Category: SG Budget Babe

How can investors ride on China’s growth?

China companies might be the next big thing. How can investors tap on their growth?Image creditsFor the first time ever, China has surpassed the US in having more Chinese companies on the Fortune 500 list.American companies have traditionally dominated…

4 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Invest

Before you start your investing journey proper, I always tell my readers that there are 4 key questions they’ve to ask themselves first:Image credits1. How much BUDGET do you have to invest?The capital you have will mostly determine which style of inve…

Food Ideas for Gestational Diabetes: What to Eat If You Have GD

What my friends and I ate during pregnancy after we got diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Just failed your OGTT? If you’ve been told by your gynae that you have gestational diabetes (even if you merely failed 1 out of the 3 readings, like I did), don’t worry and take a deep breath. There’s no need to panic or fret out over what you can or cannot eat from here, because the choices are in fact wider than you think.

In fact, while gestational diabetes (GD) sounds like a completely depressing news to get at this point in time, it doesn’t need to be that bad. Your food choices also still remain aplenty!

My experience

I failed my first-hour reading during my OGTT and was diagnosed with borderline GD during my pregnancy. It seems like I’m not the only one – and more people I know are starting to get diagnosed with the same, whether or not they failed just one or even all three readings. Fortunately, my gynae let me off the hook given that I only failed the test marginally, and I wasn’t required to visit a dietician as long as I kept my diet in check.

But my close girlfriends (who coincidentally got pregnant a few months after me) had to visit one for a personalised consultation. The cost isn’t that pricey though; expect to pay anywhere between $70 – $150 for the consultation i.e. similar to what you would pay your (private) gynae for each session anyway.

Instead of seeing GD as a curse, I looked at it as a chance to eat healthier, which was good for both my baby and my own body! Thinking positively about the condition can help J

If you’ve GD, you’ll probably be wondering what you can and cannot eat, so I thought I’ll share about some tips and meal plans we followed, and hopefully these will be of help to some of you mothers-to-be!

Tips:

1. Reduce your portion sizes

Having GD doesn’t mean you have to completely stop eating foods that you love. In fact, one easy trick that I found to work for me is to simply reduce my portion sizes. Many of us often eat economic rice (or “cai fan”) for lunch in CBD, and by simply eating 1/3 less of what we used to normally eat, it didn’t spike our readings beyond the allowed range. This allows you to still indulge in some of your favourite foods, except that you’ll be eating slightly less now.

2. Watch your carbs

If you can’t reduce your portion sizes because it makes you still hungry after, then try limiting your carb intake, or swopping it out for complex carbs instead, which release sugar more slowly into your bloodstream.

Wholegrain options for bread and pasta are a great swop, while brown or red rice is a good substitute in place of your usual white rice. Otherwise, you can try quinoa or couscous like I did!

3. Go for low G.I. foods or drinks

Food options in Singapore have expanded, with several brands now labelling their products with the low G.I. label to help you choose easily. During my pregnancy, I had cravings for soy milk all the time (fun fact: apparently my mom drank lots of soy milk when she was pregnant with me as well!) and my gynae said I could still keep that, but to change to the low G.I. options by NutriSoy or MariGold instead.

Processed foods, baked goods and anything with flour typically have high G.I. levels, so you’d want to go for healthier options like steel-cut oats, baked beans, nuts or clear soups instead. For a more extensive list of foods and their respective G.I. levels, you can check out this useful excel sheet which I used as a guide during my pregnancy as well:

4. Don’t drink your carbs

Cut out all the soda and gaseous drinks, said my gynae. This was easy for me because I don’t even consume them on a regular basis anyway. Instead, most of my fluids were from water or non-caffeinated tea. It tastes refreshing, quenches my thirst and contains zero sugars!

Juices are horrific because they contain so much fruit sugars that they’ll spike your levels faster than you can even finish 1 serving of that fruit in its fresh, unjuiced form! So think twice before you purchase that cup of Boost next time. You’ll be much better off eating the fruit instead, and you’ll feel fuller, too.

5. Avoid sugary foods and desserts

This was probably the hardest thing for me to do because everyone knows I LOVE my cakes, cookies and chocolates, but hey, if even I could survive without them for my entire third trimester, then so can you!

(I still had cheat days though :P)


GD-friendly Meal Ideas in Singapore

My closest girlfriends and I all happened to get diagnosed with gestational diabetes during our pregnancy, and these are the meal plans we worked with. You can also try them for yourself and see how your body reacts to them:

Breakfast

       1 bowl of whole grain cereal + low fat milk

       1 slice of wholemeal bread + peanut butter +
BRAND’S® chicken essence

       1 cup of Greek yoghurt + 2 tsps granola +
BRAND’S® chicken essence

       1 slice of low-GI bread + canned tuna in water +
BRAND’S® chicken essence

       ½ cup muesli + low fat milk

       ½ cup oatmeal + apple slices

       Big breakfast: 2 eggs + mushrooms + ½ baked tomato + baked beans

Lunch

       Scambled eggs + ham and cheese sandwich + BRAND’S® chicken essence

       Roasted chicken breast + side salad

       Grilled salmon or dory fish + ½ baked potato

       Tofu chicken salad (red wine vinegarette dressing) + BRAND’S® chicken essence

       Wholemeal tortilla wrap with steamed chicken, onions and cheese

       ¼ plate of brown rice + stir-fried vegetables + 1 protein

       ¼ plate of basmati rice + chicken + long beans

       ½ plate vegetarian bee hoon + 1 protein (seafood ok) + 1 vegetable (asparagus / beansprouts / cabbage / broccoli / cauliflower / carrots / lotus roots)

Dinner

       1 bowl of soba + fish + tofu

       Wholemeal pasta + cheese + tuna flakes in water + homemade tomato sauce (blended) + BRAND’S® chicken essence

       1 small bowl of macoroni with broiled chicken slices + BRAND’S® chicken essence

       Roasted chicken with side salad

       Steak with side salad

Snacks

       Almond nuts or walnuts

       3 wheat crackers

       1 small apple

       1 kiwi

       1 slice of guava

       1 glass of low G.I. soymilk

       1 cup berries

The MOST IMPORTANT tip? Every body reacts differently!

I’ve shared some meal ideas for anyone diagnosed with gestational diabetes in Singapore, because I can understand how limited your options seem to be (trust me, they aren’t). However, do note that every body reacts differently to certain foods. My friend could take 2 slices of wholemeal bread with peanut butter or eggs and cheese for breakfast and still be within range, whereas my other girlfriend can only take a maximum of one slice or she’ll bust her readings. There are more stories of how some meals worked for some of us, but failed for the rest.

As a result, think of the pricks as a good way for you to find out how your body reacts to the sugars in different types of food. It is not meant to torture you; rather, it is there to help you understand your body better so you can feed it with the stuff that won’t hurt you.

Sample Readings

My friend was very diligent in taking her readings, and have agreed to share it here for educational and reference purposes.

Some context about her situation: she was diagnosed with GD in her second trimester, and is very sensitive to carbs as she consistently has high glucose levels whenever she consumes them. All her meals and readings over a two-week period are provided in the table below.

Target blood sugar level:

Pre-meal:

7.8 mmol/l

Post-meal:

4.0 – 7.8 mmol/l

Breakfast

Pre

1hr post

Wholemeal bread + Peanut butter + 1/2 cup latte (0% sugar)

5.7

7.2

Wholemeal bread + Peanut butter +
Soya bean (0% sugar)

5.9

6.7

Wholemeal bread + Peanut butter + BRAND’S®
chicken essence

5.5

5.9

Wholemeal bread + Peanut butter + Cheese

5.3

6.2

Ham and eggs sandwich

5.4

6.0

Chicken + Yoghurt

5.6

7.0

Strawberry yoghurt

5.5

6.6

Eggs + Teh C Siu Dai

5.8

6.7

Burger King’s omelette + bacon + hashbrown

5.4

6.5

Cereal + BRAND’S®
Chicken essence

5.7

8.0

Cereal + low fat milk + BRAND’S® chicken essence

4.9

6.7

Cereal + 2 scoops yoghurt

5.2

10.0

Oats + banana milk

6.1

8.2

Wanton mee +
orange juice

5.5

7.4

Eggs + Teh O Siu Dai +BRAND’S® Chicken Essence

5.7

6.7

Lunch

Salmon + seaweed chicken + BRAND’S® chicken essence

4.8

5.8

Duck confit +
1/3 iced latte

5.3

6.2

Dim sum

5.9

8.0

Cai fan + 1/2 latte
(0% sugar)

5.4

6.6

Cai fan + Teh O Siu Dai

5.4

7.5

Yong Tau Foo +
Spinach Noodle

5.3

5.6

Brown rice + steam egg
+ wanton + orange juice

5.3

6.7

Fish beehoon soup +
orange juice

5.2

6.9

Salmon bento +
karage salad

5.3

7.2

Chicken spinach soup +
Teh O Siu Dai

5.9

6.4

Salmon fillet +
BRAND’S® chicken essence

5.6

6.2

Fish & cups + tea

4.9

7.2

Wholemeal pasta +
chicken

5.1

6.5

Chicken chop +
Teh C Siu Dai

5.2

6.6

Dinner

Wholemeal chicken karaage pasta

5.3

8.1

Herbal chicken soup + tofu
 + long beans + 1/4 rice

5.4

6.0

Salmon karaage

5.2

5.6

Fried chicken (1 pc) +
1/2 mashed potato

4.5

7.2

Fish soup + fried chicken

5.6

6.4

Pork rib noodles (1/4 noodles)

5.2

6.8

Wholemeal pasta + meatballs

5.2

6.2

Wholemeal pasta + salmon

5.3

6.3

Sushi + green tea

5.8

7.4

Chicken chop + onion rings + siew mai

5.3

6.8

Baked chicken + grilled fish

5.0

6.0

Chicken chop

5.3

6.6

Salmon miso soba

5.0

7.0

Fish & chips

4.9

6.7

Chicken salad

4.7

6.3

Fried chicken (2 pc)

5.3

7.2

Beef ribs

5.3

6.7

The above readings are not to be taken as indicative of how your body may respond to the same foods.

Interestingly, we found that the meals taken with BRAND’S®
chicken essence caused a lower average blood sugar level spike (1.2 mmol/l) in contrast to the average when taken without (1.5 mmol/l).

And as you can see, your food options on a GD diet are still quite varied!

To encourage you further, remember that GD often goes away for most women once you’ve given birth, so you really only need to persevere for a few more months for the sake of your baby and your own body. All the best!

*** Sponsored Message ***

BRAND’S® Essence of Chicken can help lower your body’s glycemic response to foods when you consume one to two bottles daily. Scientists from Osaka University have found that regular consumption of BRAND’S® Essence of Chicken can help reduce high blood sugar levels. This is largely attributed to its formulation, which contains L-Carnosine as an integral element, and which helps to regulate blood sugar levels by increasing plasma insluin and reducing glucagon.

On top of these benefits, drinking BRAND’S® Essence of Chicken during and after your pregnancy can also help reduce tiredness, improve concentration and even the quality of your breastmilk.

If you’re planning to breastfeed your baby, read more here in this guide on how to survive it!

This article is written in collaboration with BRAND’S®. All suggested foods are meal plans we put together based on the dietician advice and brochures that were provided to us during our consultations.


Claim your 15% discount code off 

BRAND’S® Essence of Chicken Original 12 x 68ml pack! Available exclusively on Lazada with a minimum purchase of $50. Redemption is valid till 30 June 2020, on a while stocks last basis. 

Are Stock Mailing Lists Worth It?

For time-pressed investors who are looking for stock ideas, with sufficient capital to take action.

Source credits

A common question I often get is how and where I get my investment ideas from. If you count just SGX, NYSE, NASDAQ and HKSE (the stock markets I’m most interested in), there are a gazillion listed stocks alone…all of which could provide an opportunity. So where does one get started?

For me, I get my stock ideas from anywhere and everywhere. It could be from reading the news, an analyst report, a (non-fiction) book, seeing a brand when I’m overseas, or hearing about a “stock tip” from my friends. 

As long as you cultivate an open eye and mindset, there really are opportunities to be found everywhere. For instance, my investment into Disney (almost a 50% gain now) was sparked off when I noticed plenty of children carrying Frozen and Marvel-themed backpacks while I was out on a casual stroll through a neighbourhood mall. That piqued my curiosity enough to wonder and decide to study the parent stock (Disney), and the rest is history.

I’m always on the lookout for opportunities, even in casual conversations with friends or colleagues who aren’t stock investors, because sometimes even the latest consumer trend could be the next multi-bagger. After all, that was my experience with Apple when I was younger; I would certainly also invest into Dyson now if only they were listed!

But if you struggle to spot opportunities like these, there’s another solution that has recently popped up on my radar: subscriptions to stock mailing lists.

Similar to analyst reports from brokerages, these stock mailing lists are run by often seasoned investors who dedicate their full time to researching and writing about stock opportunities. While most aren’t as technical as the ones you get from your local brokerage, they’re usually easier to read and also provide insights into stocks you’ve probably never heard of before.

Free resources online

If you know how to discern the good picks from the bad eggs when you’re reading for investment ideas online, then frankly speaking, you don’t need to pay for stock mailing lists because you’re fully capable of finding your own stock ideas! 

Save the money and use your own time to generate your own picks instead.

But if you’re not a fan of the resources online, then perhaps following an investor whose opinion you value could be a good starting point. Some of such investors I respect write for free online, while others charge for their time and effort spent. Some offer both free and paid resources (including yours truly. IPO resources from me will always remain free on this blog.)

Bear in mind that not every investor goes in deep into research either. By the way, some of the best resources I read for investment ideas include articles by The Fifth PersonInvestment Moats, and Dr WealthCheck them out if you haven’t already.

Almost everyone has an opinion on a stock. What’s undervalued to one investor could be overpriced to another. At the end of the day, you need to be able to judge for yourself. So if you’re concerned that you don’t know how to differentiate between the many differing opinions on the web when it comes to stocks, then a good tip would be to follow the writers whom you respect and know they do not compromise on their research process.

If you find there aren’t enough of such free resources for you, then perhaps a paid subscription to a stock mailing list might be another place to look.

Are such stock mailing lists worth it?

It really depends on what you wish to get from such a subscription. Generally, if you’re looking for viable investment ideas, such a service could be useful because they curate what they believe to be quality stocks and narrow down the entire universe for you to focus on a few opportunities.


While some of the reports go into pretty extensive detail and financial figures / ratios as well, they’re definitely not as detailed all the time, so you’ll have to manage your expectations there.

Two important factors to consider before you subscribe are:

  1. Profile of the research analyst(s)
  2. Cost
You’d want to make sure their investment profile is one that resonates with you. For instance, it could be pretty useless subscribing to a newsletter that looks solely at growth stocks if you’re a purist in value investing.

To determine cost vs value, an easy way to calculate it would be to divide the number of stock ideas or reports that you’ll be getting by the subscription fee. Everyone’s threshold would be different when it comes to assigning a dollar amount to such a value, but personally, I’m willing to pay up to S$50 for a really good stock idea. Hence, if I’m paying S$200 a year to a subscription that doesn’t give me at least 4 good stock ideas to look into in any given year, then I tend to terminate my membership thereafter.

Folks who aren’t suitable for such mailing lists

Of course, not everyone might be suitable to start with such mailing lists. If you’ve a small capital base, then you might be better off doing your own research instead. If you’ve plenty of time on your hands, then perhaps you could save the monies as well and DIY.

Based on the mailing lists where I’m subscribed to, I’ve also realised that the following profiles of investors may not be entirely suitable:

Dividend investors – many of the mailing lists available focus on overseas stocks, and for Singaporean investors, you’ll be subjected to withholding tax which make it a lousy strategy to build your dividend portfolio based on overseas counters. You’ll be better off looking at REITs instead, or check out Dividend Machines by The Fifth Person to learn how to do your own research.

Investors who buy purely on “stock tips” – if you’re expecting to be spoon-fed such that you can immediately put your money into a stock just by reading a report, then these mailing lists would be a recipe for your own disaster. 

The strategy should be to use these stock ideas as a base to go forth and conduct your own research and judgement. If you don’t take ownership and effort with your own money, then that is almost akin to speculating, and you’re just setting yourself up for a higher failure rate.


Reviews:

I’m currently subscribed to several mailing lists where I receive periodic updates on stocks that they reckon are worthwhile investments to go into. From there, I sieve out the ones that sound appealing enough to me, and proceed to do my own research and analysis before I decide whether to buy or skip. 


Here’s my review of 4 resources, and I hope this helps you decide if it’ll be suitable for you as well before you sign up:

1. Alpha Lab by The Fifth Person

Their proposition:

Discover market-beating stocks and learn how to identify the best value-growth and deep value stocks from around the world. As a member of Alpha Lab, you receive new stock ideas and our complete video analysis on the companies’ four core areas: business model, management, financials, and valuation.
Watch us break down our analysis of a company for you. We currently cover companies listed on the Singapore Exchange, Bursa Malaysia, the Stock Exchange of Thailand, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the New York Stock Exchange, and Nasdaq.

I concur with many of their stock picks, many of which they’ve bought at an even lower price than me, lol. However, due to the subscription price, it’ll be best only for time-pressed investors who already have a substantial capital base (eg. min. $20,000) to start.

2. Stansberry Pacific Research

Looks at global stocks across several stock markets, and particularly delves into undervalued gems in Asia. From their newsletter, I came to know of several companies that are benefiting from the growth of China, that I didn’t previously know of. Here’s some data extracted from one of their recent stock picks:

“It also has one of the highest profit margins in the industry, with operating margins of 13 percent, and a return on equity of 37 percent. In contrast, Ford is at 4.2% operating margins, and half of company X’s ROE. 

While Ford produces 2.6 million vehicles a year from 29 different factories, this Chinese carmaker manufactures 1.25 million cars a year from just 11 car plants in China.”

An interesting option for value and growth investors who are looking to capitalise on the growth of Asia and Asian stocks.

Patreon

Disclosure: My own stock subscription list.

I also run a Patreon with such reviews, but be forewarned that my reports are generally very long, given the depth of financial analysis and qualitative evaluation. I would say this is only for readers who like my style of investing, and who have ready capital (but no time) to spare to do your own research.

Each report generally takes me about a week to research, and another 2-3 days to write, so I take immense pride in the articles I write here as I go in-depth and even look at the next buy / sell levels that I’ll take action on. My Patreon is basically a place where I park my own investment thesis before I buy / sell a stock, except that paid readers can access them as well.

Nonetheless, my investment profile is definitely not as prolific as many other investors, and I wouldn’t recommend for most people to subscribe to me unless you (i) wish to support my blog and (ii) look at stocks in a similar approach like me i.e. qualitative > quantitative, although both aspects must and are always analysed.

VIA Club

Disclosure: Affiliate links included for VIA Club.

Stanley is a respected investor within the Singapore and Malaysia scene, as he sloughed through 8 years before he started seeing massive gains in his portfolio. Today, he is a full-time investor and spends his hours researching and sharing about companies, including SGX-listed ones. If you’re keen on following someone with a $1.5 million investment portfolio and potentially mirror his trades, then VIA Club might just be for you.

In fact, if you’ve followed his call in December on Facebook, you would be sitting on 50% of profits by now…within just 7 months. Back then, he released a report on Facebook, deeming it as his “favourite company for 2019”. (Psst, it was my favourite stock in 2018 too.)

Stanley’s portfolio, available on VIA Club


You’ll also get access to:

  • Live updates on a cool S$1.5 million portfolio
  • Weekly market reports and stock analysis
  • Premium podcasts with senior management of listed companies
  • Community discussions

I have a similar investment approach to Stanley’s and his picks are usually stuff already on my watchlist as well, which is why I generally appreciate reading through his reports and thoughts on the company before I start my own research.

Here are some of his other investment picks:



For those of you who are keen on US, HK and SG stocks, then Stanley’s picks may be right up your alley. And if you’re interested to try it out, you can use the promo code “SGBB” to get 25% off (valid till end July 2019) so it brings the price down to just USD 126 a year. 

That’s less than $15 a month for one good stock idea.

If you’re not willing to fork out that amount, don’t worry – there’s always free resources as well. Just scroll back up and you’ll find the links to those 🙂


With love,
Budget Babe

Are you paying too much for formula milk powder?

Insights into the milk powder industry and why I switched Nate to a wallet-friendly brand with higher quality and value.
Readers who have been following my parenthood journey from Nate’s birth late last year will probably recall that we were first feeding him a different brand of formula milk, which cost us almost $60 each time.

Coupled with the cost of numerous diapers, baby clothing, feeding needs and more, the amount we were spending on Nate each month was no small sum, and it was going to hurt our wallet if we continued to pay $60 every 10 days for a tin of milk powder to meet his demand.

Thus I embarked on numerous trips to the supermarket and took it upon myself to research all the different milk powder brands available, by comparing them on both price and nutritional levels. The findings were unsurprising (you can view my excel sheet here), and proved what I had always suspected: price does not necessarily equate to quality when it comes to milk powder.

Shortly after that, I switched Nate to Nature One Dairy. This post explains why.

The milk powder industry

There are various milk brands being sold in Singapore, all touting different benefits for your child, and when it comes to country of origin, a quick Google search will show you that milk from Australia is said to be among the best for your child.

However, not all milk formula brands in Australia have their own manufacturing facility. Some brands outsource their production to various factories – some owned by them, others owned by a third party manufacturer. I had the privilege of meeting the CEO of Nature One Dairy recently to chat about how the industry works, how milk is produced and sold, among other relevant topics. That was when I found out that Nature One Dairy manufactures all its infant milk formula in their own pharmaceutical grade manufacturing facility in Australia.

We’ve all heard of the infant milk formula contamination saga last year, so I asked about the controls that Nature One Dairy has in place to prevent incidents like these from happening. By having a cleanroom with controlled environmental parameters such as temperature, humidity and pressure, as well as filtered air and the highest cleanliness standards, this is how they (and the best manufacturers in the industry) reduce the risks of contamination to almost zero.

And of course, by being a manufacturer and selling their own products, they’re able to maintain their high stringent standards and quality. This also reduces third party risks, as well as middlemen costs – which translates into…

Lower prices

My child’s nutrition and health is non-negotiable, and I absolutely do not believe in giving a cheaper brand of milk powder just because I’m trying to save money.

However, as my research has proven, contrary to popular beliefs, the most expensive milk brand is NOT the best nor the most nutritious. But don’t take my word for it – go to the supermarket and compare the nutrition levels for yourself, or you can ride off my excel sheet here.

The funny thing? Most milk formula brands cost more than double in Singapore as compared to Australia. Yes, the same brands!

Nature One Dairy formula prices are similar to the average median pricing in Australia (between $20 to $30) regardless of whether it is sold in Australia or Singapore and this is something I really appreciate. The slight price difference is mainly due to currency exchange rate, costs for export, transport and import costs.

Since switching to Nature One Dairy, I’ve reduced my monthly expenses on infant milk powder by 50%.

That’s the equivalent of more than $1000 saved in a year.

But is the quality guaranteed?

Price is not always indicative of quality, as the stock market will tell you. The same goes for the infant milk powder industry, because all Australian manufacturers cannot release goods for sale or export unless the products have passed stringent testing requirements first, and obtained health certificates for export.

For Nature One Dairy, their manufacturing facility undergoes regular and strict onsite auditing and inspections by the Australian government, Dairy Food Safety Victoria, the country’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and more.

Okay, but then why do some brands charge such high prices?

Perhaps the best people to answer this question would be the spokespeople of the brands themselves, but from what I’ve observed, many of the more expensive brands also seem to spend a lot more on marketing and freebies – all of which cost money, and surely that money has to come from somewhere.

For instance, I frequently see many of those brands as sponsors at many pregnancy conferences, and paying prominent lifestyle influencers who charge considerable fees for sponsored posts. One example would be a popular lifestyle influencer in Singapore, who was initially feeding her daughter Enfamil, then later did a sponsored post promoting Abbott, and then recently promoted Bellamys. Personally speaking, while I’ve nothing against her, I’m unable to figure out which she thinks is the best milk brand for her child anymore, because I’ve seen her change her tune each time a new brand sponsors her for a post.

Singapore: the crackdown on the milk powder industry’s marketing

As a consumer, I’m not a fan of what I feel are misleading product names in the milk powder industry. For instance, names like Gain IQ and Intelli-Pro gave me the impression that if my child drinks those, they’ll make him smarter, but when I compared the nutritional levels, I found no evidence that this will indeed be the case.

Some other examples include Enfamil’s marketing message, which is that they’re “scientifically formulated to support overall mental and physical development, with ingredients DHA, ARA, choline, prebiotics, zinc and iron”, while Wyeth S-26 claims that they “contain 26 specialized ingredients to complement the learning environment for nuturing your child’s mind”. Well, guess what? The same ingredients can be found in other brands as well, which are retailing for almost half the price.

I’ll willingly pay more for higher quality, but my research has shown that it isn’t the case.

Are higher nutritional levels better?

Some mothers believe that milk powder with higher nutritional levels are better for their child, but I personally don’t believe in that because only nutrients that are within legal limits are clinically proven to be safe, and those that exceed legal limits might have side effects on babies. Moreover, in the milk powder industry, higher nutrients may not necessarily be better; it is all about balance.

Our babies’ digestive system and organs are not yet fully developed, so I’m also concerned of the potential issues that could arise later if we consistently feed them nutritional levels that their system (eg. kidneys) may not be mature enough to process. However, there aren’t enough studies (yet) to show the impact of this on babies, so as parents, we will need to determine what we feel is best for our children, and then live with the consequences of our own choices.

Is more prebiotics better?

Manufacturers often add prebiotics (often found as FOS, GOS and/or inulin within the ingredients list) to milk powder to mimic the effects of oligosaccharides that occur naturally in breastmilk. However, these substances are not absorbed in the small intestine, and reach the large intestine as essentially intact. Breastfed infants generally have softer stools compared with formula-fed babies, and this difference may be due in part to the presence of oligo- and polysaccharides in breastmilk.

Moreover, GOS and inulin-derived substances are hardly digested in the small intestine. As there is virtually no systemic exposure to these intact oligosaccharides, the only possible adverse effect identified has been an increased osmotic potential within the colon, which can potentially lead to increased water loss and dehydration. It has thus been concluded that these substances, either alone or in any combination, at concentrations up to 8 g/L will contribute to increased osmotic potential in the colon of formula-fed infants.

If that’s confusing, here’s an easier and potentially more useful guide: the legal limits under the governing food standards in Australia and New Zealand.

Is more DHA better?

Not necessarily. I’ve written on this before, so do read my findings here.

TLDR summary: There’s no conclusive evidence to prove that more DHA makes your baby smarter.

For me, I care a lot about the source of the ingredients as well. Given that DHA can be obtained from fish oil or algae (keep a lookout for crypthecodinium cohnii oil in the ingredient list), I prefer the former.

And that’s another reason why I picked Nature One Dairy, which uses DHA from fish oil, over some other brands such as Enfamil, Similac and S-26 which use DHA from algae instead.

Here’s the legal requirements governing the use of such acids in milk powder produced in Australia and New Zealand:


*** Sponsored message below ***


Benefits of Nature One Dairy

You know you can be assured of the highest-quality milk when it is sourced from grass-fed cows in Australia, where the cows are free to graze on the pristine pastures of Gippsland, thus producing consistently high-quality milk. In addition, their milk formula is gluten-free and does not contain sucrose, maltodextrin or any sweeteners. Lactose (the natural sugar present in human breast milk) is the only source of carbohydrate.

All products are manufactured in an ISO-8 pharmaceutical-graded facility that has been specifically designed for infant formula production. All infant formula brands have been formulated by food science technologists to mirror (as close as humanly possible) a mother’s breast milk.

All ingredients used in the manufacturing of Nature One Dairy infant milk formula also have to go through strict microbiological and chemical testing and analysis by nationally accredited laboratories in Singapore and Australia. Their formulas are also halal-certifiedby the Islamic Coordinating Council of Victoria (which is responsible for halal food exports from Australia) and the Australian Halal Authority & Advisers. It is also recognised by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

As a manufacturer, they also manufacture for other brands, such as NTUC’s FairPrice Gold Infant Formula.

For those uncertain whether to choose between their Standard or Premium formula, the difference is that the Premium range has higher levels of nutrients and GOS (a prebiotic), which some babies may not take well to. Hence, if your baby frequently experiences diarrhoea and bloatedness, then the Standard range may be better suited for them instead. And for parents who want to feed organic milk instead, there’s the Organic range as well.

What’s more, as Nature One Dairy produces pregnancy milk and infant formula for between 0 – 6 years, there is no brand switch needed in between. After 6 years, growing children can progress to the Student Formula if desired.

Pick an affordable milk formula brand without compromising on quality for your child. Choose Nature One Dairy today.

Nature One Dairy milk products can be found online at RedMart, or bought directly off retail shelves at Sheng Siong, Cold Storage, Giant or FairPrice (organic, student & adult range only).

I’m really glad we switched to Nature One Dairy, and I hope that this post will be useful to those of you looking for a more affordable milk option too.

This post was written in collaboration with Nature One Dairy.

What does the Trade War mean for your portfolio?

Join us tomorrow (online) as we discuss the implications of the US-China trade war and its implications on the stock market.In this webinar, we will look into what happened historically when trade tariffs were imposed on such a global scale, and discus…

Here’s how to “game” your credit cards / banks for bonus cashback, interest or even miles!

If you’ve ever wondered how the banking/credit cards system works, here’s an overview so you can learn how to game it to your benefit!

How exactly do the credit card companies / banks know whether you’ve fulfilled the transaction criteria, and how do they know how much to give you back? 

6% cashback on dining, 5% for retail shopping, and 3% for groceries! Credit your salary and make 3 bill transactions to get bonus 2% interest!

Here’s how:

  • Credit card transactions, and the corresponding rewards, are determined by MCC codes
  • The transactions on your bank account would be judged by its relevant transaction codes.

Hacking Credit Cards: MCC Codes

A Merchant Category Code (MCC) is a four-digit number used to classify businesses – those accepting retail financial transactions via credit cards – by the type of goods or services it provides.

In Singapore, for instance, here are some common MCC codes:

Online

Taxis, Limos

4121

Online groceries
eg. Honestbee, Redmart, Fairprice Online

5411

eCommerce
eg. Lazada, Qoo10, Shopee

5699

Online hotel / travel bookings
eg. Agoda, Expedia

5699

Groceries

Convenience Stores

5499

Supermarkets

5411

Shopping

Women’s fashion stores

5621

Shoe stores

5661

Departmental stores

5311

Babies & children wear stores

5641

F&B

Caterers

5811

Dining places and restaurants

5812

Bars, Disco, Nightclubs (alcoholic beverages sold) eg. Zouk

5813

Fast food restaurants
eg. McDonalds, KFC, Subway

5814

Bakeries

5462

Beauty & Personal Care

Drugstores and pharmacies
eg. Watsons, Guardian

5912

Petrol

Service stations

5541

Utilities

Singapore Power

4900

Town councils

9399

Hospitals

Hospital and medical fees

8062


Of course, most of us have difficulties trying to remember which credit card/bank gives us how many % for what type of transaction as it is, much less attempt to memorise the MCC codes for each. Which was why I created the SGBB Cashback App, so it could serve as a nifty tool in your phone to help you see which card you should use for your transactions.

But there’s one limitation with that app: I can’t tag specific merchants to each card. To do that, I would need to slowly research and accumulate all the data of which merchant = what code, read all the different credit cards for the codes assigned to each bonus interest, and then do the back-end programming to store and tag the data to each card.

Too much work for a one-man show, considering how reviewing all the different cards T&Cs each quarter is already taking up so much time, which is why I was really glad when WhatCard approached me with their project : because their team of 3 has basically undertaken the heavy lifting that I was unable to do by myself to create a solution.

And now, we can tap on their work!

Do note that this is NOT a sponsored post, nor do I receive any renumeration or in-kind benefits for writing this. It is simply something that I think every Singaporean credit card user should know about.


What is WhatCard?

Simply put, WhatCard is essentially a search engine to help you do a quick search on a merchant (before you make payment at the cashier) to see which of your existing credit cards in your wallet you should be using for maximum rewards.

All you need to do is to simply key in the merchant name in their search bar (or filter by the merchant spend categories to pull up your desired merchant), and the site will instantly tell you which cards give you the best rewards for that spending.

This is all based on a comprehensive database operating in the back-end which tracks and tags the MCC codes, thus giving you this nifty online search engine and comparison site. The database has been put together using:
  • Existing (known) transactions sourced from public forums and chat groups
  • Their own existing transactions
  • Terms and conditions of the respective credit cards

If your aim is to really optimize your spending to get the maximum possible cashback or miles, you’ll definitely find this tool useful.

Of course, this is still very much in beta phase so you can expect more data to be added as they go along, but I also highly encourage you to contribute by either (i) reporting an error if you spot one or (ii) sending in feedback about known transactions that you’ve personally tried out as well. For instance, you can see here that there are still several merchants the WhatCard team has not been able to figure out the MCC codes for eg. Typo, ClassPass and Coursera. If you know of the answer, please let them know.


Banks: Transaction Codes

If you’ve a habit of tracking your bank statements on a quarterly basis, you would probably have noticed several odd line items with codes that cause you to stop and wonder what exactly that transaction was for. I know, because I struggle with that sometimes too. Until I pulled up the “legend” document one day and realised the letters actually stand for something:

ACR

Accounting & Corporate Regulatory Authority

ADP

Deposit

AS

Purchase / Sale of Shares

BB

Baby Bonus Scheme

BILL

Bill Payment

AINT

Account Interest

BINT

Bonus Interest

CDP

Dividends / Cash Distribution

EPS

Shares Payment

ICT

FAST Payment

OTRF

Funds Transfer

PAY

Salary

SAL

Salary

QCDM

Quick Cheque Deposit
TFL

Tuition Fee Loan


The above codes are taken from DBS as an example. 

Now that you know how the banks and credit cards issuers operate, you should be able to make more informed decisions with your spending from here to get maximum rewards on each transaction that you make.

For more information on hacking cashback credit cards, you can also head over here to find out what I think are 2019’s best cards to own and use!


With love,

Budget Babe

Are Resale Endowment Policies (REPs®) A Good Investment?

Resale endowment policies as an investment option – higher returns in a shorter duration. 

Thanks to several financial advisors on Seedly, I recently found out that a secondary market for insurance policies actually exists in Singapore, with the most reputable being REPs Holdings Pte Ltd. In the event where you’re thinking of surrendering your policies, you could in fact sell it to a company like REPs Holdings, and get more money back than the surrender value offered by the insurer.

So when their team from RepsInvest (REPs Holdings Pte Ltd) reached out to me to say that one can buy resale endowment policies as well, I was intrigued and met them several times to find out more. This article shares my findings.



What are resale endowment policies? (REPs®)

These are basically traded/secondhand endowment policies which provide opportunities for new investors to take over and continue the remaining term to maturity.

The process of taking over the ownership will be done through absolute assignment. And yes, it is perfectly legal. If you look closer into your insurance policy documents, you’ll find this same clause allowing for you to transfer the policy to a third party in this manner.


I also requested to interview several clients who have gone down this (non-traditional) path of securing their investments, and learnt more about how REPs® can be tailored to different types of investor profiles. Here are a few examples:


Investor Profile: PARENTS with babies/toddlers


Since endowment policies are usually bought by parents as a form of educational fund for their children, I looked at how a brand new endowment policy would stack up against a resale option. Here’s the math:

(Brand new)
Endowment Policy from Company X

Resale Endowment Policy

Policy duration

15 years

15 years

Capital outlay

$43,980

$43,750

Payment mode

$2,932 x 15 years

1 lump sum $17,395 +
$1,757 x 15 years

Maturity value

$54,918

$72,960

Compounded returns (yearly)

2.73%

4.5%

Absolute gains

$10,939

$29,210



For the same duration (15 years), I can in fact get much higher returns on my policy if I opt for a resale endowment policy! 


Investor Profile: PARENTS who didn’t plan earlier for their child’s university fees


However, while it is common knowledge that if you want to be able to afford your child’s university fees you will need to start planning and saving much earlier on, but not every family has the luxury to do so. Some forget to save right from the beginning or do not realise the importance of saving until it is almost too late, while others do not have the capital for it (for us, my pregnancy clashed with our first home purchase, and our finances only allowed us to choose between paying for delivery fees vs. the downpayment of a house, so we obviously chose the former…).


For instance, one of RepsInvest clients include a father of a 11-year-old girl who did not buy any education policies previously, and is unable to start a new endowment policy as it will not mature in time for his daughter’s university studies. He could look at shorter-term structured deposits or fixed deposits, but the returns wouldn’t be high enough. In contrast, RepsInvest was able to get him a 8-year endowment policy instead, which had been surrendered and sold to them by another customer.

If that describes your situation too, then you might want to consider if resale endowment policies can similarly be a solution for you.


Andrew* is another such customer of theirs, who works as an engineer and was looking for an endowment policy with a shorter duration. With two children, he told me (during our interview) that ideally, he wanted a plan with a lump-sum payment that also offers a higher rate of return than the banks. He initially considered getting a new endowment policy for this purpose, but in the end decided to go with REPs® instead as he could get better returns in a shorter time. 

Investor Profile: RETIREES looking for shorter term policies


There’s also another group who would benefit most from this strategy – those who are looking to build an annuity REPs® ladder to ensure a continuous stream of income during your retirement.

I spoke with Mr. Tan*, who’s 65 years old with 4 grandchildren. Two years ago, his daughter introduced him to REPs®, which she felt was better for him in contrast to the rates offered by fixed deposits (~1.75% or less). RepsInvest offered him higher returns for short-term plans, and Mr. Tan was able to get several plans which are due to mature in 2 – 6 years time.

“They give me a much higher yield than fixed deposits and structured deposits. I prefer REPs as it suits my risk profile and I do not have to monitor. I like the flexibility of being able to choose the duration and premium amount, and it gives me a higher return in a shorter term. 

At 65, I have no intention to start a brand new policy, as I do not need the insurance coverage now.” – Mr. Tan*

If not for REPs®, he would have put his savings into fixed deposits instead, which would give him a lower rate of return and also more hassle as he’ll need to keep renewing them.

Investor Profile: RETIREES building an “annuity” using REPs®

Another RepsInvest’s client, Mr Ong* invested a total of $400,000 into 30 policies which were staggered to mature between 2021to 2033, thus providing him with a stable source of retirement income. His total premiums due is $9,000yearly, which he finds a manageable sum of expenses. For every year from 2021 to 2033, there will be policies maturing and Mr Ong* can enjoy continuous stream of income during his golden years.

Retirees / if you have parents who would benefit from this mode of planning, REPs® might be the way to go, especially if they’re not keen to take on any risks with their money at this life stage.


Investor Profile: Retail Investors 

A key part of portfolio management includes hedging your risks by having a mix of safe, risk-free investments and other more volatile instruments. In my case, I personally use my CPF as the “bond” element of my portfolio (read more here), however, I have friends who are not keen on this approach because they don’t like the idea of locking up their funds in an account whereby withdrawals are determined by the government.

If that describes you too, then other close substitutes would be to use the Singapore Savings Bonds, government or (reliable) corporate bonds, fixed deposits or endowment plans to form the low-risk portion of your financial portfolio. REPs® are a compelling option as well, as they don’t require you to lock up your funds until age 55 and yet can give you similar returns.



TLDR:

Are resale endowment policies REPs® a good investment?

Key benefits offered by REPs® include:

  • Low risk and lesser volatility as compared to bonds and stocks
  • Higher returns vs starting a new endowment plan and/or fixed deposits
  • No need to monitor the markets
  • Income earned is not taxable
  • No background checks needed – you do not need to undergo any health checks or profiling for the insurer to approve your policy

In essence, if you’re looking to reap higher returns in a shorter duration than a traditional endowment plan, then taking over REPs® could be more beneficial.

However, this should not serve as a substitute to your other investments, and should only be used to construct the risk-free / low risk portion of your portfolio.

*Names have been changed to protect the interviewees’ privacy, as some of the interviews contained information of their financial circumstances and net worth

*** Sponsored Message ***

RepsInvest is the leader in resale endowment policies REPs®, and we have transacted over millions worth of policies. Whether you’re looking to plan for your retirement, your child’s education, or more, we can help you out.

Find out why more Singaporeans are turning to resale endowment policies to jumpstart their savings and plan for retirement. Contact us to find out more today!

Disclosure: This article is sponsored by REPs Holdings Pte Ltd, who provided their resources and linked me up with their clients for interviews. All opinions are that of my own.