Author: SG Budget Babe

Review of Your Financial GPS โ€“ Your handy digital financial advisor by DBS

If you wish to achieve financial independence, you need to plan and consistently ensure you’re on track to meeting your goals.

For anyone looking for a framework, I’ve repeatedly emphasized that the route involves:

1.    Cutting your expenses

2.    Setting up your emergency fund

3.    Growing your savings

4.    Protecting your assets

5.    Invest to further grow your capital and build passive income

You’ll find this bookmarked under the GUIDE tab on this blog.

To promote this message and culture of planning for financial independence (because we all know that inflation and the high cost of living in Singapore sucks), I’ve been working quite closely with DBS Bank to speak at their classes for NAV – Your Financial GPS, held in Tanjong Pagar at their NAV Hub.

I’ve have also encouraged many of you to go for the free financial analysis and consultation sessions which they offer where there is zero product pushing or hard-selling. This is important, because if you’re unlucky enough to work with a financial advisor who has a vested interest in their own commissions, you could very well end up with “recommendations” that serve to line their pockets instead of really fulfilling your needs at the best value.

Getting such a personalized session to help you understand your current financial health (awareness is always the first step to change), getting financial tips and attending financial planning classes at NAV Hub are just some of the reasons why I’ve been supporting the intiative and sharing my experience at some of their classes.

But time is always a valuable resource, so even if you haven’t yet had the chance to go down to Tanjong Pagar for a consultation, don’t fret! DBS has now gone one step further to launch Your Financial GPS in order to deliver a digital financial advisor straight to your fingertips. Yes, or those of you who might have attended the NAV sessions before, you’ll recognise this as an extension of their their existing “NAV – Your Financial GPS” intiative.


This operates on a SAIL concept – Saving, Assurance, Invest and Life Goals – which is pretty much in line with what I’ve always been preaching. If you’re an existing DBS or POSB customer, you probably want to log into your digibank app and check out this newly-launched feature for yourself.

Features & Benefits

Your Financial GPS relies on a combination of user data and behavioural activity to offer you personalised and tailored suggestions.

This digital financial advisor is integrated into your banking transactions, which allows it to provide an analysis of your activities, including:

       automatically categorising your income and expenses (I like that you can create custom categories as well)

       provide an overview of your set budgets

       tracking your status against long-term financial life goals (that you’ve set)

Think of it as a 3-in-1 personal expense tracker + budgeting + recommendation app.
If your transactions are through DBS, it will be categorised automatically for you (based on merchant codes and transaction descriptions, in case you were wondering about the “how”). You can also create additional customisation fields, add in non-DBS transactions and input them accordingly if you wish to use this as your main expense tracker from now.

It also makes some recommendations (which you might otherwise not have thought of!). For instance, want to set up a long-term goal to save for your baby’s university fees but unsure of how much is enough? Your Financial GPS will propose an ideal savings amount that you can consider and also offer some tips on small, actionable steps that you can take to achieve this goal. Or, if you’re saving for a wedding, you’ll be fed with tips on how to save money while planning for your big day!

And for those of you who have been looking for a community to support and accompany you on your financial growth journey, DBS will be launching YourNAV Community forum next month, where you’ll be able to ask questions online and get answers or tips related to financial planning. If you’re a “YourNAVer” member, you can also look forward to getting access to exclusive members-only events, classes, games and contests.

You can visit this link for more information. Until then, I’ll see you in the community. 

Disclaimer: I’ve been speaking at NAV Hub for multiple events so far, so this article is naturally written in collaboration with DBS to share their latest initiative with you guys. All opinions are of my own. Screenshots involve cursory numbers and are not meant to be taken as an accurate representation of my current financial status, which loyal readers should be able to recognise.

What To Do In Your First Trimester

So…if you haven’t already seen the news on my Instagram or on my Dayre, I’m pregnant with my first child! ๐Ÿ˜€


My first trimester was pretty tough because I suffered am still having really bad nausea and acid reflux, and it felt like time couldn’t pass any quicker. It was tough keeping the baby a secret from my colleagues at work, and even speaking at events – SGX and a SUSS cryptocurrency panel discussion – while trying to hide my discomfort! 

I honestly couldn’t wait to enter my second trimester after reading about how the morning sickness tends to go away for most people then, although at this moment I’ve just started my second trimester and it is still here ๐Ÿ™

Anyway! So yes, you can soon expect to see more pregnancy-related posts from me, as well as stuff on family finances, and even how I plan to teach and raise my kid to become financially-savvy with good values (let’s hope I’m successful, we’ve already come up with various games and methods haha)! 

Right now, I thought I’ll share about what to do in your first trimester, especially if this is your first pregnancy. I know I felt pretty overwhelmed and clueless in the beginning, and if it weren’t for some of our good friends who guided us through, we’d probably still be lost parents right now!


1. Take folic acid.
Many ladies who are trying to conceive take folic acid right from the start, but for us, the first thing we did when we found out from our pregnancy kit that I was pregnant was to go to Guardian and purchase their 5mg folic acid supplements. This was a tip given to us by a good friend who had been praying for us over our (short-lived) #ttc journey, so I hope this gets passed on to you guys today too! 

2. Decide if you wanna go private or public.
There’s SO MANY things to consider once you find out that you’re about to welcome a new life in 9 months and have to start preparing for it. The first thing you’ll want to think about is whether the private or public healthcare route is better for you. Some factors to consider: 

  • Costs: Is the private route affordable for you?
  • Waiting time: Are you willing to spend hours waiting before you get to see your gynae? Can you afford to spend (almost) an entire day waiting?
  • Dedicated or random gynae: Do you need / want a dedicated gynae who will see you through your pregnancy? If you go the public route, you’ll be randomly assigned to whichever gynae is on duty when you visit.
  • What’s the level of comfort and assurance you need? Generally, private gynaes tend to be able to give you more attention and put you at ease, vs. the super fast consultations at public hospitals.
  • Location of the gynae clinic
Source: MOH
Source: MOH

We considered between Ward A in a public hospital and a 2-bedder in a private one. Initially, I really wanted to go the public route because I was convinced that our government hospitals are good enough, but we changed our mind after some of my readers (who work in public hospitals) wrote to me advising me against it. Another key consideration was the fact that I was quite anxious as this is my first pregnancy, and I really wanted to have an exclusive gynae who would follow me throughout my entire journey, instead of being seen by random gynaes on duty. Our busy schedules also didn’t really allow us the flexibility of being able to spend an entire day waiting (and I HATE waiting), so after weighing the different factors, we decided to go down the private route instead.


My husband said something really sweet: “I don’t mind paying more for my wife to have a peace of mind”. =D Guys, listen to your wives!

3. Search for a gynae.
Go “gynae-shopping” if you need to! It is important that you feel comfortable with your gynae so don’t be afraid of hopping around until you find the right one. The only thing you should note is that first consultations tend to be charged higher, so if you’re “shopping” around for too long…you’ll quickly rack up a lot of costs. 

Ladies, if this is your first pregnancy and you’re an anxious mom like I am, remember that it is fine to spend more money to ease your fears because it does affect the baby. You have to weigh affordability against your personal comfort and emotional needs! 

You can generally expect to pay between $150 – $300 for each session with a private gynae. Our first gynae charged us $370 (although a source who was his patient last year said she only paid $280), so rates may still vary and it is best to check directly. When you call the clinic, the nurse will ask you for your last period date in order to calculate roughly how far along you are. You’ll be asked to come in for your first appointment in Week 7 – 8, although some gynaes will see you earlier if you really want to.

During our search, we read online reviews, spoke to a few close mummy friends and asked for recommendations (very few, since we couldn’t really announce our pregnancy yet), and shortlisted 3 gynaes to visit before we made our decision. As it turned out, our second gynae made us feel the most at ease and was within our budget, so we decided to stick to him!


4. Start thinking about which hospital you’d wanna deliver in.
Often, this is tagged to your gynae, which is why I placed this as #3. If you choose a private gynae, they tend to only deliver at certain hospitals, so your choices are limited. I made the mistake of shortlisting my desired hospitals first (including KKSH, TMC and Mount A) before I realised that not all my options were places that my gynae had delivery arrangements with. Sian.

You can also go on hospital tours to check out the facilities, although I don’t intend to do this until much later.

Photo credit: The HK Hub


5. Decide if you want to get maternity insurance.

Some people say maternity insurance is a MUST, while others say it isn’t necessary at all. As I’ve always emphasized, insurance is a very personal affair, and what works for someone may not work for you. So go ahead and speak to your agent(s), compare quotes, and decide if you’ll like to get covered for a greater peace of mind! 

I’ll cover this more in a separate post later as I’m currently still reviewing them now, and haven’t made up my mind whether this is a WANT or a NEED for me at this stage.


6. BUY MATERNITY BRAS.
The truth is that your boobs are likely to grow and become SUPER SORE when you’re pregnant. I know mine did (they’ve grown by an entire cup size now, much to the delight of my husband, and are often sore), and I had to resort to either going completely bra-less (at home) or wearing bralettes because wired bras became too tight and painful for me. 

I regretted waiting till my second trimester to buy my maternity bras (in my defence, I was concerned about whether my boobs would grow even bigger, so I wanted to save money and wait to buy only after I knew for sure  -.-). Don’t make the same mistake as I did! Otherwise, if you’re also concerned about changing bra sizes, you can lounge out in bralettes in the meantime first.


7. Avoid exercise (?)
This is really subjective but many gynaes will recommend that you avoid cardio or any form of strenuous exercise that basically involves shaking your womb vigorously as it’ll increase your chances of miscarriage. I actually exercise pretty often, but my husband forbade me to do anything during my first trimester ๐Ÿ™

Baby, for your sake, I’ll stay off my beloved abs exercise and dance classes!




8. SLEEP.
You’ll find yourself feeling tired and lethargic all the time. I’m not much of a napper, but I had to squeeze in 1 to 2 naps almost every other day (one during lunchtime, another right after work) in order to survive.

The contrary happened at night, as my nausea and acid reflux would typically hit me at about 11pm and last until 2am, so it was hard for me to go to sleep early. One night it got so bad that I couldn’t fall asleep until 6am!

Source: Instagram


9. Start thinking about how you wanna announce your pregnancy!

This is the most exciting part (heh)! We couldn’t wait to announce and tell our friends and family (my husband had a hard time keeping his mouth shut and spilled the beans to lots of people very early on, lol) and kept thinking about how to deliver the good news!

Most people usually wait till Week 12 – 14 to announce because that’s when your baby is pretty much stabilised and that’s when your risk of miscarriage drastically goes down. Have fun and be creative! There’s tons of great ideas here if you need some inspiration.

I’ll cover my thoughts on whether it is worth getting maternity insurance next! 

With love,
Dawn

SAFE DRIVERS ONLY – You can now pay less for your car insurance!

If you’re a safe driver looking to try and reduce your insurance premiums, I might have found just the answer for you.

I recently came across Vouch when a friend of mine shared about it on Facebook. Vouch, which is essentially a local digital car insurance platform partnering with major motor insurers like NTUC Income, Sompo and Tokio Marine. The exciting news is that they’ve just launched Singapore’s first No-Claims Rebate (NCR) for motor insurance last month!

You guys know how I’m like when I see a good deal – I go digging into whether it truly is as good as it sounds. So in this case, I reached out to the founder and grilled him about what Vouch is about, how they purportedly can offer a “cheaper and fairer” insurance model, and tried digging up the dirt. Surely there must be a catch!

But I found none. And that’s why I’m here today to share with you what I feel is a massive game-changer for the car insurance industry and for us drivers.

Note: This is NOT a paid or sponsored post. All opinions are that of my own.

Background

Now, remember how I highlighted my concerns last month about whether the motor insurance is headed down the same path as healthcare (where consumers now have to pay higher premiums and will no longer get to purchase full riders anymore)? You can read this article on the warning signs which I pointed out here.




My worry is that motor insurance premiums could soon be raised as well, given the industry’s underwriting losses and rising claims (highest since 2008). My husband and I pay pretty high premiums on our car so obviously if there’s a better option in the market, I want in.

How do car insurance claims really work?


If you’re not familiar with how insurance works, think of it as you outsourcing your financial risk to the insurer each time you buy a policy. The insurer collects the premiums from consumers like yourself, and pools them together – this sum of money then goes towards paying the distributors or agent commissions, administrative costs, claims…and whatever is left then becomes their profit.

So basically, you’re grouped and the risk is now spread out among all of you who are paying for the insurance protection (a.k.a. “risk pooling”).

Now, the problem comes in when too many claims are made and have to be paid out, which then eats into the insurers’ margins and profits. If it goes beyond a tipping point, the insurer (or the industry, depending on how severe the problem is) then runs into losses and needs to find other ways now so they can sustain their business. That’s what we recently saw in the healthcare space, where MOH and the insurers attribute the cause to a “buffet syndrome” which caused overall healthcare claims to go up and tip the insurers into danger zone.

Thus, is it really fair when your insurance premiums go up, even when you didn’t claim anything?

Obviously not!

For drivers, statistics show that 9 in 10 consumers don’t make claims on their motor insurance. So where exactly do the premiums (of the 9) go to?

Paying out the claims of others (the 1 in 10)?

But wait, there’s the No-Claims Discount (NCD), you say. The truth is, that’s still not good enough.

It is about time safe drivers stop being penalized for the reckless driving habits of others. How?

Introducing: Singapore’s first No-Claim Rebate (NCR)


Vouch is a Singapore startup (an insurtech platform) that now rewards people for safe driving.

They have recently launched Singapore’s first ever No-Claim Rebate (NCR) car insurance feature, partnering with major motor insurers to offer customers up to 15% cashback on our annual premiums, on top of our No-Claim Discounts (NCD)!


This translates into cheaper and fairer motor insurance for us consumers.

How does Vouch do this?
  1. For all motor insurance policies bought on the Vouch platform,15% of the driver’s premiums will be set aside for NCR, which is pooled with the other members in the group to form a common rebate pool.
  2. During the policy period, if any member makes a claim, part of the claim is deducted from the total rebate pool.
  3. At the end of each driver’s respective policy period, the remainder of the pool will be returned and split proportionally amongst the members who did not make a claim (the No-Claim Rebate). 
  4. If the pool runs out, there is no negative impact to customers, as everyone is still covered by their respective insurance company. However, because Vouch is attracting safe drivers only, it is more likely that the group stays accident-free (or in the unluckiest of scenarios, claims a little bit), and so everyone should receive the 15% cashback.

Their co-founder Chean Yujun, shared with me about how the traditional car insurance model works whereby safe drivers end up paying higher premiums to cover the risks of unsafe drivers. Vouch felt that this was unfair, and saw an opportunity to work with insurers to promote and reward safe driving instead.

Is this a good deal for us consumers? Should I switch now?


Yes, especially if you’re a safe driver.


If you’re a reckless driver, there’ll be no difference whether you stay with your existing insurer / policy or switch to purchase a new one through Vouch. The No-Claims Rebate won’t apply to you anyway.

But if you’re like the majority of drivers who hardly get into accidents, Vouch’s offer is extremely compelling because it is not only cheaper, but also fairer.


For instance, if you choose to buy with NTUC Income, you’ll pay the same for the policy, regardless of whether you buy through Vouch or elsewhere.

However, if you purchase through the Vouch platform, $138.55 (15% of your premiums) is set aside for your No-Claim Rebate, to be given back to you at the end of your policy year if you make no claims.


So with this cashback, you’ve effectively only paid $785 for your car insurance premiums!


TLDR Conclusion


– If you’re a generally safe driver looking to reduce your premiums paid, Vouch is looking for you, because they want to reward you for your responsible driving habits with up to 15% of No-Claims Rebate.

– This is on top of your existing No-Claims Discount (NCD), which means you’re paying much less for your car insurance policy now!

– Reader’s promo code: Use SGBB60 to get an extra $60 cashback! 



With love,
Budget Babe

What stock can I invest in that is low risk and high returns?

BB, what stock can I invest in that is low risk and high returns?

That’s one of the most common questions I get from readers and probably one of the most difficult to answer.

Everyone has a different interpretation of “low risk” and “high returns”, but in my case, the answer to the above question almost always comprise of value stock i.e. stocks that trade at a discount to what they’re really worth.

Sometimes this comes in the form of properties. Last month, I shared on my Patreon about a property stock which I found that was trading at a 77% discount to their book value of their cash and properties alone. Their price-to-earnings ratio at my time of purchase was also extremely compelling, at just 3.2X!

I did a full analysis and wrote a piece to consolidate my thoughts on the stock, and once I was done, I was in. I couldn’t possibly pass on something so cheap!



But sometimes cheap stocks can remain cheap for long, or even crash…because they might be a value trap in disguise. So how can you tell the difference, and ensure that you don’t fall for a value trap?

By getting educated and informed.

Education can come in various ways. You can read books (see my list of recommended books here) or go for courses to pick up skills, and then hone them further by practising and reading financial blogs, websites or doing hands-on (such as going in-depth into a stock analysis, attending AGMs, etc).

What should I look out for before I buy a stock? 

Personally, I’ve read almost every book on that list, attended many courses and workshops, as well as doing hands-on investing in order to get to where I am today. 

The most useful framework I’ve found, and eventually adapted to that of my own system, came from the Investment Quadrant workshop run by The Fifth Person. I won’t go too much into detail or give away their methodology, but I’ll share about some of the constants I always come back to whenever I analyse a stock.

1. Identify wonderful companies.

One of my primary criteria is to ensure that the company behind the stock is a great one, and I do this by assessing their business model, their competitive advantage, their economic moat, and the market that they serve.


If the company is facing structural headwinds or the entire industry is being disrupted and they’re slow to keep up, I generally stay away from such a stock (that’s a hint!).

Of course, I try to stick to things that I understand as well. For instance, I learnt through experience that I really just don’t understand the O&G industry enough, so I try not to go there unless there’s a compelling reason (such as if there’s a huge discount for the stock). Some people refer to this as sticking to one’s circle of competence, but I just call it common sense lah. Not familiar, just stay away lor. There’s a whole bunch of other stocks out there for you to choose from!




2. Can I trust the management team?

I’ve seen poor management screw up companies, and great management turn struggling companies around.


One way of assessing management quality includes studying the past decisions that they’ve made for the company, but on top of that, I tend to read the Chairman Statement on their annual report as well and compare it over the years. However, just watch out for PR fluff, as a lot of them might just be all talk but no action.



One example of a stock that I feel its management truly screwed up on is Netccentric (ASX:NCL), which IPO-ed in July 2015. You might not have heard of them, but surely you’ve heard of Nuffnang, the company which manages some of Singapore’s top influencers like Xiaxue. Its stock has crashed 94% since its IPO price of $0.20, and it suffered from internal management disputes (the original founders fell outboard calls for shareholders to dump founderformer CEO sues co-founder). In fact, earlier this year I was flabbergasted when CEO Desmond Kiu announced their decision to shut down their micro-blogging app Dayre, which I personally saw was a poor business move. Their fundraising attempts yielded just $700+, whereas I raised the $150,000 that they claimed was needed to run the app for a year…all within just 3 days. I won’t go too much into the saga, but you can read about my efforts to #saveDayre here and getting investors for a successful buy-out of the app

Another common red flag I look out for is how much management is paying themselves. If they’re giving themselves exorbitant salaries, then I’m out. I generally don’t like management teams who treat their company like their own personal ATM.


3.Quantitative Analysis – what do the financial statements say?


Even if the company has a fantastic business model, they might not always be earning profit. Loss-making companies are a big NO for me whenever I look for a value stock. I also study their income statement, the balance sheet and the cash flow statement, as well as run various calculations to see if the company is in good financial standing. 


For someone who wasn’t trained in math or finance, this used to take me days to complete, but over time I’ve become much faster at it with practice. If you’re just starting out and are unsure of what to look at, I highly recommend this course where they teach you what to zoom into within the financial statements, lest you get lost by all the numbers! 



4. Valuations

This is the most important part, and the one which always excites me the most. Here, I’ll be looking at whether the stock is trading at a discount, and whether that margin of safety is good enough for me to enter.


I’ll use DBS as an example, which I bought in early 2016 as a value stock because its discount was too good to resist. This has now blossomed to become one of my best-performing stocks in 2018, and now that CEO Piyush Gupta has announced its latest dividend payout, that translates to a forward yield of 8% for me given my original buy price.

Majority of the stocks I buy are stuff on a discount. If it isn’t trading at a discount, I’m happy to wait.

If you’re new to investing and am unsure on what type of valuations to use, do note that the suitability of metrics will differ based on the type of stock you’re analysing! Thus, if you’re really clueless and would like to simply get a framework to start, I highly recommend following the step-by-step process (including the flowcharts and checklists) taught in the Investment Quadrant.


Course Review: The Investment Quadrant

I shared here last year that I had paid for and signed up for The Investment Quadrant to hone my skills further, and I loved it so much that I’m back here again to recommend it to all of you this year.

If you’re new to investing, you’re gonna love all the checklists, step-by-step framework and the entire system that you can follow easily in order to get started. They’re so comprehensive that you’ll be able to start analysing and searching / buying for your first value stock the moment you’re done with the course!

If you’ve prior investing experience but have never been to this workshop, I highly recommend that you give this a shot because (i) it will challenge what you thought you knew about value investing and (ii) you get to pick the brains of investing experts Rusmin and Victor. They’ve done so well in their own investing journey thus far that they’ve managed to use this same formula to turn around a loss-making portfolio to $2 million in profits within just 2 years, with individual stocks yielding 50% to 300% returns!



The course consists of 2 parts:

1. Online : training videos, the checklists, flowcharts and formula worksheets
2. Offline : a complimentary one-day workshop for them to give you a crash course of the entire methodology, complete with case studies, common mistakes investors made, and FAQs

The best part is that beyond just a one-time course, I also get all their future updates they make to their course content. I paid for their Dividend Machines course in 2015, Investment Quadrant in 2016, and have been enjoying that benefit since.

If you compare this to the other value investment courses out there, you’ll find that this is severely underpriced at just USD 397 (and yes, I’ve been telling them that they need to raise their prices because the cost simply doesn’t justify the value they provide!). I’ll never forget how my own mom shelled out $4000+ for a value investment course with another company and the notes that she received was…so basic that you can actually learn all of them on my blog for free -.-

The Investment Quadrant course closes on 28 May 2018, and if you haven’t signed up yet, I’ve asked them and here’s a reader discount for you to get another $50 off (so that’s just $347 now!)

Honestly it is ridiculous that they’re even offering a money-back guarantee on this. I wish the one my mom signed up for had that (it didn’t), so we could have asked for a refund on hers!

In addition, if you’re a reader, let me know after you’ve attended the course (just drop me an email with your course confirmation afterward) so I can send you a reader freebie – a full stock write-up on one of my value stock purchases recently so you’ll be able to see the IQ methodology in action (together with some of my own metrics) and find out one of my favourite stocks in my portfolio which has never been mentioned on this blog before!

With love,
Budget Babe

Why are so many mummy influencers peddling dubious slimming pills and consumables?

Does anyone still remember Slim10?

The notorious dieting pill, produced by a manufacturer in China, led to various cases of thyroid problems, liver failure and even deaths throughout Asia among people who had consumed it. 2 harmful substances (fenfluramine and nicotinamide) were later detected, as well as traces of 2 other banned substances (thyroxine and triiodothyronine); all of which were not listed in the ingredients list submitted to HSA.

Now, I want you to take a close look at what happened to the distributors who were responsible for selling the pills:

Screenshot from MustShareNews

Now, you would think Singaporeans would have learnt to be more careful of diet pills by now, much less the ones that are sold online instead of through a reputable healthcare or medical store, but apparently that’s not the case.

With the rise of lifestyle influencers marketing slimming pills and consumables on their Instagram, I can’t help but wonder whether these products are TRULY safe, and what’s to happen should anyone end up being harmed by them. After all, we now know that distributor liability cannot be really established in Singapore after the Slim10 case, so it is more crucial that consumers be aware and informed of what they’re really getting into.

I was going to stay out of this, but it has been MONTHS since the issue was first raised to me by a concerned reader, and still no one has done any expose or a further investigation into the safety concerns of the slimming products that are increasingly marketed on Instagram.

The marketing and sales tactics employed by these influencers for these products are disgustingly similar – you’ll find it on their Instagram Stories, where it disappears after 24 hours (unless they pin it as their profile highlights)…therefore leaving no trace or evidence that they ever promoted or sold it.

The problem also lies in HOW these slimming products are being promoted and sold by none other than mummy influencers themselves, who generally tend to enjoy higher trust among their followers who believe that they will not recommend or consume anything that could harm themselves or their babies. These influencers push out claims that the products are absolutely safe for pregnant women and breastfeeding mums, even when there is hardly any concrete evidence to prove so. This is emotional marketing at its best, guys.

Thankfully no lives have been lost, and no foetuses / babies have been harmed so far from the mothers who consumed these slimming products (or at least, none whom I know of), but could it be because it is still too early to tell?

I took a deeper look into these products that the influencers are selling and here’s my take on it:

Tremella DX+

1. So, did HSA approve this product or not?

@charlottekiew states that the product is HSA-approved, going so far as to show a screenshot of the HSA document as evidence to back up her claims.

   

But, let’s see what was covered up behind her edits…

“This letter is not to be construed as an endorsement / approval of the product TREMELLA-DX”. Yes, now we know the truth of what was covered by the huge “DM to order!” edit, guys.

At least one reader of hers believed Charlotte’s claims that it was indeed HSA-approved and thus absolutely safe for consumption and sale in Singapore, but eventually found out it was false (and provided me with the screenshots above and below for the purpose of this piece to warn people).

2. Contradictory statements on whether this product is safe for pregnant mothers

One seller specifically highlights that the product is prohibited for consumption by pregnant women, whereas @charlottekiew and @vannytelly claim that it is safe for expecting and nursing mums.

Compare these contradicting claims and decide for yourself:

Source: A seller on Qoo10


3. Formulated in Japan…but manufactured in? Malaysia?

 

In case you’re wondering, the ingredients listed are: water, mixed berry powder (strawberry, cranberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry), tremella powder (a white fungus), wheatgrass, pumpkin fruit powder, dandelion, green tea, xanthan gum.

 I quote the below excerpt from Diet Pills Watchdog, which has done a fabulous write-up on this:

Tremella DX+ claims to offer 30 benefits in one, when in reality it struggles to offer customers a single benefit that we could find. Any claims that this oral yoghurt can bleach or lighten skin is preposterous, and had us checking and re-checking the advertising materials to see whether we had misread. There is also virtually nothing in this product that can help customers lose weight.What makes this version different from the original Tremella DX is the use of glutathione, which is used throughout the body in many healthy functions. Unfortunately, the form that this antioxidant has been presented in is not easily absorbed by the body, making this another strange and pointless inclusion in the formula.Tremella DX+ is available to buy for relatively low prices on convenient Malaysian online stores. The lowest price we found for a standard 16-sachet pack was 76 Malaysian Ringgitt (RM) – this is around US$17.50. Although Tremella DX+ is claimed to be Japanese in origin, our research implies that the product is made in Malaysia by and for the Chinese market. The product’s unclear ownership means that it is sold mainly by independent distributors, many of whom have probably been scammed themselves into buying useless stock. We do not recommend Tremella DX+ to our readers.

4. Does it make sense that the HSA letter was issued in 2015 when the distributor was only incorporated as a company in 2016?

Source


Meizi slimming pills aka 美资玲珑素 (or 美資玲瓏素)

This has recently been promoted and sold by influencers @charlottekiew and @shantelkiehls , who encouraged their followers to DM them to order.

1. Look at it being packaged in ziplock bags LOL.

2. Is it really safe? What are the ingredients in the pills?

Aside from claims that it is made from purely vegetarian and herbal ingredients, I was only able to find the purported main ingredients (but that doesn’t tell us anything about whether there could be any other ingredients or traces of harmful substances in it): hemp seed flour, fructose, aloe vera gel freeze-dried powder, sorbitol, soybean dietary fibre, cassia seed powder, celery fibre.

 


3. So, did HSA approve this product or not?

Another reader and I was unable to find any mentions of the product on HSA’s website. If you do, please let me know!



WoWo Collagen Jelly

Most of you should be well aware of the entire controversy surrounding WoWo products by now, but aside from the WoWo distributors, there are 2 well-known mummy bloggers and influencers who are also promoting the jelly – @vannytelly (yes, her again) and @bongqiuqiu

1. Firstly, why is it so pink?! Were artificial colourings used?

 

Many of the influencers promoting this only mentioned that it is made from bird nest and collagen, but a further search led me to this full list shared by a seller on Shopee:

A5 premium grade Indo bird’s nest, collagen peptides, collagen powder, soya peptide powder, wolf berries, lily bulbs, deep sea collagen extracts, gelatinum asini.

I don’t really see how any of the above ingredients would have led to such a bright pink colour in the jelly, leading me to believe that either (i) some sort of chemical reaction occurred to produce this hue or (ii) there are more unnamed ingredients that we don’t know of, and who knows if they are harmful?

2. Miraculous marketing claims!!! This product cures all! 

If you even believe their claims that eating this collagen jelly will help you to make your breasts bigger, stabilise your menstruation cycle, improve constipation, build up your immune system, lightens pigmentation and acne scars, etc…

Yes, they’re claiming this ONE product can do that much. Lol.

Source

 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see how the ingredients can actually achieve such miraculous effects. I don’t believe it one bit!

TLDR Summary

  • There has been an increasing number of influencers, specifically mummy bloggers, who are promoting and selling slimming pills / drinks / consumables on their Instagram Stories, where the post disappears after 24 hours without a trace.
  • The said influencers mentioned in this post includes @vannytelly , @charlottekiew, @shantelkiehls and @bongqiuqiu , but there could be more that I’m not aware of as these are the main 4 that readers have escalated to me due to their concerns over potential misrepresentation and safety issues.
  • The selling tactics generally focus on how it is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mums, when there is little evidence to prove so. Some even go so far as to claim that it is HSA-approved (not at all), or even offer guaranteed refunds in the event of no result.
  • As we learnt from the Slim10 saga, it is difficult to attribute liability to distributors of such slimming products, even if they are eventually found to contain trace elements of harmful of banned substances. And yes, even if the pills harm you or cause any deaths due to consumption, it is unlikely that the distributors (or the influencers in this case) will be held legally responsible.
  • If a slimming product sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • You should probably also never buy any questionable product online or directly from someone whom you barely know, especially if you cannot confirm the safety of the product or its full ingredients list. 

HSA has repeatedly told Singaporeans to be wary of buying slimming products online. In September last year alone, HSA seized over 39,000 units of illegal health products, many which were weight-loss products ranging from pills to beverages, and were labelled with claims such as “100 percent natural”, “herbal ingredients” and “quick effect”.

Do you see a glaring similarity here?

Remember, even if anything detrimental happens to you because you ate these slimming products sold to you by the influencers…they will probably walk away scot-free with no legal liability.

Your health is your own. Do what you deem fit, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

And pregnant / breastfeeding mums, please, I urge you to play safe rather than be sorry when it comes to these sort of slimming supplements. Don’t let your moment of vanity become a lifelong regret.

With love,
Budget Babe

Note: All screenshots in this article have been contributed and sent to me by my various readers. I do not claim credit for them, but the watermark is essential after I was recently a victim of a major news website seemingly plagiarising my article and attempting to pass it off as their own.

Warning: To Mothership.sg, if you DARE to plagiarise my story without proper credits, YOU WILL FACE LEGAL ACTION.

Get cashback or miles on your income tax payments? Why not!

Wow, I wasn’t expecting so many of you to appreciate my previous post on reducing your income tax – thanks for the support!


To all the new readers who just visited this space because you got directed here from Ho Ching or IRAS, hello!

Anyway, as a continuation to the earlier post, now that we’ve explored the various ways to reduce our income taxes, the next step to look at would be the mode of payment. Should you opt for monthly repayments or a one-time yearly bill? Should you use GIRO or your credit card?

Unfortunately, if you’ve ever tried paying for your cashback with your credit card in a bid to earn cashback or miles, you would have probably realised by now that tax payments (as well as that to government organisations) are usually excluded from these rewards.

Even the SCB Unlimited Cashback card, which I’ve previously reviewed and raved about here (seriously, go get one now if you haven’t already! What’s more, get $270 in cold hard cash if you apply for one before 30 April 2018 here), excludes tax payments from cashback as seen in their exclusion clause 3j.

You see, most of the banks and credit cards reward based on discretionary spending i.e. products or services that you want to buy instead of the stuff that you need. That’s why categories like dining and shopping get such generous cashback / miles rewards, because you could technically live without eating out and buying new stuff.

As such, one glaring gap in my credit card strategy was in how I could never get any rewards back on my mandatory spending, such as when paying for income taxes, insurance and clearing off my loans. It was frustrating to see how I wasn’t able to get anything back on the expenses I couldn’t avoid every month!

Until recently, that is.

Those of you who have read my Guidebook to the Best Cashback Tools in Singapore should be familiar with how much I’ve raved about CardUp since discovering them months ago.
With CardUp, you can now pay for insurance premiums, rent, school fees, condominium charges, income taxes and get cashback / miles doing so!

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How CardUp works


If you study the T&Cs of most credit cards, you’ll realise that no miles or cashback are given for payments made to government agencies, insurance premiums, ez-link top-ups, donations to charitable organisations, etc. CardUp basically enables you to make single or recurring payments online via your credit cards on these spending categories where you couldn’t previously use your card.


Now, this is a big game-changer because prior to CardUp, there was no other service or tool that allowed you to do this! Previously, you could only pay for your rent, mortgage and other mandatory expenses through bank transfer, cash or cheque options. This eliminated a huge chunk of big-ticket spending that can actually help you rack up significant credit card rewards.


There is a 2.6% processing fee imposed (due to the banks and credit card fees), so it is vital that you choose a card that netts you positive rewards even after paying this.


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What if the recipient doesn’t accept credit cards?


CardUp does a bank transfer to your recipient, so it doesn’t matter whether or not they accept credit card, and neither do they need to be registered with CardUp. This is what makes CardUp such a fantastic solution, and I only wish I discovered it sooner.


CardUp already has many recipients on its platform, but if you still can’t find yours, all you need to do is to set up a new recipient so that the transfer can go through. In addition, you can even set up recurring payments so you don’t have to log in every month just to transfer.


What you can use it for
  • Paying your income tax, property tax or utility bills
  • Insurance premiums
  • School fees (childcare, secondary schools, universities and private institutions)
  • Condominium fees
  • Charity donations
  • Car loans
  • Rental
  • and more!
Sounds good! Which cashback card should I use on Cardup then?

The best strategy would be to use a cashback credit card that gives you a higher rate than CardUp’s service fee in order to net positive cashback.


Here are the cards I would recommend to use with CardUp:
  • UOB One
  • Standard Chartered Manhattan (SCB is no longer accepting new signups for this card, which is a huge pity, but if you were lucky enough to get your hands on it previously please maximise it!)
  • BOC Family
  • Maybank Platinum Visa 
You can also check out their cashback calculator here first to calculate the amount of cashback you’ll get when you pay via the recommended cards!

Before CardUp broke into the scene, I was paying for my tax bills once every year, but now, I’m opting for monthly repayments via CardUp in order to get my credit card rewards.

So when you pay for your income tax bills from next month onwards, don’t forget to route them through CardUp so you can chalk up more cashback / miles while doing so!

For readers looking for a further discount, I’ve reached out to CardUp and they’ve offered $20 off your first payment fees when you enter the promo code “SGBUDGETBABE“.
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Always remember, credit cards can be your best friend if you know how to use them well! You can read more about maximising cashback tools in Singapore here on my previous post too ; have fun!

Note: This post was written in collaboration with CardUp.

With love,
Budget Babe

How to reduce your income tax in Singapore (make use of these tax reliefs and deductions!)

Back when I was still in my first job, my annual income tax was only about $200. This was based on a yearly income of $30,000, of which I saved $20,000 – read about how I did it here. (Nope, no bonuses either.)

I don’t mind paying taxes as I understand and appreciate the fact that the money is channeled for the government to help the lower-income groups, as well as pay for other public goods such as our roads, education, etc.

But ever since I got headhunted to my second, and now third, job where I received a pay raise each time, my income taxes have jumped significantly and it has come to a point where I’ve been looking into (legal) ways to reduce paying so much. For context, my income tax jumped by over 10x, but my salary hasn’t jumped 10x at all!

I’ve talked about how achieving financial freedom involves cutting down your expenses while looking for ways to increase your income at the same time. Income tax is definitely one area where you’d want to reduce, because Singapore’s tiered income tax system is such that the more you earn, the higher percentage of taxes you’ll have to pay.

For someone earning $30k a year, they only need to pay 2% of income tax, or $200.
If you earn $3,500 a month and get a 13-month bonus, you’ll be looking at an annual tax of $935. If you’re luckier and get more (eg. 3 months bonus), you can expect to pay $1,425.
But if you earn $80k annually (about $6k monthly with bonus), you’ll be paying $3350.
If you earn $100k a year, you’ll be paying over $5k…which could otherwise pay for a holiday to Europe!

While evading taxes is a crime, there are perfectly legal ways for you to reduce your income taxes. Here’s some:

1. Top up your CPF account (and/or that of your parents).

I used to give my parents their monthly allowance in pure cash. However, ever since I found out about this hack, I’ve changed this to put the money as voluntary contributions to their CPF accounts instead. Given that my dad is already retired and my mum will soon be eligible to withdraw her funds, this approach makes a lot of sense to me as my parents still get their money, and I get to concurrently enjoy tax rebate for the same.

Since the maximum tax relief we can claim is $7000, you can also make voluntary top-ups to your CPF Special Account (SA) where it can earn attractive interest rates, and up your tax relief amount further to a maximum of $14,000.

Do it before the end of the year so you’ll get the tax relief! I’ve blogged about this previously here as well.

2. Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) relief.

If you’ve already maxed out your CPF tax reliefs, you can also make use of the SRS relief scheme to enjoy up to $15,300 of tax relief if you and/or your employer make contributions to your SRS account!

3. Donate to charity.

It (literally) pays to be kind!

I’ve always believed in contributing to charity to help those who are less well-off than us. After all, I come from a family whose parents couldn’t even afford to send me to university, and I benefited from the university scholarship (generously funded by alumni) which allowed me to pursue my studies, so I’m extremely familiar with the struggles of not having enough money.

Because of my background, I have a soft spot towards donating to bursaries and other funds for needy students.

Aside from helping those who need it, the additional good news is, you can claim 250% in tax deductions based on the amount you donated!

4. Claim tax relief for supporting dependent or handicapped grandparents / parents / siblings / spouse.



If you have or parents, living with you who are older than 55 and earn no more than $4,000 annually, you can also claim up to $9,000 tax relief for supporting them (or up to $14,000 if they’re handicapped, in which case the income requirement doesn’t quite apply). But if you have siblings who are claiming for the same, you’ll need to split that evenly with them. There are also tax reliefs if your grandparents stay with you.

Unfortunately this scheme doesn’t apply to me since my mom is still working and my dad only just retired recently, so his annual income still exceeds $4000 for this year, but I’ll be able to claim this soon next time!

If you’re supporting a handicapped spouse or sibling, you can also claim up to $5,500 of tax relief.

5. For married spouses, claim NSman Self Relief.

Husbands can claim up to $5,000 if they’re a key appointment holder (or up to $3,000 if they’re not but served reservist), while their wives can claim $750 tax relief.



6. For parents, claim Parenthood Tax Rebate / Qualifying Child Relief / Working Mother’s Child Relief / Foreign Maid Levy Relief

It seems like the government is really encouraging us to have kids, as they’re giving out a lot of tax subsidies for those who do!

On your first child, you can claim $5,000 of Parenthood Tax Rebate. If you have 2 kids, add on another $10,000 for your second child. Or, if you’re like my cousin with 3 children (or more), you can add on $20,000 more for each subsequent child! This works out to a significant total of $35,000 of tax rebates if you have 3 children and make the maximum claims for them!

Under the Qualifying Child Relief, you can also claim up to $4,000 per child if your offspring is younger than 16 years of age or studying full-time.
Tip: the spouse with the higher income should be the one claiming for this, as it could probably reduce his/her taxes by a larger margin!

For mothers who are working and handling dual roles (mad respect to you women), you can claim 15% of your earned income in tax reliefs for your first child, 20% for your second, and 25% for each child if you have 3 kids or more! Do note that the total cap for QCR and WMCR is $50,000 per child, but that’s already a lot of tax deductions (and making me think twice about whether we should aim to have 2, or 3 kids!)

If you’re hiring a domestic helper at home, you can also claim twice the amount of foreign maid levy paid for a maximum of one foreign maid last year against your earned income.

7. For landlords, claim tax deductions on rental expenses.

Saving up to 15% of your gross rent or actual rental expenses incurred can be quite significantly, while protecting your (somewhat) passive rental income earned!

Worked Example

Thus, by using the (applicable) methods above, a working mom (under 55 years old) who earns $6k a month with a 13-month bonus, yet has 2 children and lives with her retired parent who’s helping to care for her kids, can get away with paying NO income tax, instead of the original $3,210!

*Assumes the following parameters:

That’s a whopping $3,210 saved in taxes (which you can then use to fund a holiday abroad, or other expenses) as long as you make full use of the reliefs available!

And that, my dear, is how you can legally get away with paying ZERO taxes in Singapore.

As your income rises (the moment you get any pay raise, commissions or bonuses), you’ll soon realise that your income taxes rise disproportionately and you could be paying a huge chunk if you aren’t savvy about the various relief schemes available for you to tap on. Considering how much you’ll have to pay otherwise, this is where saving on your taxes become increasingly important!

However, do also bear in mind that there is a cap of $80k on the amount of tax reliefs you can claim. You can also calculate your income taxes and reliefs here on the IRAS income tax calculator.

Looking at the schemes available, wouldn’t it make sense for the husbands to be stay-at-home dads while the mothers go out to work? ๐Ÿ˜› (since there isn’t a working fathers child relief scheme). If you want to reduce your income taxes, having kids will definitely help!

At any rate, just don’t try to avoid paying taxes as the Singapore government now considers that as a predicate to anti-money laundering! That involves personal and even criminal liability, so just be a good citizen and pay your income taxes. But be a smart citizen so you can get away with paying less, or even none at all ๐Ÿ˜‰

Public Service Announcement (PSA): Remember to file your income taxes by April 18, 2018 ๐Ÿ™‚ and don’t forget to make use of these tax reliefs and deductions that I’ve just shared!

With love,
Dawn

Note: This post was written in conjunction with IRAS, and all infographics shared here are rightfully credited to them!