the world.

Singapore’s Context

Most students do not have much exposure to financial knowledge until they hit tertiary education -not a good sign as this means that only around 50% of all Singaporeans are financially literate, a shocking statistic for a country that has established themselves as a financial hub

Much has been said about the importance and impact of financial literacy. However, gaining the knowledge and developing the skills to become financially literate is a lifelong process that best begins at an early age and sadly, financial literacy is not emphasised in Singapore’s education system (as well as many other countries). Most students do not have much exposure to financial knowledge until they hit tertiary education -not a good sign as this means that only around 50% of all Singaporeans are financially literate, a shocking statistic for a country that has established themselves as a financial hub. In fact, in the 2015 MasterCard’s Financial Literacy Index, Singapore has fallen to sixth place for financial literacy, recording the largest decline out of 16 Asia Pacific markets.

Luckily, not all hope is lost. The Singapore government has been aware of this problem and have since had a campaign, MoneySENSE to better equip Singaporeans with financial knowledge and skills through 3 tiers of initiatives-  basic money management, financial planning and investment know-how.

1.     For Schools

MoneySENSE to help schools to educate their students financially with a fund. This fund will help to defray some costs in providing vendor-run financial literacy programs for their students, if these programs have met MoneySENSE’s criteria. For more information, you can visit this webpage.

2.     For Adults

If you are an adult, you can also attend MoneySENSE talks, that collaborates with Singapore Polytechnic Institute for Financial Literacy. The talks build on the 3 tiers of financial literacy MoneySENSE hopes to bring about to Singaporeans. The Institute offers free workshops and talks that will allow you to make better informed financial decisions for you and your loved ones. You can check out this website for more information.