Category: SG Budget Babe

Review of Cryptocurrency – The Board Game (Kickstarter)

If you’ve ever wondered about the cryptocurrency world, or how to teach the concept to a newbie, there’s now a new game in the market to help you.

Developed by none other than the guys behind Capital Gains Studio (yes, the same folks behind Wongamania and Debtzilla), I was recently invited to play the game and LOVED it.

This is one game I’ll use to teach my friends about cryptocurrencies and how they work in the real world. There’s just so much information out there that it can be really confusing, and many get so intimidated that they don’t know where to start. Not anymore!


This game introduces beginners to the basic concepts of mining, trading and market manipulation that is so often rampant in the cryptocurrency world. And, just like how the flow cryptocurrencies is completely transparent and traceable (unless you use privacy coins) on the blockchain, you’ll also be able to see what coins the other players hold, and what strategy they’re leveraging in order to try to win.

Want to go on the offense? Try sabotaging their coins. Or you can also take the defensive route and protect your own coins instead while you build up your assets in that particular cryptocurrency. Just be careful that someone else doesn’t manipulate it such that it becomes a scam coin at the end of the game, which will make your wealth worthless!

During the game that I played with 3 other players, each of us picked vastly different strategies. It was interesting to see how even someone who had played the game before didn’t really have much of an edge against the rest, because you can’t really control the events that happen in the cryptocurrency (game) world and the game dynamics each time is always different.

Our game of 4 players saw:
1. A powerful miner
2. A bad luck miner 😂
3. A gambler / trader
4. Me! 

One picked the mining strategy and assembled a team of technological experts to help her increase her odds of success. A successful mining exercise will reward you with cryptocurrencies and transaction fees, while a failed attempt gives you nothing. And just like in the real world of crypto, mining gets more difficult over time as more people choose to mine that coin. 

Another took the trading route, where he manipulated the market to buy and sell cryptocurrencies. With every 4 units bought or sold, the price gets pushed up or down respectively. This mimics the real-world action of folks whom we call “whales”, who manipulate the market prices as well due to the substantial volume they can take up (or let go). You can read more about whales and price manipulation in the crypto markets here

Lastly, we also had the rumours, which all of us engaged in. As I’ve highlighted before, rumour mongering is extremely common in cryptocurrencies, and that’s why there are so many people falling for scam coins aplenty (some of which I’ve exposed on this blog before). In the game, we had the chance to deploy one open or hidden rumour card on each crypto coin, and the race was on to make a particular coin become THE scam coin of the game so that the player who HODL (held on for dear life) onto the coin would lose money.

Here’s my winning shot! 
There’s no winning strategy per se, because even my strategy was part luck and part skill. As mentioned, luck and events play a huge role in this game, so it is hard to have full control all the time! Adapting as the circumstances change would be key (and that’s another crucial skill to have in the real-life crypto world as well).

I personally used a combination of mining (where I got quite lucky), traded somewhat, and also manipulated the market with the rumour cards that I put out. At one point, flush with cash, I also employed the whales strategy and moved the prices with my buying and selling. 

If When I get to play this game again, I’d want to try out the other strategies as well and try winning on them! 


Our table shot.
If you’re looking for a fun and light-hearted way to learn about the new economy of cryptocurrencies, this board game would be perfect. My only gripe is that given the level of the concepts being taught, the makers seem to be aiming a little too high when they say this game was designed to be suitable from secondary school level and up, because I feel as though it’ll be too hard for them to grasp.

All in all, I had great fun playing this game, and would recommend it to anyone who’s curious to learn more about cryptocurrencies in general. I’ll also be using this game to teach my kid once he’s a little older, because I’ve also bought Bitcoin for him as part of his inheritance portfolio 😂


The game has already been fully funded with minimal marketing, and even before I was done with this blog post, so I guess you’ll soon be seeing it sold in retail stores at its full price of $39. This is your best chance to get it at a discount while they’re still in Kickstarter stage! There’s only 10 days left till the project ends.

I’ve already backed it at the highest tier and am excited to receive my copy (although it’ll coincide with my expected labour date, LOL). What about you? 🙂


 P.S. Not sponsored to write this review, but am doing so because I genuinely enjoyed the games created by Capital Gains Studio since 2015 when Wongamania was first launched! This game was no exception, and I’m happy to support them once more with my own money backing the project. All opinions expressed are of my own. 

With love,
Budget Babe

The Minimalistic Baby Essentials Checklist (for a first-time mother)

It can be really mind-boggling as a first-time parent to figure out what’s necessary and what baby items are good-to-have. After all, we’re constantly being flooded by ads online and by Instagram influencers, all of whom seem to say that pretty much everything is a must-have! 

Instead, I turned to the helpful community of Dayre mummies for advice, and consolidated our own version of a truly Minimalistic Baby Essentials Checklist that we’ll be using:

Image credits


In this list, I also share where I chose to get many of my baby items from, and there are plenty of ways that one can get for free or at a reduced price if you’re savvy enough to know where to look. I started my search on Mothercare, but didn’t end up purchasing any from it in the end as I found cheaper substitutes elsewhere – Qoo10, Carousell and Taobao were my go-to places for value purchases!

Item Price Source
3-in-1 Baby crib $110 Taobao
Baby bath tub Free Mount Alvernia Hospital
Baby bathing net $4 Taobao
Breast pump set $100 Spectra S1 (pump was second-hand from friends, parts were from Qoo10)
Breastmilk storage bags Free Goodie bag from attending Cordlife pregnancy conference
Milk bottles x 3 Free Goodie bag from attending Cordlife pregnancy conference & gifted by AXA’s Know Your Planner
UV Sterilizer Free Free from Cordlife package
Bottle warmer $12 Carousell (second-hand)
Baby clothes* $140 Taobao, Primark (London) and friends
Diapers (70 pcs) Free Free samples by requesting from Merries, Goons, Huggies, Drypers, Mamy-Poko and from other baby goodie bags by insurance agencies. Also from NTUC Good Start Bundle.
Baby wet wipes $10 Cloversoft, Pee-Ka-Poo & NTUC Good Start Bundle
Waterproof changing mat Free Goodie bag from attending Cordlife pregnancy conference
Ruyi / Eucalyptus oil Free Goodie bag from Mighty Sprouts
Car seat $120 Baby fair
Stroller $55 Taobao
Baby carrier Free Gifted by a friend / also a free gift with Aviva’s MyMaternityPlan 
Nail clippers Free Goodie bag from Mighty Sprouts
Baby soap Free Goodie bag from Mighty Sprouts
Nursing cover Free Goodie bag from Nestle (request online)
Baby towels $10 Taobao
Waterproof mattress protector $10 Taobao
Nursing bras (5 pcs) $25 Qoo10
Diaper bag $13 Taobao
Crib Storage Organiser $18 Taobao
Nursing pillow $13 Taobao
Diaper & nipple cream $20 Blended
Breast pads Free Goodie bag from attending Cordlife and TMC pregnancy conference
TOTAL COSTS $660



Feel free to build on this list or make more suggestions in the comments below if you think there’s anything else I’ve missed out on!


How many baby clothes to prepare?

*For baby clothes, we bought:
– 8 x newborn rompers
– 6 x 3 months old rompers
– 2 x newborn mittens
– 4 x pajamas
– 4 x socks
– 5 x bibs ($3 from Carousell, and 2 were free from goodie bags)

I didn’t go overboard on buying baby clothes because my mother-in-law said that friends and relatives would probably gift them to us when they visit us and the newborn baby, and she’s usually right so we’re taking her word for it. Otherwise, if you’re not too fussy, preloved baby clothes would be a good alternative too as they’re usually softer, and your baby will outgrow them in no time anyway!

We’re trying to hold back on buying too many baby clothes because the mileage for them isn’t great, but at the same time, we want to have some to dress baby up and take nice photos for memory sake as well! Do balance this out according to your budget and affordability.

Preparing for a baby sure isn’t cheap, and we’ve yet to factor in the full costs of diapers which we intend to get after our son is born so that we can assess which is a better fit for his size. Considering most newborns use 8 – 10 diapers a day, this should set us back by about $50 – $60 each month.

(At least in the first few months, we do not intend to use cloth diapers because there’ll also be water and electricity costs anyway, and we foresee that we won’t have enough energy to wash them then.)


The NTUC Good Start Bundle



If you don’t already know, there’s another initiative that all new parents HAVE got to know about – the NTUC Good Start Bundle!


As long as your baby is born between 2016 – 2019, you’re eligible to redeem your free bundle! This is specially curated by NTUC and its 8 social enterprises, and I’ve personally had my eye on this ever since my friends at Dollars & Sense told me about it.

Here’s my bundle 😀 


What’s in the bundle?
Over $300 worth of essentials and benefits to help you and your newborn cope with this major change in your life:

  • NTUC FairPrice “FairMily Kit” – contains $100 worth of groceries for your baby and family, such as infant formula milk powder, baby wet wipes, diapers, baby toiletries and more. The oats are also great milk boosters for mothers who will be breastfeeding your babies!
  • Free 1-year health insurance coverage for your newborn – this is a Medisave-approved Integrated Shield Plan administered by NTUC Income and worth up to $205 (excluding MediShield Life premiums). You can choose between the Standard or Enhanced Plan, which will help pay for hospitalisation costs incurred. There are also options to include additional riders for a daily hospital cash benefit or a child illness rider to protect your baby’s well-being, if you’ll like.



    P.S. I know I’ve mentioned previously that hospitalisation insurance is the FIRST plan you need to get once your child is born, but instead of having 2 health insurance policies running at the same time, you might as well save on premiums during the first year through this initiative! However, if you’ve already kanchiong spider and bought one of NTUC IncomeShield Standard/Enhanced  plans for your baby prior to signing up for this Good Start Bundle, don’t worry, you’ll still get to enjoy automatic waiver of your second-year premiums.

  • Free Plus! cards for non Plus! members – for parents to earn LinkPoints on your daily and baby essentials at over 1100 outlets.
  • Complimentary playtime entry to The Little Skool-House Early Literacy Centre – bond with your child on Thursdays for free at the centre and partake in the different activities catered for children from 0 – 3 years old. Worth $180, all you need to do is to make an appointment with ELC by calling 6585 5292 or email elc@littleskoolhouse.com in advance, and that’s it! I intend to bring our son here to play very soon 🙂
  • Early Experiences Matter : Parent-Child Activity Book – by NTUC First Campus and worth $15, when you attend any of PA’s Embracing PArenthood celebratory events held in all constituencies in Singapore (just pick the one nearest to you!)

    I really like this activity book as it gave me some great ideas on how to cut costs further and DIY my own activities with my child in his early formative years – including wind streamers, sock puppets, DIY crib mobile, jigsaw puzzles, and more! Will post more on that when I get down to making them 😛

With so much goodies inside, I bet you won’t want to miss out on this one.


To redeem your own free bundle, head over here to register!

With love,
Budget Babe    

How to Up Your Credit Card Game

If you’re not hacking the credit card game in Singapore to get free cash (back) or miles for money that you’re already spending, it is about time you got on the bandwagon.Image CreditsI’m a huge advocate of credit cards because the way I see it, it is …

Is Cord Blood Banking Necessary?

Becoming first-time parents sure comes with lots of stuff (and costs) to think about. One of the key concerns we had was whether we ought to store our baby’s cord blood – our gynae and relatives were for it, but the sentiments online were mixed.

We’ve always heard that storing a baby’s cord blood was expensive, but when we enquired, the costs were honestly much lower than what we expected. At just $5,000+ to store our baby’s cord blood for 21 years, that works out to be less than $20 a month – even lesser than what we pay for (financial) insurance!

Image credits

Stem cells have the immense potential to treat cancers and blood disorders, and have shown promising results thus far in many clinical trials which are ongoing for regenerative therapies. This is largely due to their unique ability to transform into specialized cells which are able to perpetually create more copies of themselves.

At present, over 35,000 cord blood transplants have already been performed around the world to treat various diseases. In fact, I see it as a form of insurance (like what I told my husband when trying to convince him that the cost was worth it), except that it is even better than typical (financial) insurance because whereas those can only cover or offset costs, this form of biological insurance has the potential to treat and cure the condition!

When we asked around, it turned out that most Singaporean parents choose either to:
– store with a private bank
– donate it to the public bank
– discard it entirely (what a waste!)

However, our journey towards deciding whether to bank our child’s cord blood (and later on, WHICH company to choose) wasn’t as straightforward as we thought it would be. 

We met up individually with the sales representatives of Cordlife, Stemcord and Cryoviva, and even spoke to Singapore Cord Blood Bank (SCBB), but received such conflicting advice that we were honestly stumped whether or not to privately store or donate it. It didn’t help that when we asked around, there were many who shared that they donated their baby’s cord blood to SCBB instead of choosing to store it privately.

But when I dug further, it turned out that SCBB rejects most of the donated samples. Read more here on why I didn’t think donating my baby’s cord blood to SCBB was a good idea after speaking with SCBB, Cryoviva, Stemcord and Cordlife.

This article also provides another point of view that encapsulates ours. This line really resonated with me:

Why pay a few thousand dollars to privately bank your baby’s cord blood when you can donate it for free to a public cord blood registry?  If your child ever gets sick, you can just look for a “match” in the public registry and it should be there, right?  Wrong.


Wait, isn’t cord blood banking a scam?!

After spending weeks researching on this issue, I most certainly do not think so. 


Science and technology has developed so much such that today, stem cells from cord blood has been proven useful in the treatment over over 80 diseases. The figure was less than half just a decade ago. With over 800+ clinical trials ongoing around the world, and as scientists continue to find new ways of using stem cells for treatment, just imagine how much more potential we could discover in the near future. Some new areas where research into cord blood stem cells is currently being done include brain injury, juvenile diabetes, cerebral palsy, congenital heart defects, hearing loss, liver disease, spinal cord injury, and more.

The umbilical cord blood and lining contains three types of stem cells – haematopoietic, epithelial and mesenchymal stem cells – which have shown immense potential in not just treating various diseases, but also aiding the repair of injured tissues and organs.

Of course, it is still fairly early days, but the cord blood banks are already saving lives (SCBB and Cordlife have had many cases of successful transplants) and as research continues, it is very likely that in the future, more ways of using cord blood to treat more diseases may be found. Don’t forget that these undifferentiated cells contain a powerful ability to specialise into different cell types, which is where their promise of treating diseases lie in.

The science is exciting! Who knows what the future will bring, and what more we will discover? I don’t want to have to rule out the possibility for my child and my family just because we decided not to bank it to save a few thousand bucks – like what my husband said, he’ll rather forgo one family holiday and spend the money where it matters…for health.

Can’t stem cells be used from other sources aside from cord blood?

Indeed, haematopoetic stem cells can also be obtained from the adult bone marrow, but not all transplants work out either. On the other hand, c
ord blood stem cells require a less stringent HLA matching compared to bone marrow stem cells, and also a lower risk of developing graft vs. host disease. 

The cost is also significantly different – it can cost up to $64,000 to procure a matching unit for bone marrow or public cord blood banks (or up to $40k provided you’re lucky enough to find a match in SCBB locally), whereas it costs nothing if you had banked it privately for your own family’s use.

Should I store just the cord blood, or the cord tissue as well?

This was another difficult decision we had to make, because it meant paying more if we wanted to store more than just the cord blood stem cells. So I did more research and spent hours on Google Scholar to understand more about the three types:


Haematopoietic

stem cells

Epithelial stem cells 


Mesenchymal stem cells


Can differentiate into…

Healthy red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets


The soft tissues that connect, support or surround certain structures or organs in our body including the lining of the cornea, skin and liver


Structural tissues – bone, cartilage, muscle, fibrous tissues, and fat.


Can be used to treat

Blood diseases or cancers such as leukaemia, immune-deficiencies, metabolic disorders, refractory anaemia, tumors, bone marrow failure, etc.

Soft tissue repair (eg. diabetic surface ulcers, burns on skins), organ lining regeneration (liver, pancreatic or gastrointestinal lining), and even eye (to replace cornea membrane)

Tissue repair (eg. in stroke patients, heart failure, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, repair of the bone, catrilage and/or tendon, liver failure), immune modulation (HIV, type 1 diabetes, Graft vs. host disease)

Source

Cord blood

Cord lining

Cord tissue (Wharton’s jelly)



Some other common concerns we found online (on Hardwarezone forums) were:

1. During labour, if the gynae missed something and the cord blood is not sterile, it will be rejected and you will still need to pay –> this is not true, as there is no payment if your cord blood is not viable for storage.

2. Why not donate it to the cord blood bank which is free, and you’ll get the cord blood within one year if you need it? –> This is not entirely true as it may have already been discarded (without your knowledge!) or used by someone else. Read what I discovered about SCBB here. 

3. If you do not have hereditary blood problems, chances are, you will not need it –> not true, as certain blood disorders develop as a result of the environment. Moreover, if one’s blood condition is hereditary, then all the more their cord blood will NOT be suitable for usage, since it would have already contained the genetic defect anyway!

4. They are so freaking expensive…they use the fear of humans to make them sign up –> “expensive” certainly is a subjective term, but for as low as $19 a month, if you can afford it, I think it is a small price to pay for such biological insurance. Even my monthly premiums for hospitalisation insurance costs wayyyy more than that, and my ISP cannot treat me (it can only waive off my financial bills), whereas cord stem cells offer me at least a chance of treatment or even a cure! 

If you can afford to go on holiday or spend on expensive tuition for your kids, I believe one can most definitely afford to do cord blood banking.

All in all, I do NOT think cord blood banking is a scam at all, and in fact, after spending hours researching on whether to store or even donate, I’m even more sure that for any parents who can afford it, private cord blood banking is the way to go.


The last thing you’ll want is (lest anything happens in the future) for you to have looked back in regret and think, if only I had banked my child’s cord blood! 

I know I don’t want to have, or live with, that sort of regret.

Next up, I’ll be comparing between the different options and plans for cord banking in Singapore!

With love,
Budget Babe

Save Money by Getting These Baby Must-Haves from Taobao!

It is no secret that I’m a huge Taobao fan – after all, I’m that bride who saved tons of money by purchasing my wedding stuffs on Taobao, including my customized wedding gown! I’ve written about my Taobao wedding purchases here and here previously, and have been using SGShop for my purchases since 2016.

Well, with all the upcoming baby expenses, I’ve also been shopping around diligently and doing lots of window shopping at Mothercare and Kiddy Palace, among other shops, to compare prices and quality. What I’ve discovered is that many of the items sold locally are priced at a premium, and I’ve actually been able to find the same – if not extremely similar – products on Taobao instead, therefore saving me tons of money!

While there are still some items that I’ll get in person locally – such as a UV steriliser and a car seat for safety reassurances – I’ve found Taobao to be cheaper by far for many of the items I feel we will need for our baby. Even after factoring in shipping costs, many of these items cost much lesser than those at baby fairs here!

Without further ado, here’s my Taobao shopping list and haul:


Baby Shower Net
Afraid that baby might slip out of your hands during shower time? Use a baby shower net to eliminate any chances of baby slipping or even hitting his/her head so you no longer have to dread bathtime!



Price: S$4.50
Link: here

Baby Rompers
Get those made from pure cotton as some babies may have sensitive skin.


Price: S$2
Link: herehere and here.

Baby Towels
You’ll need lots of these for wiping off milk spills and baby saliva. Choose among these absorbent gauze / cotton / bamboo fibre ones from Taobao.



Price: S$2
Link: herehere and here.


Baby Sling
Got no money for a Tula? Missed Aviva’s promotion for a free Tula with their maternity insurance packages? Fret not, you can get cheaper and stylish baby slings here as well! This design comes with a baby seat to offer more support as well.



Price: S$18

Link: here


Waterproof baby bedsheets
So that the mattress underneath remains clean, dry and unstained. Can use for baby’s bed or even on your own (to absorb any leaking breastmilk!). These ones are washable so you can easily reuse them as well.



Price: S$2.25
Link: here and here, or get a bigger sized one here.



Crib Storage Organiser
All you need for changing baby within this nifty organiser for putting diapers, wet wipes and more. I see similar models retailing in Singapore shops for much higher prices!



Price: S$18

Link: here


Baby Cot
Been eyeing the gorgeous baby cot featured on Zoe Raymond and Naomi Neo’s Instagram page? So was I…until I found out that the cot retails for $1,500 and they were sponsored for it anyway. If you’re not keen to spend so much, here’s a close substitute on Taobao that you can consider for 1/7 of the price.

 

Price: S$200
Link: here and here

Baby Gym
Perfect for hours of entertaining your baby while you get other tasks done, this baby gym will also train your baby’s motor skills while having fun in the meantime.




Price: S$11
Link: here

Baby Bib (for meals)
Great for avoiding a mess during mealtimes as it catches falling food.



Price: S$2.25 each
Links here, herehere and here.


Belecoo Baby Stroller
I love this baby pram for its ability to transform from a horizontal crib into an upright seat, which sees your baby through his/her newborn days all the way till they’re a toddler. I’ve seen the same strollers being sold by third-party retailers here in Singapore for 2 to 3 times of its price, so you might as well buy straight from Taobao and use all that savings to get your other baby essentials instead.

Lightweight, foldable and with a reclining / upright option, this baby stroller also takes heavy weights so you don’t have to worry about the pram toppling over!



Price: S$52

Link: here


Dual-function Maternity & Breastfeeding Pillow
This will be a lifesaver for mummies when you hit your second trimester and your baby bump grows so big that you can barely sleep easy at night due to the discomfort. Cushion it and sleep easier with the help of a maternity pillow, which will support your baby bump and even out the weight distribution.

Most maternity pillows are big and bulky (my bed doesn’t have space for that!) so I wasn’t very keen on getting one initially, until I found this dual-function model that can double-up as a breastfeeding pillow, or even for baby to lie on!



Price: S$13.50
Link: here


Maternity Photoshoot Outfits

Get your maternity outfits for cheap on Taobao for a photoshoot to commemorate your pregnancy journey – after all, you only get pregnant a few times in your life!



Price: S$13 and up

Link: here


Diaper Bag

Skip the jujube and go for a much more affordable diaper bag that is equally (if not more) stylish and easier to match with your fashion outfits.

This is a must-have whenever you bring baby out. It is important to look for one that is waterproof and with many compartments inside so that you can fit all the diapers, milk bottles, baby wipes, baby towels, change of clothes, etc.



Price: $11.15

Link: here


*** Sponsored message below ***

SGShop is celebrating its 7th birthday this August, and they’ve lined up tons of freebies and promotions to share with all of us, making it the perfect time for you to check out your items and save on shipping and service fees!



Key promotions that I reckon are worth taking advantage of during their birthday month:

  • 13 – 30 August: free / agent fee capped at $17
  • 1 – 31 August: enter the jackpot with every purchase made! There will be 3 tiers of prizes available – 7 winners get $70 coupons, 700 winners get 70% off service fees, while another 70 will get 10% off normal sea shipping!
Which option should you pick? Buy-for-Me, Ship-for-Me, or SmartShop? 

Here’s an easy guide to help you decide:


Buy-for-Me

Ship-for-Me

SmartShop

If you are…

Not fluent in Mandarin and need a third-party to help liaise on your behalf


Need to customize your item or enquire about features


Looking to save money on service fees


Fluent in Mandarin to communicate with sellers directly on Taobao



Looking to only make payment once.


Items already have estimated weights so shipping fees can be factored in right from the start. The SmartShop items are marked by the blue S logo on the top right corner of listings.

You get

Service fees includes inspection to ensure quality and spot defects

The option to add on inspection fees

No surprises in shipping fees

Ordering process

1. Order and pay for the cost of the product + Chinese domestic delivery.


2. Item arrive at SGShop warehouse in China, where it’ll be inspected and weighed for international shipping to Singapore.


3. You will then be prompted to make a second payment to SGshop for international shipping + 4 – 8% service fees + $0.98 customs clearance.


4. Opt for self-collect or home delivery at a fee.


This method involves 2 – 3 rounds of payment (China-to-China, China-to-Singapore and Singapore domestic shipping).

1. Shop and pay through Taobao’s own site.


2. Enter SGShop Guangzhou warehouse address as the delivery destination.


3. Submit your order details with the relevant information such as the Taobao order ID and delivery tracking number on SGshop’s website


4. When the items arrive at SGShop warehouse, they will be weighed to calculate the shipping cost. You will then be prompted to make payment to SGshop for the shipping from China to Singapore + $0.98 customs clearance.

5. Opt for self-collect or home delivery at a fee.


1. Browse under the Smartshop Featured Items tab here.


2. Add to cart and check out.


3. Make payment, which includes product price and international shipping.


4. Choose the collection or delivery method once items have arrived in Singapore.






If you’re a first-time user, here are some promo codes I’ve consolidated for you to take advantage of:

  • Click here for $5 free via my referral code (with no minimum spending!)
  • WELCOME50” for 50% off service fees
  • SGBUDGETBABE10” for 10% off economy air shipping
Have fun shopping!

Disclaimer: The bottom portion is a sponsored message by SGShop to get the word out about their services. All reviews and recommendations above are that of my own and sourced through my own time browsing and shopping online. I’ve been a satisfied customer of SGShop since I’ve started using them many years ago, and have previously shared about how their customer and warehouse team was a big help when it came to customizing my wedding gown and other items. 

If you use my referral code for $5 free, I’ll get $5 too! 🙂 you can also share your own referral code with your friends and family afterwards so each of you get $5!

Do also note that all of the Taobao items above are sourced by myself over the past few months and were not recommended by SGShop. If you’ve any more great Taobao finds to share with fellow parents in Singapore, please feel free to leave me a comment below with the links and I’ll be happy to look at adding them to this list!

With love,
Budget Babe

Is Home Insurance Really Necessary?

Considering how you already have to pay for your mandatory HDB fire insurance (or even a mortgage fire insurance as well, for those of you on a bank loan), do we really need to still get home insurance?

Many people mistakenly believe their house is completely covered for, but the truth is far from it. HDB fire insurance only covers for damages to core structures provided by HDB (eg. beam collapse, walls or flooring), whereas your bank’s mortgage fire insurance mainly protects your bank’s financial interest and not yours. What that means is that in the event that your house (the mortgaged property) is damaged by a fire, the bank can make a claim on the policy to protect themselves in the meantime. This works in the same way for private properties such as condominiums where the management requires you to get fire insurance. This enables the management group to make a claim on the policy to restore the premise to its original condition, should anything untoward happen.

Thus, in the event of fire, if you solely rely on the abovementioned policy(ies), you most likely won’t be able to claim for damages on your house contents.

That includes stuff like your furniture, built-in wardrobe, jewelry, electronics and more! A (home) contents insurance policy has to be bought separately, if you wish to obtain coverage for those items; and you should, especially if you’ve spent a significant amount on your renovation and/or keep valuables at home.

Fire insurance

Home insurance

Status

Mandatory

Optional

Premiums

As low as a few dollars for a 5-year plan (eg. $5.50 for a 4-room HDB for 5 years of coverage)

Ranges from $30 – $400, depending on your coverage

What’s covered

Only covers damage to your home structure, replacement of any original fixtures or fittings by HDB / the rebuilding of your home for landed properties.

Does NOT cover damage to home contents in the event of fire.

Covers the contents in your home, renovation works, home repairs and incidental expenses incurred for the alternative accommodation period, etc, in the event of fire, burst pipes, natural disasters or burglary.

What’s more, you’ll probably also need coverage for:

       Your home contents: furniture, mirrors, domestic appliances, AV equipment, electronics, etc.

       Renovation work

       Personal liability: eg. if your neighbour’s property is damaged due to leakage caused by a burst water pipe in your house and demands you to pay for it

       Alternative accommodation and quality of life: expenses incurred for when you’re unable to stay in your insured home, including rent, laundry, daily necessities, etc. 

How FWD Home Insurance stacks up

Back in September last year, I did a quick review of the various insurers that offer home insurance here, so I’m adding onto that list with today’s review of FWD after having gone through their policy coverage with its terms and conditions.

Low policy premiums

From as low as $31 a year, the value offered in terms of what you’re getting covered for is extremely compelling (compared to if you were to be uncovered and something unfortunate strikes).

No excess payable

You do not have to pay anything when you claim. On the other hand, most of the other insurers require us to pay at least $100 for loss or damage caused by burst pipes or a natural disaster, whereas another local insurer requires an excess payable of $350 for each and every claim made on personal effects, home contents and renovation. Probably not what you want or can afford when your house has just been ravaged!

Flexible renovation coverage

Needless to say, your policy premiums will depend on the insured amount, and in the case of renovation, a minimum of $50k – $100k coverage sum is the lowest you can opt for. However, do you really need to cover the entire cost of what it took you to renovate your house before you first moved in? FWD allows consumers to choose from $20k and up so we can get protected without overpaying for insurance.

Alternative accommodation and incidental expenses

Rental, laundry, daily necessities, toiletries and other expenses that may be incurred during the period where you have to find alternative accommodation since your house is no longer habitable, FWD home insurance covers for it as well. 

Home assistance expenses

In the event of a power failure due to a burnt fuse or malfunction of power supply socket, FWD will also cover the cost of repair for such electrical services. In addition, should you need to clear any blockage in your pipes or floor trap, or if your air-conditioner is not working due to a fault or mechanical malfunction (not wear and tear), the costs of repairs will also be covered. Moreover, should you require the help of a locksmith if you’re unable to enter your home or any rooms within, you can also claim for this once every year.

Rent protection for landlords

I have a number of friends who rent out their second property for rental income, and they often complain about tenant issues. FWD home insurance addresses this pain point by covering the following scenarios for up to $3,000 a month:

       Your tenant defaults on their rent

       Loss of rental income because the premise becomes uninhabitable due to an insured event

       Murder / suicide within the premise while it was rented out, causing the house to be untenanted

       Up to $3,000 in legal costs for tenancy disputes

Riders for pets and personal accident

Available for just $2 or $3 respectively per annum if you wish to add those on.

For my 3-room HDB flat, this was the quote I got online:

If you’re also convinced by FWD’s home insurance offering as I am, you can get your free quotation here, and don’t forget to utilize their 20% discount right now with the promo code HOME !

Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by FWD, but all opinions are of my own. My quote was obtained discreetly without FWD knowing that it was me who was enquiring on the other end of our Internet connection.

IPO Analysis: Is the Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF worth subscribing?

I’ve not been the biggest fan of corporate bonds because (i) I’m not always convinced about the reasons given by the company for the need to raise money from retail investors (ii) there’s too many horror stories like Hyflux and Aspial and (iii) too many retail investors seem to be drawn to the juicy yield payouts without properly evaluating the underlying financial health of the company.

However, the latest Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF might just be another decent investment tool (and far more superior than any previous corporate bonds such as the ones named above) for those who have always stayed away from corporate bonds for the same reasons that I have.



The IPO for this has gone live and will last from 23 July – 16 August, so that’s enough time for you to do your due diligence before you decide if this investment makes sense to you. In the meantime, here’s my take on the ETF:

Details:
– The bond is launched by Nikko AM, one of the largest ETF managers in Singapore and the same company behind popular Nikko AM Singapore STI ETF and ABF Singapore Bond Index
– Indicative yield: 3% – 3.22% per annum
– Total expense ratio: 0.3% (30 cents per year for every S$100 you invest – confirmed for the first 3 years)

– I recommend applying through FSM where there’s now a 0% commission promo and since their minimum amount is lower vs. other brokers who are requiring a min. of $1000 to apply
– IPO applications close on 12 noon on 16 August 2018
– Minimum subscription amount: S$100
– Starts trading on SGX on 27 August 2018 at 9am

What I like about this ETF



1. Lower risk
By investing into a basket of corporate bonds, the risk and impact of one company defaulting is much lower compared to if you invest directly into a single company’s bonds. After all, you really don’t want another “big shock” like the one retail investors got from Hyflux, or see defaults like what Swiber did on their bond payments.

Buying into this ETF means you get exposure to over 100 corporate bonds from over 50 companies, which means that even if one of them default, it probably won’t even leave much of a dent in your overall portfolio. The constituents of this ETF comprise of several reputable companies that are in relatively strong financial health and unlikely to go bust, such as DBS, UOB, HDB, LTA, etc. I’ll go deeper into the constituents in detail later in this article.

Of course, the downside of the lower risk in this ETF is that you also get a “lower” yield of approximately 3% vs. the juicy 5% – 6% offered by some other corporate bonds, but would you rather go for a high-risk-high-returns bond option where you could potentially lose your entire capital, or accept a lower-risk investment where your returns are pretty much guaranteed? Your choice.

According to The Business Times, it seems like the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) might even be a seed investor in this, although Nikko AM has declined to confirm it.



2. Higher yields than the Singapore Saving Bonds / bank savings / fixed deposits
Some other low risk options you can also choose from, if not for this ETF:

Tool

Minimum Sum

Holding Period

Average Yield

$10,000

3 months – 5 years

0.08% – 1.4%

$1,000

2 – 3 years

2.02%

$500

1 – 10 years

1.78% – 3.11%

$3,000

N.A.

0.8% – 2.85%

$1,000

5 – 30 years

1.625% – 3.25%

$100

Up to you!

3%


The only comparable instruments that come close to the 3% p.a. offered on this ETF are the SSBs and SGS, but those require a longer holding period of at least 5 – 10 years before you start to see those kind of returns.


3. Lower investment sums needed
It is generally quite difficult for most average retail investors to access Singapore’s corporate bond market, because the typical minimum sum of S$250,000 just for a single bond issue is usually out of reach for many of us. Sometimes, rare opportunities like the recent Astreal bonds appear, but even that required a minimum of $2,000 to subscribe and also carries a much higher risk (since it is on private equity investments). However, the Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF offers investors the chance to access these investment-grade corporate bonds for as low as S$100. 

4. Low costs
I’ve never liked unit trusts or buying bonds through Investment-Linked Plans (ILPs) because the high management costs / distribution fees eat into your returns. Many people don’t realise that simply paying 1% in investment management fees could easily eat up 1/3 of your wealth eventually as these fees compound to quite a sizeable sum, which is why I’ve never advocated investing in unit trusts, mutual funds, or any sort of investments through an insurer and prefer to DIY instead.

The only costs associated here would be the expense ratio – which is extremely low at just 0.3% i.e. yo pay 30 cents every year for each $100 you invest – and your buy/sell broker fees, which can vary depending on which brokerage or promotional rate you’re using. I recommend FSMOne for this if you don’t already have an account.

You can also see the impact between a 0.3% and 1% fee in the table below:

Source: Fundsupermart


5. Higher liquidity
Many of the wholesale bonds which this ETF invests in are generally traded over-the-counter instead of a centralised exchange, so retail investors not only face difficulties in getting access but also in selling it due to the lack of liquidity.

On the other hand, this ETF will be traded on SGX so you should be able to easily buy or sell lots when you need or wish to.


What am I really buying into?



You can view the full prospectus hereview the highlights here lodged with MAS, or the product brochure here.


In summary, the biggest 10 holdings in this ETF and their respective weightages are:




With the exception of Huarong Finance, you’ll be hard-pressed to not recognise the other names, many of which are quasi-government agencies or even indirectly backed by our local government as well. It’ll be hard for them to fail, and if any of them do, worrying about this ETF will be the last thing on my mind because there’ll probably be bigger concerns of the Singapore economy failing or going into a recession instead.

In total, there are 102 bonds from 45 issuers in this ETF, with an average coupon yield of 3 – 3.5%. 

How often will I be paid dividends?
Once a year.

What’s the quality of the bonds in this ETF?
They’re mostly investment-grade and large-cap bonds, but do note that 22% of the current bonds are not weighted, such as SIA and LTA.

Can I buy this using my CPF funds?
No, as it is currently not included under the CPF-IS. However, who knows, perhaps this might just change in the future if the interest in this ETF continues to grow.


What I don’t really like about this ETF


1. Not all the constituents bonds are exactly “investment-grade” nor “corporate”.
The name of this bond may be slightly misleading, since 22% of bonds are unrated and there’s a significant portion which aren’t exactly what we tend to think of as “corporations” (HDB, LTA, etc). Nonetheless, this is just a personal gripe I have about the choice of name for this ETF, but I don’t have much of an issue about the underlying bonds it is investing into, which are actually far more solid than the previous corporate bonds I’ve reviewed on this blog.

2. If we continue in a rising interest rate environment, this ETF may no longer be as attractive.
3 % – 3.22% is a decent return for an investment tool that you can trade anytime on SGX, and especially when you compare it to the other fixed-income instruments that I’ve mentioned earlier. But if interest rates go up, the market value of the underlying bonds will likely drop, which will then also affect this ETF.

For those who are unfamiliar with the link as to why rising interest rates are bad for bonds, here’s a quick explanation. Imagine you paid $1,000 to purchase a bond with a 3% coupon payout, which then trades on the bond market. Now, should interest rates rise, new bonds may then be issued with higher coupon rates in order to attract investors, so let’s assume a newer bond with a 5% coupon rate now gets launched. Since investors can now invest the same $1,000 for a bond with a higher interest rate, they’ll be less interested in buying your bond which has a 3% interest rate, so the market value of your bond lots go down (i.e. capital loss). 

Conversely, if interest rates fall, then that usually spells good news for bonds which would then trade at a price higher than what it was originally bought for upon launch.


However, I believe the ETF manager will also continue to invest into new bonds even as this happens, and since these new bonds will carry higher interest rates, we can then watch the ETF’s yield go up accordingly.

Nonetheless, we cannot predict the future, and as per my previous post on portfolio allocation to mitigate risks across market cycles, there will always be a place for bonds in one’s investment portfolio. 

So is this ETF worth buying into?

Yes if you are:

  • Looking for a low-risk investment tool with decent returns higher than what the banks / fixed deposits / Singapore Saving Bonds can offer you
  • Looking to add to the bond component of your investment portfolio, but you’re adverse against individual corporate bonds due to all the sagas and defaults that have happened recently
  • Looking for a bond investment with no minimum holding period or commitment (since you can trade this on SGX once it is listed on 27 August)
  • Looking to get exposure to the Singapore corporate bonds market without the high minimum sum needed nor the higher risk
  • Considering whether to cancel your ILP and do your own direct investments so as to stop paying for the high investment management fees (you can also combine this ETF then with the ABF Singapore Bond Index Fund, which I had in my ILP before I terminated it. That ETF currently trades at an indicated yield of 2.3%)

No if you:

  • Want much higher return than 3% given this (low) risk level
  • Are willing to take on higher risk for much higher returns

Until better opportunities present themselves, parking one’s emergency or excess cash in a mixture of this Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF with Singapore Saving Bonds and CPF voluntary top-ups certainly sounds like a viable idea to me as part of a multi-asset portfolio management strategy.

At any rate, I’d definitely prefer to go for this than most individual corporate bonds! 


Where can I apply for this ETF?

The easiest way would be to apply via FSMOne.com as it only requires a minimum of $100 to subscribe and is also currently running a promotion of 0% sales charge during this ETF’s Initial Offering Period from 23 July to 16 August 2018. 

This means you can enjoy a 0% processing fee to invest into this ETF, as long as you place your order before 12 noon of 16 August.


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TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THIS ETF


  1. Read this article by the FSMOne.com Research Team to learn more about the NikkoAM SGD IGBond ETF.
  2. View the ETF factsheet here.

  3. Attend the seminar “Introducing the Nikko AM SGD Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF on 1 August 2018, 12pm, at iFAST Financial Pte Ltd, 10 Collyer Quay #26-01 Ocean Financial Centre Singapore 049315. Click here to register now!

OPEN AN FSMONE ACCOUNT

Don’t have an FSMOne Account yet? You might probably want to consider opening one to get access to this bond ETF, as well as a whole suite of other investment products that is offered by Fundsupermart!
Head over here to open your free account right away so you can subscribe to this ETF and make full use of the 0% processing fees promotion! If you encounter any issues in getting started, you can also call them at 6557 2853 or email clienthelp@fundsupermart.com for more assistance.
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What are your thoughts about this ETF, and is there anything I’ve missed out on? Let me know in the comments below!

With love,
Budget Babe