SG Investor Hub Blog

Portfolio Update: February 2017

Markets are climbing slowly and as I am typing out this update, the STI has actually breached 3,100. The total value of the portfolio right now is $390,000 and it is actually up by $10,000 from the previous month. $7,000…

3 Ways Your Parents Can Grow Their Retirement Funds

Money is an emotional topic in Heartland Boy’s family, and often, also the root of all problems in the household. This can all be traced to the diverse perspectives on money held by his family members. As age catches up, Heartland Boy’s parents find it increasingly tiring to stand behind the wok for long hours […]

The post 3 Ways Your Parents Can Grow Their Retirement Funds appeared first on Heartland Boy.

GMGH’s Holiday To Korea!

(I’m going to try to follow the format I did for my last NZ trip and Japan trip!)

Like I mentioned in January, I went for a nice vacation over the long Chinese New Year holiday this year. I’m now back in Singapore and I’m missing the lovely cool winter weather. The mystery destination this time was probably not hard to guess at all… Korea!

서면 Seomyeon, where all the hip people get drunk in Busan 부산


Just like Japan, the first thing that pushed me to select Korea was the crazy, unbelievably good priced tickets that I managed to snag.

Actually, I had already planned to go to Korea for quite some time and I knew that tickets to Korea typically cost about $700-900. I was just browsing through the dates and options about 3 months in advance in October to travel in January (yes, that’s how long ago I’ve been preparing and anticipating to go to Korea) and then I saw this CRAZY deal!

I managed to get a return flight on Thai Airways, with a stopover at BKK both ways, and an additional technical stop at HK on the way back, with 30kg check-in baggage allowance and onboard meals included for an absolutely ridiculous bargain basement price of… $354.90. Yup, that’s right. Dirt cheap? I think so, especially considering how far away Korea is!

I found my ticket using Kayak and Skyscanner, as usual, and I booked direct with Thai Airways because they had the best price.


Usually when I travel alone, I do not stay in hotels. For me, I don’t like paying a premium for a room and extra facilities which I’m barely going to be in or to enjoy at all. Therefore, I usually prefer to stay in cheaper options, like hostels. Hostels in Korea are plentiful, so I decided to stay in hostels (only if they had private rooms) and motels. Although staying in a private room is definitely way more expensive than staying in multiple beds shared dorm rooms, I value the security of my belongings and I like to have everything out in a very organized mess, so I went with private rooms.

I managed to stay in 4 different accommodations (5 if you count my overnight stay in the spa), 2 motels and 2 private hostel rooms. The weighted average rating for my accommodations was 9.16 based on Agoda and 9.21 based on All of them had fantastic locations, less than 3 minutes walk from the metro station. I only had 1 issue, which was that one of the motels didn’t have hot water for a particular night, so I only could take a shower the next morning. But meh, small issue.

So for my 14 nights, I spent a grand total of – get this – $519.19, or an average of $37 per night for private rooms.


This wasn’t my first time to Korea, but I think I wasn’t too aware and just blur the last time I went. I didn’t realize just how big the Seoul metro was, and also about the metro lines in the other cities! Of course, I took the metro and walked most of the time, though I did take buses, but not too often.

I got myself a T-money card (don’t get the other cards, I’ll explain in another post!) and throughout my entire 14 day trip, I spent 53,700 KRW ($65 SGD) on all metro travelling, which works out to about $5 a day. This is cheap! I remember that Tokyo was twice as expensive!

T-money is for inter city transportation. Since I flew into Busan and flew out from Seoul, I had to make my way across the country myself, and the natural choice is of course to take the KTX. I booked my tickets in advance online, so it was all very smooth and easy peasy. With 1 pit-stop, my journey across the country was just 60,100 KRW ($75 SGD)!

I spent A LOT of time walking when I was in Korea. I walked a total of 143km over the course of 14 days, which works out to about 10km a day. Cabs aren’t that expensive, but I still felt like everything was rather nearby, I wasn’t rushing to places, so I just had nice walks in the cool winter weather!

Sightseeing / Activities

When I told people that I would be in Korea for 14 days, they all told me that it was way too long and I was going to get bored. All these people were wrong because I was doing different things in Korea every single day and I still have things that I didn’t manage to see or do, don’t even talk about eat!

I skipped quite a bit of the usual touristy stuff. The palace in the middle? Nope. The DMZ? Nope. Hanok Village? Nope. Namsan Tower? Nope. (Well, maybe next time I’ll go with a special someone and do the lock thing, hur hur)

I do like city views and managed to get some good views from Naksan Park 낙산공원, which is free, but nice! I was actually feeling a bit under the weather, if not I would’ve wanted to walk the whole park!

The thing about Korea that is quite different from my other trips is that I have quite a number of friends living in Korea. Instead of doing all the usual touristy stuff, I opted instead to hang out with my friends and do things that are a bit less touristy and that they would also enjoy too, instead of feeling like they are chaperoning me around! In the end, I ended up eating… A LOT and also ended up at karaokes every other day! Haha!

Picture time!

감천문화마을 Gamcheon Cultural Village in Busan

해동 용궁사 East Sea Dragon Temple

오룍도 Oryukdo Skywalk

광안리 Gwanganli Beach

해운대 Haeundae Beach

달맞이 Dalmaji Road
문탠로드에서 해월사 Haewoljeong Pavilion on Moontan Road

 해운대 전통시장 Haeundae Traditional Market

 롯대월드 Lotte World Amusement Park… it was WAY more crowded than it looks here

 DDP LED 장미 Dongdaemun Design Plaza LED Roses

Ridiculous thing at Gangnam 강남

 노량진 시장 Noryangjin Fish Market

 광장시장 Gwangjang Market

 홍대 밤 Hongdae in the evening

낙산 공원 야경 Naksan Park night view

Food and Drinks

Of course, what kind of shit Singaporean would I be if I didn’t go over to other countries and raided their food supplies?

Ready for my take on Korean food? Way better and way cheaper than in Singapore! This is very very different from Japanese food in Japan. In Japan, what I personally felt was that whatever I could get in Japan, I could get something of very similar quality in Singapore, with pretty much the same price or – dare I say it – even cheaper than in Japan.

However, this is surprisingly very wildly different in Korean. Korean food across the board was cheaper than any Korean food that you can get in Singapore and the quality and taste was significantly better. Korea does lack a variety of food when it comes to the budget category (under $5, or 4000 KRW), but all my restaurant meals were very affordable, kept firmly between the $10 and $20 range. This means a proper table setting, with side dishes, real utensils, wait service and access to restrooms. I kept wondering what the monthly rental and workers wages were whenever I ate at restaurants.

Korean food suits my tastebuds well because I can eat spicy food and I enjoy the occasional drink with my meals, which Koreans do fantastically well for dinners! While most people think of Korean food as “Saba Fish Set”, “Chicken / Pork / Beef Bulgogi Set”, “Kimchi Stew with Ramen Noodles” along with side dishes of ikan bilis and like a bite of kimchi, and the better ones can say budaejjigae 부대찌개 Army Stew, the reality is that there are lots of Korean food and I had the immense pleasure of tasting lots of them!

Never failing me, one of my best meals in Korea was Shake Shack in Gangnam. Yeah, that’s right. American burgers in Korea was one of my best meals! The experience was way better than in Japan because the queue was much, much, much shorter, the seating area was quite big and the food was orgasmic as usual. Perhaps the 2 most interesting things that I ate were 번대기 silkworm pupa and 곰장어 hagfish. Tasty… is debatable, but it was for the experience!

Anyway, I’ll let my pictures do the talking for the rest of my food.

오겹살 Five-layered Fat Pork, like the zhng version of samgyeopsal

떡볶이하고 순대 Rice Cakes and Blood Sausages… this ahjumma said I’m very handsome, heh

족발 Pig Trotters – Original and Spicy

번데기 Silkworm pupae, mmm nom nomz

 섞어국밥 Pig Innards Rice Soup
 새우만두하고 찜만두 Prawn and Steam Dumplings

 해물파전하고 막어리 Seafood Pancake with Makeoli

 부산 코라사 어묵 Famous Busan Fishcakes
 전복 해물 된장찌개 Abalone Seafood Spicy Beanpaste Soup
왕갈비탕 King Beef Ribs Soup

 곰장어 Bear Eel, or Hagfish (quite gross looking, fyi)

 동래파전 Dongnae Pancakes and Makeoli

 샤브샤브 Shabu Shabu

치즈 가리비 Cheesy Seashells (Shellfish)
 게장 Fermented Salty Crabs
부대찌개 Army Stew is pretty common food, but this one was freaking delicious
 칼국수 Thick Cut Noodles, apparently North Korean style

 섹섹 Shake Shack. Jizzed my pants while eating this

 명동교자칼국수 Apparently really famous Thick Cut Noodles in Myeong Dong

 닭갈비 Chicken Ribs at… Yoogane lol. It’s more than 50% cheaper than in SG
 전 전 전 전 Lots of different types of panckes, re-fried and served piping hot!

I’m having some technical difficulities uploading some picutres, so that is all that you can get! I’m sure it should be enough to make you feel hungry though, especially if you crave nice, warm and comforting soups!

My Bill

Airfare: $354.90
Accommodation: $519.19
Transport (Inter City): 60,100 ($75 SGD)
Transport (Intra City): 53,700 ($65 SGD)
Food: 477,600 ($578 SGD)
Attractions, Entertainment, Drinks, Misc: 86,700 ($105 SGD)

Total: $1,697.09

I don’t know if it’s a fair way to do this, but I signed up for the SCB Singpost Card just so that I could eat the $138 cash credit by using it to pay for the airfare and other stuff. I think I wouldn’t be too wrong to attribute the $138 to offset my spending, since I only got the card to buy the tickets and get the cash credit, haha!

My actual spending for the trip was $1,560! (rounded up from $1,559.09)

So there you have it, a 2 week trip to a winter country where I stayed in good, well-located, private room accommodations and I ate like a freaking boss, all on a very friendly budget!

This was really one of my better trips. I think I was decently well-prepared and I managed to fill up my entire 14 day schedule with loads of food, activities and friends! I’m proud to say that I only repeated 1 meal my entire trip! That means I really ate a ton of different food!

Korea was a fantastic holiday for me. I’m quite sure that I am going to head back again within the next 2 years, to catch up with friends, to eat more delicious food and to explore other areas that I haven’t been to (like the Palace? HAHA I’m such a bad tourist)! But then again, even just a chill trip away to escape the Singapore heat and to bum around with friends and good food is always a good idea!

I have maybe 1 or a few more follow up posts about my Korea trip coming up next, so stay tuned for that! Comment or let me know if you have any questions!

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Housing Finances – How Much Will Your First BTO Cost You?

Although we’ve yet to apply for our BTO, I’ve been asked to share my plans and financial calculations, so here goes! Hopefully this will help those of you who need a guide on how to plan your finances for your housing needs.

I previously wroteabout waiting for the February 2017 BTO launch, but unfortunately neither Bukit Batok nor Sengkang appealed to my fiancé and I as we prefer to stay within 20 minutes of our parents. Nonetheless, HDB conducts a BTO exercise every quarter with projects in different towns, so we’re now waiting for the May 2017 launch instead!  

What type of housing should we get?

The first thing we did was to discuss what housing options we should go for. Some people see their first house as an investment, but I don’t. To me, as long as it is a house I’m staying in, it qualifies more as a home rather than an investment asset.  

My fiancé had initially wanted to go for a condo or an EC as he perceived such homes as symbols of one’s status. However, we finally agreed to start with a BTO flat, which is definitely the most logical and financially-sound option for us.

We decided to go for a 4-room flat, which comes with 3 bedrooms (same as 5-room flats) since his parents will be staying with us. The size will be just nice to accommodate us, his parents and our future kids along the way! Of course, it is always tempting to buy a bigger house closer to town, but that would also mean we’ll have to spend more money upfront. We prefer to go for a size that suits our budget while saving the money for other things that are more important to us instead.

How much money do we need?

After deciding on the type of flat we will be getting, we immediately checked how much grants we would be able to qualify for. This would help us in calculating the amount of downpayment we need to come up with and the mortgage loan we could afford.

Aside from housing grants to subsidize our purchase, the amount and type of loan we go for will also determine how much we have to pay.

How much can we get in housing grants?

If you and your spouse earn a combined household income of not more than $8,500 and buy up to a 4-room BTO flat in a non-mature estate, you will be eligible for up to $40,000 under the Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG). If your income is not more than $5,000, you can also qualify for up to $40,000 more, under the Additional CPF Housing Grant (AHG).

        Source: HDB

To illustrate, let’s consider a pair of fresh university graduates (Jack & Jill) who are in their second year of work. Jill is a junior designer who earns $1,800 each month, whereas Jack, who works as a HR executive, had a pay raise 2 months ago from $2,500 to $3,000 as he got promoted to a senior executive. Jack’s average monthly income for the last 12 months works out to be $2,583*. Their combined income of $4,383 makes them eligible for $10,000 of AHG and $40,000 of SHG, or a total of $50,000 in grants.

*($2,500 x 10 months) + ($3,000 x 2 months) = $31,000

$31,000 / 12 months = $2,583.33

This is why I feel young couples should apply for their BTO early once they’re ready, so that you can maximise the amount of grants you qualify for! However, note that when you sell off your flat, you’ll have to put the grant amount plus accrued interest back into your CPF accounts.

On hindsight, I wish we had applied for our BTO much earlier before both of us got our recent pay raise. Based on our previous income, we would have qualified for $10,000 of the Additional Housing Grant (AHG), but after the recent pay raise, our income bracket no longer entitles us to this benefit. But we may still be able to get $20,000 in the Special Housing Grant (SHG) if all goes according to plan.

What type of housing loan should we go for?

HDB Loan

We’re eligible for an HDB loan since our total monthly income is under $12,000. We liked the fixed interest rate on a HDB loan (which means that there won’t be any surprise interest hikes anytime soon) allowing us to plan for future mortgage repayments consistently. Of course, since the HDB loan interest is pegged to prevailing CPF-OA interest rates with a margin of 0.1%, there is still the possibility for it to change, but it is definitely much less volatile than a bank loan. We can also retain the option to opt to refinance to a bank loan later on.

The downpayment is 10%, which we can pay using either our CPF or cash savings. If your finances are tight, you can also opt to pay 5% first when you apply for the BTO and the remaining 5% later once your BTO is ready for you to move in. Last but not least, you have the option to pay off more of your loan at any time, with no extra fees and penalty.

Bank Loan

On the other hand, bank loans can sometimes offer a more attractive interest rate for the initial few years (especially when you refinance your loan), but we were concerned about the possibility of a rising interest rate environment in the future. Furthermore, taking a bank loan for a period of 25 years will require us to make a downpayment of 20%, of which the first 5% has to come strictly from cash. There’s also the early repayment penalty of 1.5% to 1.75% of our loan to consider.

Since a maximum of 30% of our combined income can be used to pay for our housing loan, our top priority was not to find the biggest flat, but a flat that we could reasonably afford to pay the monthly mortgage without stretching our finances too thin.

Planning our finances to pay for the flat

Buying our flat isn’t the end of the journey – there’s still renovation to take care of, and we’ve estimated that we will spend between $25,000 and $40,000.

After these big payments have been settled, we’ll still need to ensure that we have enough money to comfortably pay our housing-related bills each month as well. These include:

       Housing loan instalments

       Fire insurance

       Mortgage-reducing term insurance (just in case)

       Conservancy fees

       Property taxes

       Utilities bill

Since many of these ongoing expenses cannot be paid for using our CPF savings, we will need to make sure our income can sustain the payments without having to borrow.

Calculating our repayment plan (how much can we expect to pay monthly?)

We used the HDB calculatorto roughly estimate our monthly instalment:

Factoring the above-mentioned expenses in, we expect to pay no more than $2,000 a month (or $1,000 each). While I’ll ideally like the figure to be lower, this is frankly quite manageable for us (even if either of us takes a break at work, my emergency savings should be able to sustain us for a few months at least).

We’re more interested in the May 2017 BTO launch, so we’ll probably revisit this again when we finally find a suitable location. Till then, I hope you’ll find my guide useful!

This post is sponsored by the Ministry of National Development (MND), who asked me to share my housing financial plans publicly to help other young couples who may be in a similar situation. All opinions stated here are that of my own.