Sunday, July 23, 2017

Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Noosa - Day 6 onwards

Day 6 continues from Day 5 where we reach the farm stay place. To read the previous post, click here

Day 6

We woke up early on day 6 for a farm feeding experience. All the animals are feed daily and we could join in this activity. 

They had many chickens on the farm too and we could even get fresh eggs from the chicken there. This is the first time I had the chance to pick fresh eggs laid by the chickens.

After feeding the animals and having breakfast, we proceeded to Eumundi markets which is a famous market near to Noosa. The markets had many interesting stuffs which are the locals produce. After walking the markets for a few hours, we proceeded to Noosa heads beach which is quite a nice place to go to. 

Here, we had our lunch at Betty's burger and it was one of the best burgers I've ever eaten. After lunch, we went to buy some groceries again and went back to the farm cottage for another round of BBQ dinner! 

Day 7

Time pass quickly and its time to go back to Gold coast for the last night there. It was a long drive back, probably about 3 hours. On the way back, we stop by Beefy's meat pies to grab some pies for lunch. They are known as Australia's best meat pies and its really quite good. Its a good rest point also for the long drive. 

Driving back to Gold coast, we went to pacific fair shopping centre for just a short while before checking into our airbnb apartment at Palm beach, Gold Coast. It was near to the airport, just 10 minutes drive, perfect for the night before going to the airport for our flight back to Singapore. 

Palm Beach

This apartment is just about 5-10 minutes walking distance to the beach and had 2 bedrooms plus a living room and also a kitchen. Its a cosy apartment hosted by a great friendly host. You can check out their apartment on airbnb here

Bedroom at the airbnb apartment
Day 8

Day 8 is our flight back to Singapore. The flight is early in the morning and we had to reach the airport by 7am. 

This concludes my 8 days Australia trip in Gold Coast. It was a wonderful experience and a relaxing holiday. 

You can read the rest of my post in this Australia trip series below:

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Unlimited 1.5% Cashback card is back again! And How to get Air Miles to Travel For Free?

Standard Chartered Unlimited cashback card is back!

A few months back when I launched the new Standard Chartered unlimited cashback card on my blog, it received overwhelming response with more than a hundred sign ups on this blog alone. As I found the card useful and attractive too, I signed up for one myself and received Takashimaya vouchers.

Today, I'm going to bring this card, in partnership with Singsaver, back to this blog again for readers who have missed it. This time, the deal will be $150 Takashimaya vouchers for new customers. For those who are not familiar, the Standard Chartered unlimited card gives unlimited 1.5% cashback on all spending. There is no cap and no minimum spend required. This is very different from the other credit cards in the market which only gives you points or cashback for certain types of spending. There is often a minimum spend too to be eligible for the cashback. This is not the case for this new unlimited cashback card. This card can also be used for public transport with automatic EZ-reload top up function.

Apply for the card through the below link to get your $150 Takashimaya vouchers (Valid till 31st July 2017):

For those who love to travel - How does Air Miles Work?

Do you love to travel? I believe most of us here travel at least once a year just to explore the world or take a break out of our small island in Singapore. The best way to travel and save money at the same time is through redeeming air miles for our air tickets. Let me explain further on how this works.

Many of us have heard of the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer program which enable travellers to earn miles and exchange it for free air tickets or vouchers. Did you know, you can actually earn KrisFlyer miles on any spend locally or overseas which means you can actually accumulate enough miles for some good discounts or even free air tickets for your travel.

American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer

The American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card lets you earn 1.1 KrisFlyer miles for every $1 spend locally. What's more, receive 5000 bonus KrisFlyer miles once you charge your first transaction to your card. You can use your KrisFlyer miles to pay for all or a part of your airfare on Singapore Airlines or SilkAir on, or redeem vouchers for travel on Scoot or Tigerair.

Redemption of miles for free tickets starts from 7500. A look at the Singapore airlines website shows that an air ticket to Thailand is around 12,500 miles. You can redeem a ticket to Japan or South Korea for 25,000 miles and Australia for 20,000 miles.

In additional, you will receive $80 NTUC vouchers when you apply through the below link (Valid till 31st July 2017):

American Express Krisflyer Ascend Card - Get complimentary access to airport lounges and hotel stays

Another similar card which allows you to earn KrisFlyer miles is the American Express Krisflyer Ascend Card. This card has the same benefits as the previous card with additional 4 complimentary access per year to any participating SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore and Plaza Premium Lounge around the world. You also get one complimentary night per year with Millennium Hotels and Resorts worldwide. This card earns 1.2 KrisFlyer miles for every S$1 spent on all your eligible purchases with your Card.

You also get 5000 bonus KrisFlyer miles on your first transaction and additional $80 NTUC FairPrice vouchers when you apply through the link below (Valid till 31st July 2017):

Citi PremierMiles Card

The last miles card I'll introduce is the Citi Premier Miles card. For this card, you can earn miles and redeem on a wide variety of flights including KrisFlyer, Asia Miles, Royal Orchid Plus, Executive Club, Enrich, Infinity MileageLands, Garuda Frequent Flyer, Etihad Guest, Qantas, Qatar and Flying Blue. For every $1 spent, you will get 1.2 Citi miles. A check on the website shows it requires about 20,000 Citi miles to redeem a flight to Thailand, 25,000 miles to Hong Kong or Taiwan and 30,000 to Japan.

For this card, you will get a bonus 15,000 Miles on your first transaction and additional $100 Agoda eVouchers when you apply through the link below (Valid till 31st July 2017):

Whether its the 1.5% unlimited cashback or the KrisFlyer or Citi Premier miles card, all of these represents savings on some of our most common expenses. All offer ends on 31st July 2017.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

How To Have $1 Million Dollars For Retirement

$1 Million is a special milestone for retirement, advocated by many financial practitioners too. Why is $1 Million important for retirement? To lay out the context, $1 Million actually isn't really a lot of money for retirement. Assuming you have $1 Million dollars at the age of 55 and retire and live till 85 years old, you can spend about $33,333 every year from age 55 onward. This is about $2777 per month for expenses which really is just enough factoring inflation in the future.

$1 Million on the other hand is a good base for creating a steady stream of income for retirement. If we can generate 4% annual interest/dividend on the $1 Million, it is $40,000 which translates to $3333 per month. This is quite a good income for retirement.

In this post, I'll provide some realistic scenarios on what a typical average income earner's savings will turn out in his/her lifetime. This will allow us to see how $1 Million can be achieved realistically in our life.

Pure Savings without investment  

If a person just saves money but does not invest, this is how much savings he or she will achieve assuming a savings of about $18,000 to $20,000 annually:

I have added in a $60,000 expense at the age of 30 assuming the expenses is for marriage, house etc, the first milestone of a typical person's life.

AgeSavingsAdditional Savings
26$30,000 $20,000
27$50,000 $20,000
28$70,000 $20,000
29$90,000 $20,000
30$110,000 $20,000
31$50,000 $18,000
32$68,000 $18,000
33$86,000 $18,000
34$104,000 $18,000
35$122,000 $18,000
36$140,000 $18,000
37$158,000 $18,000
38$176,000 $18,000
39$194,000 $18,000
40$212,000 $18,000
41$230,000 $18,000
42$248,000 $18,000
43$266,000 $18,000
44$284,000 $18,000
45$302,000 $18,000
46$320,000 $18,000
47$338,000 $18,000
48$356,000 $18,000
49$374,000 $18,000
50$392,000 $18,000
51$410,000 $18,000
52$428,000 $18,000
53$446,000 $18,000
54$464,000 $18,000
55$482,000 $18,000
56$500,000 $18,000
57$518,000 $18,000
58$536,000 $18,000
59$554,000 $18,000
60$572,000 $18,000

As we can see, just savings alone will not get us anywhere near $1 Million at all even at the age of 60. Now, let's add in investment to see how it will turn out.

Savings with 8% investment

Using the same scenario and adding 8% investment return, this is how much savings we will have:

AgeSavingsAdditional SavingsInvestment return
26$30,800 $20,000 8%
27$53,264 $20,000 8%
28$77,525 $20,000 8%
29$103,727 $20,000 8%
30$132,025 $20,000 8%
31$72,025 $18,000 8%
32$95,787 $18,000 8%
33$121,450 $18,000 8%
34$149,166 $18,000 8%
35$179,100 $18,000 8%
36$211,428 $18,000 8%
37$246,342 $18,000 8%
38$284,049 $18,000 8%
39$324,773 $18,000 8%
40$368,755 $18,000 8%
41$416,255 $18,000 8%
42$467,556 $18,000 8%
43$522,960 $18,000 8%
44$582,797 $18,000 8%
45$647,421 $18,000 8%
46$717,214 $18,000 8%
47$792,592 $18,000 8%
48$873,999 $18,000 8%
49$961,919 $18,000 8%
50$1,056,872 $18,000 8%
51$1,159,422 $18,000 8%
52$1,270,176 $18,000 8%
53$1,389,790 $18,000 8%
54$1,518,973 $18,000 8%
55$1,658,491 $18,000 8%
56$1,809,170 $18,000 8%
57$1,971,904 $18,000 8%
58$2,147,656 $18,000 8%
59$2,337,469 $18,000 8%
60$2,542,466 $18,000 8%

With 8% investment return, this person can achieve $1 Million at the age of 50 with the same savings rate of $18,000 annually. Saving $18,000 a year from the age of 30 shouldn't be too difficult for many of us. Assuming a person earns $4000, he can spend $2500 a month and just save $1500 a month to reach the target.

If you think 8% investment return is too high to achieve, let's bring it down to 5% investment return

Savings with 5% investment

Using the same scenario and changing it to 5% investment return, this is how much savings we will have:

AgeSavingsAdditional SavingsInvestment return
26$30,500 $20,000 5%
27$52,025 $20,000 5%
28$74,626 $20,000 5%
29$98,358 $20,000 5%
30$123,275 $20,000 5%
31$63,275 $18,000 5%
32$84,439 $18,000 5%
33$106,661 $18,000 5%
34$129,994 $18,000 5%
35$154,494 $18,000 5%
36$180,219 $18,000 5%
37$207,230 $18,000 5%
38$235,591 $18,000 5%
39$265,371 $18,000 5%
40$296,639 $18,000 5%
41$329,471 $18,000 5%
42$363,945 $18,000 5%
43$400,142 $18,000 5%
44$438,149 $18,000 5%
45$478,056 $18,000 5%
46$519,959 $18,000 5%
47$563,957 $18,000 5%
48$610,155 $18,000 5%
49$658,663 $18,000 5%
50$709,596 $18,000 5%
51$763,076 $18,000 5%
52$819,230 $18,000 5%
53$878,191 $18,000 5%
54$940,101 $18,000 5%
55$1,005,106 $18,000 5%
56$1,073,361 $18,000 5%
57$1,145,029 $18,000 5%
58$1,220,280 $18,000 5%
59$1,299,294 $18,000 5%
60$1,382,259 $18,000 5%

With 5% investment return, $1 Million can be achieved at the age of 55. Still not too bad.

As we can see, achieving $1 Million is not too difficult in our lifetime with an achievable savings rate. However, the scenarios above assume that our savings is always 100% invested which is rarely the case since we will always have some cash on hand. There should be some buffer when using the above scenarios as a guideline.

Key to a financial free life - ESI

The key to having a financially free life is in our earnings, savings and investing (ESI). If we do not earn enough, we can always try to increase our income. If we spend too much, we can try to reduce expenses to have more savings. The last part is on investing and learning how to invest wisely.

For my life, I've focused on increasing my income for the past 2 years. Increasing income is much harder than reducing expenses as there are a lot of things not in my control. Increasing income is all about creating value in our workplace as well as out of our workplace. Skills learnt will always be valuable which people will be willing to pay us for.

This is how my income has evolved over the years:

As you can see, my income has essentially doubled on some months as compared to the past. Over the years, I've managed to create other streams of income through writing, consulting and investing. These income did not happen in an instant. It took a few years to build it up. I've also changed job for better career progression. There are a lot of things that needs to be balanced to make sure time is allocated efficiently. I've also had to, on some instances, reject additional earnings opportunities because I feel it would be too much for me to handle. 

What are your plans for retirement? Do you think $1 Million is an achievable target?

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Investors Exchange 2017 by BIGScribe

*[Event is fully sold out]

There are many conferences which cost hundreds and thousands of dollars which I wouldn't recommend to go for. In view of this, a group of bloggers came together to set up BIGScribe to offer low cost and affordable financial education sessions for retail investors.

You might have already heard of the investor exchange 2017 which is a mega event by BIGscribe. This is a half-day Investor Exchange seminar where you will learn from 7 speakers handpicked by the BIGScribe team to share what works in the market today.

Some highlights of the events are:

  • Investors Exchange will feature 7 speakers
  • Topics covered includes stock investing, trading, property investing, scuttlebutting etc
  • There will be a tea break with light snacks for participants to mingle
  • There will NOT be any pitching, only sharing of information
Here are the topics and line up of the speakers:

1. Strategies for Successful Equities Investing 
By Teh Hooi Ling, Inclusif Value Fund

2. Identify Market Trends the George Soros way
By Xeo Lye, Xeolyenomics

3. 7 Deadly Sins of Singapore Property Buyers
By Vina Ip,

4. Master your Mind, Master the Market
By Joel Sim,

5. 50 Shades of Dividends Investing
By Christopher Ng,

6. How to use the 3 musketeers of REITs to find strong REITs
By Kenny Loh,

7. The Art of Scuttlebutt
By Elvin Hayden Liang,

Many of the speakers are friends in our small financial blogging community. You may know some of the speakers yourself or have attended a BIGScribe event before. 

Here are the details of the seminar:

Date: 29th July 2017 (Saturday)
Time: 1 pm to 5 pm
Location: DBS Auditorium, Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3, Level 3


$65 $49 (Early bird price)

The early bird price ends on 8th July 2017. There will be a tea break session during the event where light snacks will be provided. Its a good opportunity to mingle around with the speakers as well as fellow investors. 

For more info, visit the website here to find out more info. You can get your tickets directly from the website too. 

This is not a sponsored post  

Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and Noosa - Day 4 & 5

Day 4

Day 4 was the start of the road trip out of Gold Coast. We proceeded to Mount Tamborine, which is about an hour drive from Gold Coast. This is a small mountain and it was relatively easy to drive up.

I woke up early in the morning to take some pictures of the sunrise since this was the last day of our stay at Narrowneck court apartments. Wow, the sunrise was beautiful. As you can see, the apartment is just beside the ocean. Would definitely recommend this place to stay for anyone planning to travel to Gold Coast.

Off we go to Mount Tamborine early in the morning at 8:30am. We went to pump some petrol first as I heard petrol is relatively cheaper in the city. For the first 3 days, we only use $20 of petrol. Driving in Australia is really not expensive at all.

At Mount Tamborine, there are a few places we went. First, it was the gallery walk where there are many local shops which sells quite interesting stuffs such as glass sculptures, olden clocks and also wineries plus some cafes. It was quite quiet when we were there probably as it was not a holiday that day.

Next, we went to Jasmine organics. This is a place where they grow and make their own organic products such as facial cleansers, moisturisers and other skin care products. It was quite a nice place as you can see below:
Jasmine Organics

After that, we proceeded to drive to Curtis falls which is a famous waterfall there. It was a 15 minutes walk down to the waterfall area from the car park. The waterfall isn't very big so if you've seen much better waterfalls, then this isn't really that spectacular.
Curtis Falls
On the way out of Curtis Falls, there is a look-out place nearby called the Rotary lookout. This place is worth a stop by to take some pictures

Rotary lookout

Next we went to some wineries namely witches fall winery and also the famous tamborine mountain distillery. Do take note they do charge each person for wine tasting. The taste of the wines there are quite special especially the tamborine mountain distillery where we got to try some special ones like roasted coffee, peach and some vodka too.

For lunch, there's a nearby place called the local Codfather which was recommended on TripAdvisor. The cod fish there is really good with generous portion. Do check it out if you're there.

From Mount Tamborine, we drove straight to Brisbane which is another hour away. The road in Australia is really smooth with no traffic jams during the 8 days when I was there.

In Brisbane, we stayed at Econo Lodge City Star Brisbane. Its strategically located near to the heart of the city at an affordable price. We booked the family room which has one double bed and 2 single beds in one room. There are fast food restaurants nearby such as Macdonalds, KFC and subway.

After we check in, we went to take a walk near to the famous Brisbane river just when the sun was about to set.

It was quite nice to see the sun setting behind all the skyscrapers

We walked further down to take the city hopper, which is a free ferry ride that goes to various parts of the CBD. It was only a 5 minutes ride across the river into the heart of the CBD.

There were quite a lot of people walking around in their business attire in the evening which I suppose is their off work hours. It was only about 5:30pm. For dinner, we just settled for KFC which we wanted to try how their KFC taste like. Their KFC came with fries again... They really like fries. Surprisingly the fries was quite tasty. You should give it a try if you're there.

We took a long walk back to our apartment. I think in Brisbane, we really walked a lot as it was difficult to drive and find parking. The whole walking took about an hour plus.

Day 5

In the morning, we went to have breakfast at a Vietnamese restaurant called Cafe O Mai. Oh man, the food here was really good, tasted similar to what I have eaten in Vietnam before. We ordered the beef Pho and the Vietnamese baguette. Really good food here and plenty of place to park along the road side.

After breakfast, it was time to check out and proceed for the long drive up to the farm stay place. We wanted to visit the Brisbane street beach but unfortunately, I couldn't find any parking nearby and it was quite late already so we had to give up that place. Such a pity actually.

The drive up to the farm would take about 2 hours plus. As it was a long drive, I planned some breaks in between for us to rest and also buy groceries up to the farm for dinner.

The first stop was glass house mountains. Its a scenic drive to the glass house mountains look-out which you can locate easily using google maps GPS.

The road to glass house mountains. Pretty tall trees along the road

At glass house mountains look out

Explanation on how the mountains was formed and how it was discovered

The mountain on the left is the famous glass house mountain

Its worth a visit to this place if you're travelling to sunshine coast or noosa. Makes a great pit stop for a rest.

After this, we went to a small town called Nambour. No tourists here at all, really its authentic Australia at this place. There was a large pharmacy here selling discounted supplements which is much cheaper than in Singapore. There's also a large supermarket, Woolsworth here where we bought most of the ingredients for the 2 dinners at the farm. We had lunch at a small Chinese restaurant, near to the supermarket. Quite expensive for a plate of fried rice at $12 and fried hor fun at $12 too but portion was very big. 2 plates is enough for 4 people.

After Nambour, its the drive to Rosecliffe cottage where we will be staying at the farm for 2 nights. The drive up to the farm was gravel road with very sleep up and down slopes. I was really worried if the car could take it but it did eventually survived.

Once we were up there, the views were amazing. Really worth the drive up here. They had many animals on the farm which you can see in the pictures below

The view at Rosecliffe Cottage


This horse is pregnant so they put a cloth over her

More Horses

A cow that looks like panda

Cow with her baby

A special type of animal called Llama

The house there is a small cottage with one bedroom, one bathroom, a living room and kitchen. They also have a BBQ pit outside at the backyard with a hood which we did BBQ for the 2 nights there.

It was quite fun actually to BBQ at the farm which was up in the mountains. At the farm, there is only us and another family in another cottage plus the host themselves living in another house. Just 3 house in a secluded farm. It was really quiet and peaceful at night not forgetting the many stars which could be seen at night. 

That's the end of day 5. 

For more of my Australia trip, click on the link below:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Your House Is Not Really Your Asset - How a HDB flat might depreciate over time?

Recently, a particular news shocked many people in Singapore. For the first time, the government has confirmed to take back 191 plots of land in Geylang Lorong 3 when their 60-year lease expires in 2020. For a long while, many people do not believe their housing price will go to zero when the lease expires. This is a confirmation of what is to happen in decades to come for the other housing estates which will have their leases expire in the future.

SLA has said no compensation will be given and no extensions are allowed. Unlike land acquisition by the Government, where compensation is given for the remaining lease, Geylang Lorong 3 residents will not get any since the lease will have run out in 2020, said the Law Ministry's deputy secretary Han Kok Juan.

Your House Is Not Your Asset In Singapore

This is quite scary for many Singaporeans who thought their house is their asset and they can cash out of it when they are old. This can only happen if your house still has a long lease left. To put the matter into perspective, let's see what happens to the value of your house as the lease gets lesser and lesser.

Adapted from The Straits times
Click to enlarge

The Straits times has a very good chart to show the value of a HDB flat depreciating as the lease expires. There are a few critical points before the value of the flat goes to zero. If your HDB flat or any leasehold property has 45 years or less lease currently or reaching the 45 years mark, its time to take note of what is going to happen should you still decide to hold it.

1. No Bank loans with less than 35 years lease left

Banks do not lend out for properties with less than 35 years lease left. This means if your property is less than 35 years lease now, a person who buys your property cannot loan from the bank. This is a very big restriction for any buyers of your property and if they do not have cash to pay for your property, they can't buy it as well. This makes it very difficult for you to sell your property to potential buyers. As such, at the 35 years lease mark, the value of the property greatly depreciates.

2. With less than 30 years lease left

At the 30 years lease mark, the property value greatly depreciates again. This is due to the fact that CPF cannot be used for any downpayment and mortgage servicing. On the other hand, HDB loan is still available if remaining lease covers the buyer up to age 80.

3. With less than 20 years lease left

With less than 20 years lease left, both bank loans and HDB loans are not available. It is almost impossible to sell your property at a high price now as buyers can't get any loan financing from anywhere in Singapore. If a buyer wants to buy your house, they will have to pay all in cash.

Flats with leases expiring in Singapore

National development minister Lawrence Wong said in a blogpost in March cautioning people that "As the leases run down, especially towards the tail-end, the flat prices will come down correspondingly, So buyers need to do their due diligence and be realistic when buying flats with short leases. This is especially important for young couples, who have to plan for a much longer future." He said.

For young people, it is especially important to plan ahead when buying a house especially if you're considering a resale flat. If you buy a BTO, it won't be a cause of concern as BTOs start with 99 year lease.

There are many old estates in Singapore which are in prominent locations around Singapore. These are especially popular for young people because of the location. But, the lease expiry is a concern now as confirmed by the news of the flats being taken back by the government at Geylang Lorong 3 and also how the value of the HDB flat depreciates over time.

To check the leases of HDB flats in Singapore, you can refer to HDB website here. I will list down some of the areas that has lesser leases in Singapore.

1. Toa Payoh (Lor 4) - 50 years lease left

Some flats in Toa Payoh has about 50 years lease left. If a buyer buys a flat here and takes a bank loan, he can only get a loan tenure of up to 20 years (to 30 years lease). In 15 years, no buyers can take a bank loan for the properties here anymore.
Click to enlarge

2. Queenstown (Stirling Road) - 50 years lease left

Another estate with 50 years lease left is Queenstown. This is similar to Toa Payoh.
Click to enlarge

3. Geylang (Kallang Bahru) - 55 years lease left

Click to enlarge

4. Serangoon (Lor Liew Lian) - 59 years lease left

Click to enlarge

The above are some of the estates with HDB flats less than 60 years lease. In Singapore, out of about 1 Million HDB flats, 70,000 are more than 40 years old and about 280,000 are 30 years to 40 years old. This puts their remaining lease at about 69 years or less remaining. As a young person, if I want to stay in the house for the next 30 years, I better not buy a HDB flat that has less than 65-70 years lease. It will be very difficult to sell the flat at that time and the property price will depreciate greatly as well.

What about the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme (Sers)?

Most people are still willing to pay a high price for a low lease flat because of the hope that their old flats will be redeveloped under the SERS scheme. If you're hoping your old flat will go under this scheme, it is timely to take note that it may not happen.

Since the Sers was launched in 1995, only 4% of HDB flats have been identified for Sers and the government will continue to maintain the strict selection criteria for blocks eligible for Sers. This is reiterated by Minister Lawrence Wong in his blog post in March 2017. You can read it here.

Which HDB flat should a young couple buy?

With all the above information, as a guide, a 30 year old couple should consider a HDB flat with more than 65-70 years remaining lease. This would ensure we do not meet into problems at later stages of our life.

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