Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How Much To Get Married (Part 2) - HDB Flat

A few days back, I wrote about the cost of getting married in Singapore. In that post, I gave a brief outline on the items that a typical Chinese couple in Singapore would spend on. One of the big ticket items I identified was one's housing.

For most couples who have just started working and are probably not earning a lot (or born with a silver spoon), they will most probably opt to buy a HDB flat. This is perhaps the cheapest option unless you are willing to rent or stay with parents/in-laws.

When to rent

Some couples might opt to rent a flat or a room instead of buying their own HDB flat. This is usually due to cost considerations or because one is able to get a flat of choice. Others might simply want to be debt free and so choose to rent instead of buy. As a guide, one's mortgage loans (plus other debt payments) should not exceed 35% of the couple's combined salary. Most couples who have been working for 1-2 years should be below the $8000 combined income ceiling and should be eligible for a HDB flat.

In my personal opinion, it does not make sense to rent a HDB flat for long term since the HDB owner will most probably rent it out at a rate much higher than his or her own monthly mortgage payments. For e.g. if my monthly mortgage payment for my HDB flat is $1000, I will definitely rent it out at above $1000. This is common sense and so renting a flat is most probably a short term plan for most couples since it will be more cost efficient to pay the lower mortgage payments compared to the more expensive rent.

Buy A Flat

Buying a HDB flat is most probably cheap if you have money in your CPF. If both couples have been working and have build up sufficient amounts in their CPF-OA, they most probably will have enough to pay the deposit for the flat. Occasionally, some might have to top up the amounts with cash as they might not have sufficient amount of money in their CPF-OA.

In other instances, when buying a resale flat, the owner might ask for cash over valuation. Understand that this ranges quite a bit depending on flat type and location. But as a guide, I don't think that one should be overspending in this area. For me, $20K will be the maximum cash over valuation that I will be willing to pay now. This is because the HDB has just announced that it will be building a huge supply of flats. This flats will be ready probably in 2012 onwards. Based on that, one can expect the prices to come down a bit so if you can afford to wait, do wait. But for me personally, $20K is the maximum cash over valuation that I will be willing to pay.

What do the rest think? Is $20K a reasonable sum to budget for cash over valuation? Or is it too much/little?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How Much To Get Married

A common topic amongst my single friends is the amount of money that they require to get married. Many of them lament that it will cost them a bomb to get married. Big ticket items include paying for the house (cash over valuation), renovation, holding a wedding lunch/dinner @ a hotel, buying the engagement ring and of course other miscellaneous expenses. Some of them reckon that they need as much as $50k and above to get married in Singapore!

Surely there must be a cheaper way to get married in Singapore and still enjoy the perks of all the above. Let's do a rough breakdown of the expenses and perhaps in my next few posts, I can touch on how one might save up on each of the big ticket items.

As mentioned above, the big ticket items are as follows and estimated costs are also shown:
  1. Buying a HDB flat (Cash over valuation) = $20-$50k (Rest is usually paid by CPF)
  2. Renovation = $20 to $40K
  3. Wedding dinner/lunch = $20k to $30k (depends on hotel and no. of tables)
  4. Engagement ring = $1k to $10k (depends on the depth of the guy's wallet)
  5. Photography + Wedding gown/suit = $1k to $5k
  6. Miscellaneous lunches, hongbaos = $1k to $2k
  7. Honeymoon = $500 to $10k (depending on where and when you travel)
Anything else to add to the list?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend in Monochrome

Do we see the world in black and white, then paint the colours in?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekend in Black & White and the visit to ColBar

If there is no right and wrong, all things are grey. Arguments are meaningless if there is no such thing as an absolute right and wrong. If wrong and right are just references that are subjective to each person, we will not be able to agree fully on certain issues. Life is always much simpler when you view it in terms of black and white. - Random Philosophical thoughts

The weekend was spent lazing around different places in Singapore. Visited the Colonial Bar or ColBar for short for dinner during the weekend. Ate Chicken Curry with rice. Wasn't too bad though it did leave me wondering whether $10 was too hefty a price tag to pay for just one piece of chicken and rice. I guess the owners must have factored in the ambience of the ColBar.

ColBar is tucked away in a really secluded part of Singapore where many old colonial houses are still found. It is located along Portsdown Road (exit via AYE before Alexander Road). The residences there are simply worlds apart from the Singapore that I live in. It is almost like stepping into another era, another timezone altogether.

There, I saw expats living in a totally different world, children bouncing on trampolines, swinging on swings tied to large trees with overhanging branches. It was simply peaceful, serene and so away from the normal hustle and bustle of Singapore. It is no wonder that many expats love to stay here. I think I hardly saw a single local in my walk around the area. The houses were the usual black and white colonial era kind of houses. There were garden parties going on. This is a world detached from Singapore. Detached from all the cares and worries of modern Singapore.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hitting 10,000 Unique Visitors and Some Blogs are Meant to be Savored

Hitting 10,000 Visitors Per Day

Blogging. I have probably written lots about it before and the targets that I have set for myself previously. Loyal readers of my blog will most probably know the targets that I have set for myself in terms of blog traffic and stuff. I realised that I have not been pursuing those targets that I have set for myself previously and that has somehow resulted in me being haphazard in my approach towards this blog.

It all starts with the mindset that goes: "Forget about those targets, let's just do what I want and blog about what I want to." Come to think of it, targets are actually not that bad. At least they help me to stay on track and be focused.

My target for this blog is to get 10,000 unique visitors per day. Will I be able to achieve such astounding numbers? I do not know. Currently, the only "medals" I have to show for from this past time and secret hobby of mine is as follows:

1. Blog link on Mr Tan Kin Lian's Blog. Most Singaporeans will know that Mr Tan Kin Lian is one of the current 3 Presidential Candidates for Singapore). Yes, my blog link is actually on his blog! Wow, I am surprised that he actually placed my blog link when I asked for a link exchange! =) Coincidentally, all the presidential candidates have surnames "Tan". Dr Tan Cheng Bock, Dr Tony Tan and Mr Tan Kin Lian. Ha..just realised it when I was writing this post.

2. CPF IMSavvy Blogger. I actually made it as one of the guest bloggers on CPF's IMSavvy site.
Well, I must say that I must be one of the lazier bloggers there cos I haven't really found time to write lately. But I promise that I will do more to make personal finance as interesting a topic as I can to many Singaporeans. I don't profess to be an expert but rather think that there is a lot we can learn from each other's experience. Theory helps but I think practical advice and real life experience is what most Singaporeans can probably relate to better. And that is why I have been rather open about taboo topics like my income and expenditure. Hopefully, that paves the way for better conversation surrounding the topic of personal finance. Some of my guest posts there can be found in this link here: Guest Posts on CPF IMSavvy

3. People are willing to put up guest posts on my blog. I have been getting emails from various sources requesting for me to feature guest articles on my site. Browse through my blog and you are sure to find some of these guest posts which I thought my bring a certain amount of "freshness" to this blog. Do let me know if you would also like to contribute a guest post. Just drop an email to

Some Blogs Are Meant To Be Savored....

Yes, hitting 10,000 unique visitors might be a target that I set. But I still hope that this blog will be as personal as possible. And that readers will find something that they can relate to here. My achievements in life might not be many but I do hope that there are articles and posts here that people will be able to draw inspiration or strength from. The last thing I want readers to go away with is this crazy hunger or greed for money. While this blog is titled "Financial Freedom", I certainly do believe that there are probably many many more things in life that are more important than being rich/achieving financial freedom, etc.

As always, I welcome feedback. Any feedback that you might have. Please let me know how I can improve this blog by commenting below or just dropping me an email. Thank you and have a great weekend ahead!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Reflections

Wishing all readers (who are fathers) a most happy Father's day.

Being a father, I now understand the pain and unspoken sacrifices that many fathers take. The journey is not always easy so give yourself a big pat on the back. Even though you feel that you might have failed your family in one way or another, don't be too hard on yourself. Being a father is never easy. Being a good father is even harder. We are all fallible human beings. We get tired, make mistakes, and sometimes neglect the more important things in life.

So take a breather.. and just wish yourself a happy father's day. Nobody is perfect. But as a father, we all try to be perfect for our children. Even though we might fail many times.

Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Self employed? You need income protection!

If you’re self employed, you’ll be very aware of what your dollars can do. You’ll also be extremely conscious of the possibilities of your income drying up on you if you’re unable to do the work. That does happen, and it’s something you can cover with income protection insurance.

The risks

Even a minor situation can put you out of the loop for contracts and new jobs. That’s the nightmare, and it’s no joke for anyone who’s self employed. Something as simple as a minor injury can take you out of your income stream quite easily. If you’re a graphic artist who’s broken something, you can be stuck with sitting around waiting for things to heal, while your bills come in regardless.

This can hit cashflow in all the wrong ways. If you don’t have any cash on hand, or more likely if your cash is tied up in your business, the lack of cashflow is potentially destructive. Equally important, your clients may be “on hold”, waiting for work while you recover. That situation can often be fixed by subcontracting or outsourcing things you’d normally do yourself- If you have the cash to do it.

Not having the cash is likely to be the sticking point in any version of these scenarios. That’s also not including the domestic expenses, which can also be caught out in the sudden drying up of the income stream. Power bills, rates, you name it, they add up to a situation where plenty of money can be going out and none coming in.

Dodging the financial bullets

These situations are all quite avoidable. A good income protection policy can cover you for your expenses and in many cases even your medical needs. That’s useful cover when you need it, and it’s also a very good way of staying clear of those interesting “surprises” when you find out how much you have to pay for these things.

The cost of the income protection cover isn’t particularly expensive. You can get something like 75% of your income covered upfront, for a small, bearable outlay. You can also get packages that include serious full coverage for things like disability and related benefits.

Important: It’s a good idea to apply directly for quotes from the insurers, and get into a dialog about your needs. There may be a range of options available to you to lock in some good cover for your issues, and this extra effort can pay off very well in terms of providing comprehensive cover when you need it most.

Take the time to really think about this:

What are the risks of suddenly losing your income stream? These things include loss of business, too, so you need to consider a worst case scenario, to fully assess the situation.

What can you afford as an outlay for insurance? Cash outlays can be a little complex for self employed people, particularly if you’re just starting out, so try to pin down a good level of cover, relative to a viable outlay that you can live with.

When you’ve figured out what you need, talking to your insurer will provide a range of options. You can get it all done in a few minutes, and have some added peace of mind.

[The above is a guest post. If you are interested in contributing a guest post to this blog, please email with your proposed article. The topic of the article should be related to personal finance.]

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Brutally Honest Post

I have slowly realised what makes a good blog post. It is simply this: Sharing honestly about your thoughts and opinion. And that is what readers truly want to see and read. They want to hear about your honest thoughts about a matter and not some regurgitated facts (which I am sometimes guilty of).

Being brutally honest is necessary for blogging. But it is also relevant our lives in general. I had a flashback of some vacation work that I used to do while I was waiting to enter into the army for my national service. It was at a conference room. And the manager was rebuking his staff for not bringing value to their jobs. He even told them that he often went on job interviews outside to test his market value and encouraged his staff to do so. To which, one of his staff answered: " We are loyal to this company. Why would we do that?"

At that point in time in my life, I thought that manager was seriously one of those bad bosses. His staff would talk behind his back. They clearly did not like him. But today, I recalled the lesson he taught and realised that his staff probably missed the gist of his message. Loyalty to a company is not relevant to the question. The manager was really asking his staff what sort of value were they bringing to the job and why the company should be paying them. His challenge was for them to quit complaining and add value. And the true test of whether you are bringing value to the job is if another company is willing to pay you as much or even more.

Today as I thought about this point, I realised how true it is. For many years in my life now, I have been working and receiving my pay as though someone owed me a living. I shunned extra work and was always jealous of others who got promoted faster than me. I then had to ask myself this question. Do I quit and find another job? Or do I stay on?

But perhaps the more important question is whether do I add value to the job that I am in. How am I performing? Can someone do this job better than me? Where is my value add? Does my boss look at me and think: "This guy is the best person for the job." Or does he simply look elsewhere. This are hard questions that I ask myself each day. And it is particularly difficult because I am introverted in nature and don't get the chance to shine like the extroverts do. Somehow in all my education, I feel that I have somehow neglected my interpersonal skills, communication skills, persuasion skills and stuff. I might be older but I sure ain't wiser than the fresh graduate who comes in.

I have searched hard for an answer and the harder I drill down to the important questions, the more brutally it hurts. The sense of inadequacy, the feeling that I would do better at the job if I were an extrovert nibbles at me. I question whether it was my family upbringing or whether it was just my personality that got in the way. Or perhaps it was because of the faithful decision I made not to study overseas but locally that has driven me to where I am today. But one cannot look back at the past and wonder. Instead, I need to look ahead and hope for the future. But the baggage of the past sometimes weigh me down. Perhaps a better university would have done me some good in my career progression. Perhaps a more outgoing personality. Perhaps being a little taller. Perhaps being a bit more handsome. I don't know. Somehow, it seems like working hard alone is not enough. A certain X factor is required.

I once thought I was clever. But when I started working, I realised that there are much cleverer people around me. Now I no longer think I am clever. In fact, I doubt whether I am even average in intelligence. Surely if I was above average, I wouldn't be where I am today.

This is a brutally honest post. It is about brutal questions I have to ask myself.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Heavy Rain and Flash Floods in Singapore

The sky gave way early this morning and it started to pour like crazy over at my place. Good thing we sort of predicted that there would be heavy rain and decided to bring along an umbrella while we were eating at the nearby market.

While driving, I could hardly see the road ahead of me even with my wiper turned to full speed. And I was almost pretty certain that there would be flash floods around Singapore after it was still raining like closet to 2 hours later. Sure enough, on my way back, parts of the expressway was flooded. Just read the news too that Tanglin Mall's basement also got flooded.

Perhaps the weather is really getting more freaky in recent years. But surely there has been a case of one too many flash floods in the past few years. It wasn't too long ago that I wrote about flooding in Singapore. While we definitely cannot become flood free throughout the whole of Singapore, I think it is important that certain parts of Singapore should be flood free. And Orchard Road definitely deserves to be flood free.

I am a noob/amateur regarding real estate but I would like to think that if flooding becomes common occurrence in Orchard Road, the developers would have to charge a lower rent. Insurers will also probably charge a higher premium to insure the shops located at the lower levels in case of these freak floods that occur. All these translates to "losses" to Singapore in one way or another.

For the rest of Singapore, I am sure we can accept flash floods now and then. But still, this should not be occurring near residential areas and stuff.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Opinions Stinks and Other Facts of Life

Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one, and it stinks. This saying is extremely true not only at work or even just in normal family life. I have come to realise that everyone can have a slightly different opinion about something even when presented with exactly the same facts. This happens very often in my workplace. Same information, but sometimes, very differing views.

And I am pleasantly surprised to note that opinions also vary even at home. Just today my wife was recounting an encounter with a woman who wanted to have a 2nd child and intended to put her 1st child in full day childcare once the 2nd child came along. My wife thought that this was not right as that defeated the whole point of having a 2nd one. And she sort of wanted me to agree with her on this matter.

Instead, I told her that different people have different viewpoints about the same matter. What seems SO WRONG to her might actually seem like the logical and correct thing to do. And the problem with it is that both parties will never be able to accept the viewpoints of the other party wholeheartedly. And that is where all differences arise from. - the lack of an absolute truth, or compass, to guide us on what is the correct behaviour or what should be relegated and stated as merely a lifestyle preference.

My wife berated me when she heard me say this. She said: "But don't you think it is wrong??"

When I replied the same answer about different people having different viewpoints about the same matter and both thinking that they are absolutely right, she got even angrier and said that it was not right to have no opinions about a matter and to simply be like a blank sheet of paper that accepts both sides of the argument without making a stand.

I would like to think that I am able to hold two opposing thoughts in my head and still function like a normal human being.

Other Facts of Life

Life isn't fair. The sooner you realise it, the better. I have always grown up thinking that life was fair and got angry whenever I saw certain unfairness in life. Now I have come to accept it and realise that life isn't fair. It isn't no matter how much you want it to be.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CPF Minimum Sum Revised from $123,000 to $131,000

I read with interest the news about the revision to the CPF Minimum Sum. From 1 July 2011, the CPF Minimum Sum will be revised upwards from $123,000t to $131,000. This was announced by the CPF Board recently. The new Minimum Sum applies to CPF members who turn age 55 from 1 July 2011 to 30 Jun 2012. In fact, the Minimum Sum scheme was set at $80,000 in 2003 and has been revised upwards yearly, taking into account adjustments for inflation.

The Minimum Sum scheme is meant to help CPF members prepare for retirement where they can potentially have lifelong income for the rest of their lives.

Surprisingly, I noticed that many young people seemed to be unaware about the minimum sum scheme and how it applies to them. These people often have the misconception that retirement is something that they should worry about later on in their working lives and thus cannot be bothered about such schemes that will only affect them later on in life.

Please refer to the following link for more details on the CPF Minimum Sum

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