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The News Bearer – Finance in the time of Covid: to invest or divest?
For many, money management is an overwhelming task. With numerous personal finance books and experts weighing in, a marketplace of overly complicated money market products, coming up with a personal finance strategy can be a challenging task.
The truth though is that personal finance boils down to a few simple truisms:
– Spend less than you earn
– Have an emergency fund
– Make your money work for you
Where it gets interesting (and overwhelming) is knowing where and how to put your money to work. This year’s GoBear Financial Health Index gathered insights from over 1,000 Singaporeans to understand what they felt, thought, and doing about their finances which turned up some insightful results.
Singaporeans are, by and large, conservative investors with many practising the policy of cash is king. According to the World Bank, the gross domestic savings in Singapore was a robust 53.8% in 2019. In comparison, the gross domestic savings in the USA in 2018 (its most recent figure) is 17.7%
Still, the global pandemic has had an effect on how people are saving.
– 70% of working adults say they do not have enough savings to sustain them beyond 6 months.
– 55% of respondents have reduced their savings to cope with the pandemic fall-out.
– 53% of individuals surveyed are reportedly dipping into their emergency savings.
Despite these sobering findings, 98% of individuals surveyed hold a savings account, and of them, 37% are looking to park more of their money in savings accounts with only 14% indicating that they will be saving less.
While savings interest rates are currently low, there are ways to upgrade your bank account. Start by exploring high yield savings accounts, choose accounts that charge zero fees, and open an account that includes cash back rewards, so you get paid for using it.
Singapore does not boast a 100% health insurance coverage rate like Australia, Denmark and Japan, however insurance remains a popular financial investment product.Of the individuals surveyed, 91% held some form of health insurance and of those, 20% indicated that they would be channelling more funds towards insurance investment products. This finding isn’t surprising. While the uptake of previously popular insurance options like travel and auto insurance has declined, solutions catering to Covid-19 related concerns – personal accident, infectious diseases coverage – has gotten more interest, as well as policies with lower premiums, shorter terms, or linked to investments.
Car owners looking to divest themselves of their auto insurance policy might want to hold off. While 48% of respondents surveyed have active policies, 21% communicated they will be investing less in their car insurance plans. Stripping away optional add-ons like personal roadside assistance, choice of a workshop or young driver coverage can lower one’s monthly payments, but doing due diligence on what the current market place offers could end up saving a bundle in the long run.
Some financial experts rail against holding credit cards (google Dave Ramsey) but when used properly, they can make excellent investment tools. Aside from using credit cards to build a reputable credit history – something you need if you’re planning on taking out a home/auto/education loan in the future – current credit card promotions throw in everything from free cash, shopping vouchers, dining deals, leisure perks, free air miles and cash back rewards, so they end up paying you to use their card!
GoBear’s own recent survey found 90% of individuals have existing credit facilities, of which 63% report that they’re not planning to reduce their usage. and investment anytime soon. Pair this with the 2019 research by YouGov Omnibus, where 73% have at least one credit card, while 56% have more than one, and some 10% have six or more – it’s clear Singaporeans are a credit loving bunch.
| Read more: Credit card myths every Singaporean needs to stop believing |
One of the best features of a CPF account is the ability to use the funds to invest in the stock market once you have more than $20,000 in your Ordinary Account. Of the individuals surveyed, 65% currently hold some form of stocks, equities or shares and are bullish about the current market with 46% looking to invest more. Only 20% express more bearish concerns, preferring to pull back and adopt a wait-and-see approach. With some blue-chip stocks at an all-time low and fluid market movements, timing the market may be a bit tricky but not impossible – and if done right it could bring about some real returns!
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