Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Car Insurance Money Saving Tips

If you drive a car, you will need car insurance or motor insurance. While there are many insurance companies out there, you will be amazed at the different quotes that each insurer will actually give you. Recently, I went to get some quotations to renew my insurance for my car and was surprised that the quotes given varied from $1200 to $1600. I spoke briefly to a general insurer and found out why these quotes vary. Here are some tips on how you can save on your car insurance.

Shop Around For the Cheapest Car Insurance

Each insurer will give different quotes due to different claims experience. Another reason why there are different quotes is also likely due to the fact that these companies have certain "quotas" on the number of vehicles of a certain model that they are willing to insure. For example, Insurance Company A might decide that the risk it can take for insuring Toyota cars is only maximum 1000 cars this year. As such, they might give high quotes especially when their quota is filled so as to price themselves out of the competition. So do shop around and get as many quotes as you can. You will be surprised at the different prices.

Increase Your Excess

Another method to reduce your car insurance is to actually increase your excess (simply put as the amount that you will have to pay first during an accident before you can claim any money from the insurance company). I learnt this trick from an insurance agent some time back. The intial quote I got then was around $1400 based on a $500 excess. By increasing my excess to $2000, I was able to get a quote that was cheaper. Of course, the reason why I was willing to take the extra risk was because I wasn't accident prone and I also had the means to pay the $2000 excess. Weighing the probability, I figured that the increase in excess was something that I could afford to risk.

Buy the Correct Car

Yes. You guessed it. Certain car brands/models are more expensive to insure than others. Generally, Toyotas will be cheaper to insure than a Honda or a Mitsubishi. This is due to the claims experience. Cars that are popular amongst younger male drivers tend to have a higher accident rate and thus will have a worst claims experience. Insurers will thus charge a higher cost for certain models and brands of car. If you want cheap car insurance, go for Toyota and Nissan. They are among the cheapest. Avoid Honda and Mitsubishi. If you are driving a sports car...Good Luck!

Read Related Postings:
Home Insurance
Top 10 Money Saving Tips
My Saving and Spending List
Drinking and Eating Your Way to Financial Freedom

Monday, December 21, 2015

Funeral Insurance 101

It just came to my realisation that certain countries do sell insurance to cover the cost of one's funeral expenses. This is usually a standalone insurance that offers a payout to tide the family through the funeral expenses which usually adds up to tens of thousands of dollars.

Some features of funeral insurance that I have seen includes:

  1. Flexible coverage amounts
  2. Fixed premiums with no increase in age
  3. Guaranteed coverage with no medical examination for people of a certain age range
  4. Fast payouts in 24 hours
  5. Payouts that are at least more than or equal to the premiums paid
  6. Professional grief counselling
  7. Discounts that are applicable if it is a family plan

Of course, the above stated features  are just a sample of what is available in the market. So one will have to conduct the necessary due diligence to find the best funeral insurance that suits one's purposes.

In countries like Singapore, such insurance is also almost non-existent though it will be interesting to see whether there is a market for such a product.

I think this insurance is really niche but still fills a necessary gap since it will provide loved ones with almost immediate spare cash for funeral expenses when the need arises.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

#2 Protect What You Cannot Afford to Lose

This is the #2 posting of a 10 part series about the Road to Financial Freedom. In the last posting, we discussed that the greatest mistake in one's journey towards financial freedom is the lack of planning. In this post, we will see that protection or insurance also plays an important part in our road to financial freedom.

Why insurance? Because life can throw unexpected events at us that might cause a huge dent in our bank accounts. Imagine the medical cost of staying in the intesive care unit for 1 month. Or just imagine having to pay the costs for cancer treatment. As much as we will like to think that our bank accounts would have sufficient money to pay for these unexpected events, it is unlikely so as these bills can sometimes run up to 5 digits or 6 digits!

So the most important thing one can do is to set aside a small portion of their income (hopefully much less than 20%) to buy some insurance that will give protection for death, disability, critical illness, personal accident and hospitalisation bills. This will ensure that should anything unexpected occur in the future, the huge costs will not affect whatever good work you have done so far in your road to financial freedom. Essentially, we insure ourselves for risks or costs that we cannot afford to lose.

So yes, savings and investment are the "sexy" things that people like to talk about when it comes to financial planning and the road to financial independence or freedom. But before we start saving and invest, it might be worthwhile to relook at our protection portfolio and ensure that we are adequately covered before we make the next step to achieving our financial goals.

Moneytalk also has an article on why we should buy insurance. Click here to view it

The Road to Financial Freedom (Read the rest of the postings here)
#1 - The Greatest Mistake
#2 - Protect What You Cannot Afford to Lose
#3 - Spend Less Than You Earn
#4 - Spend Less Or Earn More
#5 - Buy Assets Not Liabilities
#6 - Read and Learn More
#7 - The Magic of Part Time
#8 - Health Equals Wealth
#9 - It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Saturday, December 19, 2015

#1 The Greatest Mistake

Update Dec 2015: Just reposting some old blog posts that some might find useful

I have decided to write the next 10 postings about the Road to Financial Freedom.

Today's #1 posting is about THE GREATEST MISTAKE one can make in their journey towards financial freedom.

I believe that the greatest mistake on the road to financial freedom is the failure to plan. As the saying goes : " If you fail to plan, you plan to fail". Likewise in your journey to financial freedom, if you have no plan, you will most probably fail.

Too many people want to achieve financial freedom or just simply want to be rich or filthy rich. The problem is that they have no idea about what their financial goals are and whether they will ever reach it. As Stephen Covey will put it: Begin with the end in mind.

Before we begin our road to financial freedom, we need a goal to work towards. We basically need a financial plan that will show us :
(1) Where we want to be in the future financially (the end goal)
(2) Where we are currently (our current reality/situation)
(3) How are we going to get to our goal (the game plan)

The journey to financial freedom thus has to begin with a plan. And this financial freedom plan can only be crafted if you know where you want to be in the FUTURE, where you are NOW financially, and how you intend to work towards achieving your goals in the PRESENT moment.

For example:

I know that my financial freedom goal is to achieve a passive income of $2800 per month by the year 2022 (FUTURE). NOW, I am achieving slightly above $200 per month in passive income.
Since now is the year 2009, I have set the goal of achieving $400 per month in passive income by the end of this year. How I set out to achieve this goal is to reduce my expenditure and increase my sources of passive income. (This is what this Financial Freedom Blog is about afterall - to track my goal of attaining a passive income of $2800 per month)

Remember, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step....in the correct direction. Make sure you know what direction you want to head in first before saving and investing your money. Always have a plan in mind. This plan can change along the way but you must always stick to your plan and review it constantly.

Read the Entire Series:
1. The Greatest Mistake
2. Protect What You Cannot Afford to Lose
3. Spend Less Than You Earn
4. Spend Less Or Earn More
5. Buy Assets Not Liabilities
6. Read and Learn More
7. The Magic of Part Time
8. Health Equals Wealth
9. It's A Marathon, Not A Sprint
10. Congrats! You Have Achieved it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Two Ideas That Will Change Your View About Investing Forever

One day, when I was taking a shower (now readers know where all my inspiration comes from!!), I reflected on my years of working, investing, conversations with friends/family/colleague and tried to distill what were the two most important ideas or messages that I should tell anyone who was getting started on investing/retirement planning/personal finance.

You see, in Asia or in Singapore, personal finance is still pretty much a taboo topic.  It isn't the best lunch conversation topic (unless one is talking about the latest stock picks and how who and who made a million bucks from some investment).  But people in general tend not to reveal their own investments, savings, etc, etc. Money is almost like a taboo topic that is not discussed.

I have heard and read about so many ideas but I think these are the two most revolutionary ideas that will perhaps change the perception or philosophy of investors:

Idea #1 - Investing is for Income

I don't really recall when this idea struck me or came into my head.  It might have been a book I read or when I was just thinking about retirement planning in general.  But the key idea to investing is not to "earn a million dollars" or to "buy a big house", etc.  Well, those are the material things that people want and I guess it is easier for people to relate to some kind of physical possession or numerical value to determine that they have reached financial freedom.  However, this is probably misguided.

For most people, becoming a millionaire seems to be the ultimate goal.  However, if you dig deeper and ask them why they want to be a millionaire, it is probably due to the pre-conceived idea that with a million dollars, they no longer have to work and can retire in peace.  That probably explains why many people buy the lottery. The idea of having a big house is also related to the very simplistic idea that "if I own a big house, I must be rich, just like people on TV/movies.  If that is the case, I no longer need to work".  While these physical possessions gives many people a financial goal to strive for, at the end of the day, if you drill down deeper, you know that reaching these arbitrarily set goals probably does not put one in a better stead to achieve financial freedom.

At the end of the day, it boils down to cashflow.  Give a big spender a million dollars and let him retire at age 30.  It is possible that the million dollars can be spent even before his lifetime and he will have to return to work.  And that probably explains why many lottery ticket winners end up becoming bankrupt or broke again.  So the idea is cashflow.  And the idea is that all that you are investing for is not for a big house or for a million dollars, but it is for the sole purpose of income.  It is the common Chinese saying : " qian sheng qian" or "using money to grow more money".

When one invests, the million dollar goal (or two million dollar goal) is actually so that you can start drawing down on that sum of money during your retirement years.  That is how most financial planners will actually work out how much you need for your retirement.  They take the age you intend to retire, and the expected life expectancy, and calculate your monthly expenditure to indicate what is the $X dollar value that you need in retirement funds.  But so many people forget that the $X dollar value is meant to provide them with income when they stop working and stop drawing an income.

So at the end of the day, all investing is for the sake of income.  Nothing more and nothing less.  That is the sole goal of investing.  You are basically trying to build up a stockpile of cash that you can tap upon when you are not drawing any money.  If you have $10million dollars invested in an instrument that gives you a 10% per annum yield, you will have $1million in income to spend every year.  That is as simple as it gets.  If you put that $10million in a bank with 0% interest, what you draw down on that bank account every month is basically income while the original value of your bank account just gets depleted month after month.

This idea is "revolutionary" because not many people I know of think or speak of investing in that sort of way.  They always speak of investing as some sort of arbitrary goal or just about making more money from the stock market.  If you realise that investing is about income, you will realise that building up that income is just one side of the story.  What you as an individual will also need to manage is your monthly expenditure so that it does not exceed your monthly income.  And isn't that all there is to personal finance.  No wonder we hear the frequent maxim: "Spend less than you earn".  Because even when you retire, you also need to spend less that you get in income.

Once this idea is firmly implanted in your head, it will then help you better strategise how you want to go about building up that income stream for your retirement years.  For some people, it could be just a bank account.  For others, it might be bonds or dividend yielding stocks/REITs or businesses or even rental income from property.

Here is where the 2nd idea then comes in a little much easier....

Idea #2 - If You Intend to Work for the Rest of Your Life, You Don't Really Need to Invest

I know that this idea will probably draw a lot of flak from some readers who will still think that it is important to invest.  What I am alluding to is the hypothetical situation of a person who has no intention to retire and whose life expectancy is say at age 80.  Effectively, a financial planner who does his calculation will realise that there is no investment product he can offer this person especially if the person is willing to live within his means.

If one is able to work till death and still draw an income, then you literally will not have the need to set up a retirement fund.  However, there is of course all the unexpected events that life can throw at us.  Illness, retrenchment, disabilities, etc, etc can all potentially strike us even if we intend to work for life.  So at the end of the day, one will still need to prepare for such unforeseen scenarios either through investing/savings/insurance.

I don't intend to retire, but I still invest.  And the reason I invest is just in case there comes a day when I am forced to retire.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Absolute Cost of My House

I did a quick calculation of the actual cost of my HDB flat today. While I bought the flat from HDB at a low $300K, when I add up interests at 2.6% for a 30 year repayment period of the mortgage loan, it actually adds up to cost in absolute dollars of over $400K.

That is simply quite amazing!

That is an additional $100K more than the mental figure I had in my head.

It happens all the time when people ask me how much I bought my flat for, I simply give them the price at which I bought it from HDB.

But today, after doing a real calculation of how much in absolute dollars and cents I am paying, I realise that the figure I ought to be quoting them is actually $100K more. That is of course if I do not make any early repayment of the mortgage loan and if I do not sell my house within the 30 year timeframe.

This sorts of shifts my thinking abit about whether I ought to repay a part of my loan earlier with cash sitting in the bank that is earning an interest rate lower than 2.6%. Food for thought...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mortgage Financing Made Easy: The ABCs of Taking a Housing Loan

By Property Buyer

We understand that comprehending the terms and contents of a loan contract, and finding the right mortgage that fits our lifestyle and financial capacity can be a challenge for borrowers, especially for first-timers. Thus this article attempts to shed some light about the process - from mortgage  selection, determining which interest rate serves you best, to meeting the requirements for the loan. The goal is to help you become aware of some of the advantages and disadvantages in selecting a particular loan package as well as to safeguard your pockets.

Establishing a good credit history

First of all, a loan can never be granted if you have a bad credit standing. The Credit Bureau in Singapore collects certain credit-related data, like all the credit  facilities a borrower has with the various financiers (but not the outstanding amount owed), and then makes the information accessible to credit providers on its membership list. The best way to obtain a good credit score is to pay your loan or credit cards on time. Late payments and defaulting on loan payments to any financial institution is bad because this will adversely impact your credit score. Having a low credit score will lock you out of loans with the best interest rates because the banks or lending institutions will decline your loan application. If you are planning to take a loan, then you should start creating a good credit history. The Bureau collects records of residents with a rolling 12-month credit facility. For closed accounts, the Bureau still shows the last 12 months history of the account before it was closed. On time payments normally gain a credit score of 12 'A'.

Owning multiple credit cards reflects weaker financial status

Most people think having many credit cards is an advantage. However, owning multiple credit cards can weaken your financial health as these plastics provide a false sense of financial strength, which is spending on borrowed money. Owning multiple credit cards in the absence of discipline usually ends up being highly indebted to banks. This means you should own fewer cards.

In addition, having excessive cards creates another disadvantage. This reduces the overall loan borrowing quantum of the borrower. Remember, that banks always compute your loan value based on your availed credit facilities against your monthly earnings. This means that even if you are not using the credit card, it has already reduced the amount of the loan you are allowed to avail for buying a new home.

Checking your credit score

You may personally request for a credit report from the Credit Bureau of Singapore. Find out if your credit facility and credit standing were correctly stated.

Finding the best house and location

We need to understand that finding the best house and location should be a house that meets our budget. Please do not avail a loan and buy a house that would make things difficult in the future. Live the kind of lifestyle your pockets can afford. Purchase a house with the amount of mortgage you find comfortable financing. The ideal way to select a loan and a house is to evaluate whether you still have the capacity to pay the monthly amortization when your financial situation becomes worse. To help you gauge if you can afford the rate and the monthly dues, you may want to use the debt-to-service ratio (DSR) formula based on a 30% affordability estimate as follows

DSR = Monthly Debt Service for Mortgage / Monthly Gross Household Income

In some aspects, some users of the DSR criticised it as a short-term measure of the borrower’s housing affordability. The discussion of other short- and long-term indicators of housing affordability, however, is beyond the scope of this article.

But you can still use the DSR formula for a variety of economic scenarios because in the course of the mortgage life, factors such as the rise or fall of the household income and the debt service normally take place. A good situation that could make use of the DSR is when you or one of your family members become unemployed, which means loss in earnings. You may also use the DSR when you see a pattern of increasing financial liability or debt service, which usually occur when there is a change or an increase in the financial market interest rates.

Overall financial liabilities

This is most important. You need to understand the impact of having too many loans or credit cards. You need to take into consideration the sum value of your total liabilities besides the DSR. One item to consider is the educational and medical expenses of the children or the entire family. Are you sending your children to school? Do you have any member of the family needing special medical attention? Yes or No, the answer directly affects your ability to pay the additional loan and the existing debts. In case of any future contingencies, you need to make sure you still have the capacity to finance the additional loan and pay the existing debts. The goal here is to avoid future contingencies forcing you to sell the house even at a very low price.

Searching for the right lending institution to finance your mortgage

It is the borrower’s duty and responsibility to perform some research about the market interest rates, and loan packages being offered by different banks or lending institutions. Market rates are constantly changing resulting in financing institutions constantly innovating their loan packages and products to meet the needs of borrowers. Find the best loan features that would fit your lifestyle and pocket.

The features of any mortgage package or product usually varies in terms of the rate. It could be offering a fixed rate, floating, or a combination. The combination of the fixed and floating rate is known as the hybrid loan. Some banks also offer interest-offset loans. To find out more about the various loan types, go here.

Selecting loan interest rates

The answer for this is really very simple. Find the rate you can afford to pay even in the presence of financial contingencies. Select a rate that would more or less provide affordable monthly payment throughout the life of the loan. It is best to think about this before committing to any loan because we should not be too confident or assume we always get the chance to refinance or reprice the loan during the course of the loan.

1. New regulations from MAS directly affects borrowers

We need to admit that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) regulation factor is uncontrollable. We are not in control here. MAS has the right to change and implement new regulations that may or may not directly affect our loan. New rules may make the borrowing terms and conditions tighter or more relaxed. A good way to explain this was the October 6 2012 mandate of loan refinancing. MAS implemented a 35-year cap on loan tenures for new and refinanced loan packages.

2. Change in interest rates
As we all know, banks change the interest rates of their loans. Sometimes, we may find ourselves facing higher interest rates when we wish to refinance/reprice.

To help you understand the impact of the interest rate and the timing, please read the clearer explanation/ example below

Loan Package X has an interest rate of 1.5% for the first three years, and 1.7% thereafter.
Loan Package Y has an interest rate of 1.3% for the first three years, and 2.0% thereafter.

For example, if you decide to commit or take Loan Package Y now because it has a 1.3% rate, which is lower than the Loan Package X of 1.5%,  because you expect to reprice or refinance the loan after 3 years (if you can see the 1.3% is only good for the first 3 years), then you might be disappointed if you discover that after 3 years, the cheapest rate available is only 1.9%.

It is better to start with the Loan Package X with a 1.5% interest rate for the first 3 years, and then 1.7% thereafter. Even if you have the option to wait for a lower interest rate after the first 3 years, you still would be paying a higher interest rate during the wait.

What message are we trying to drive home here? We need to understand that choosing the best loan package require good understanding of the system, loan regulations, market, and the movements of  interest rates. Thus if you are confused aboutchoosing the ideal loan, then you should speak to a professional mortgage consultant, who will offer free advice. Contact one here.  The consultants at iCompareLoan also use free reports from Singapore's most advanced cloud-based home loan analysis system (exclusive to them) to help you select the most suitable loan.

Reputable lending institution

Make sure you choose a reliable lending or financial institution. There are times when some lenders implement the right for a margin call when valuations fall.

Legal help in understanding the loan packages

The bank sends a Letter of Offer to successful applicants. Therefore, we need to understand the content of the letter especially the attached terms and conditions of the loan package before signing on the dotted line. In case you do not understand some terms, please ask the bank to send you a document that explains the Letter of Offer in simple language. If it is still vague and you still have questions, please consult a lawyer.

Are you planning to make a loan in the midst of changing jobs?

It is highly recommended that you wait for the loan procedure to be completed before you change jobs because lending institutions have a minimum employment period requirement in your current job before granting loan approval.

Additional credit card or new loan

You need to understand that additional credit cards or taking new loans add to your total liability, which affects your borrowing eligibility and amount. It is recommended that you do not make any other loan or credit commitments before loan disbursement.

For example, you are applying for a housing loan but want to have a new car too. A week after you have received your approved in principle home loan notification, you finance a new car using a separate car loan. After you had taken home your new car, the lender or bank discovered you financed your car with a car loan. The only option left for the bank is to reduce the loan quantum because of the additional loan you just took for the car. The reduction of the housing loan amount makes it impossible for you to afford the house you want. The deal goes off and the 1% deposit you made would be forfeited. You lose more than you gain by taking both loans. It is important to patiently wait and understand how certain decisions about loans and other related services could affect your housing loan. If in doubt, turn to a Singapore home loan consultancy.

About Property Buyer

We are a research-focused Singapore mortgage consultancy which helps you compare Singapore home loans either for new loans or refinancing. We use loan reports from Singapore's best loan analysis system (exclusive to us) athttp://www.icompareloan.com/consultant/ to serve our customers.

Our services are completely FREE to you as the banks pay us a referral fee upon loan disbursement.

SMS: (65) 9782 8606
Email: loans@PropertyBuyer.com.sg

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Cash Out Home Equity Loans or HDB Flat as Collateral? Nope.

I learnt something new today.  That it is actually possible to take a cash out or credit facility on your home by refinancing it.  People can use this additional leverage when they have largely paid up property and wish to make use of the lower home mortgage rates to pay off either existing loans or even invest in other instruments (e.g. REITs) which might give a higher returns. '

These are quite common overseas, here is a typical example

But also realised that one is also not allowed to take a credit loan out of your HDB flat.  Basically:

"HDB flats can only be mortgaged to banks or financial institutions to finance the purchase. HDB owners are not allowed to use their HDB flat, which has been fully paid for, as collateral to raise credit facilities."

So unless you own a private property, you most probably cannot take a cash out home loan to tap on the low mortgage rates now.

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