Category: SG Budget Babe

Why It Is A Mistake To Delay Planning For Retirement

Many of us do not start thinking about planning for our retirement until we’re much older. However, this is a mistake because you need time for your plans to bear fruit, and starting early is one of the best ways to ensure that it does.

A recent study by AIA showed that Singaporeans generally spend 2.5 times more n their children’s needs than their retirement planning, with some even neglecting it altogether. But don’t forget that your child also needs you to be financially prepared for your retirement, so that they won’t have to be stressed out about having enough to support your retirement expenses.

Planning early will make a huge difference to your retirement years.

As part of the sandwich generation, it is even more crucial that we start planning early. My husband and started discussions about this in our first year of parenthood, as we both agreed that we did not want to become a financial burden to our children when we’re in our 60s and beyond.

Instead, we wanted to make sure that our own retirement needs will be well taken care of, so that our children can be free to make their own financial decisions without having to be weighed down by us. This determination was cemented after personally going through the stress of having to support our growing family as well as our own ageing parents (who did not plan nor save towards their own retirement).

The need to balance your priorities


It is only natural to procrastinate on planning for your retirement because you’re too focused on being able to finance your present, shorter-term needs. But to defer your retirement plans would be a huge mistake, and you’ll be doing yourself (and your children) a huge disservice.

Considering that most Singaporeans plan to retire at 60 years old, this will require at least 25 years of retirement income that we will need to plan for. If you start early, you’ll be able to leverage the power of compounded growth over time to accumulate your retirement pot of savings.

But if you continue to put it off, you’ll likely need to put aside an even higher sum of money later on, and by then, you will also have fewer tools or options available for you to choose from – depending on your age and health. The study also revealed an irony: while 70% of young Singaporean parents do not wish to be a financial burden during retirement, they may very well end up having to rely on their children or other family members and friends eventually if they face a retirement planning shortfall.

Source: More than half of Singaporeans are 14-years short in their retirement planning.


Here’s how you can start planning


First, you’ll need to estimate how much you will need in your retirement years. By using online tools – such as AIA’s retirement calculator here – calculating that has become so much easier than before.

Source: AIA Retirement Calculator (2021)


With an end goal in mind, you can now work backwards and plan concrete steps to get there.


Next, you’d also want to make sure that you’re well protected against unexpected emergencies, such as medical bills or critical illnesses. If you have dependents (be it young children or your elderly parents), then having a life insurance with critical illness cover  is also important. Plans like AIA’s Guaranteed Protect Plus (III) also often appeal to those looking to finish paying the premiums during their working years while accumulating cash value in their policy, with the flexibility of encashing it later on to supplement one’s retirement income if you wish to.


Once you have your bases covered, it is time to look at how you can grow your savings by leveraging on the power of compounding over time.


Please don’t be like the 92% of Singaporeans who rely on bank deposits as the most popular savings tool of their choice. Instead, learn from the savvier 21% who are growing their wealth by also supplementing with investment tools.


How to achieve your retirement plans


The best retirement plan is one that you can consistently stick to, without giving up.


1. Calculate CPF Life as your base


As a Singaporean, don’t forget to factor in your CPF into the equation. Find out how much you can expect to have from CPF Life as your base foundation, since the national insurance annuity scheme provides you with a monthly payout no matter how long you live. Of course, relying on your CPF Life alone may not be enough, especially if you have a desired retirement lifestyle in mind, so this is where you’ll need to start building the rest of your retirement pot.


Source: CPF Board


2. Optimise your current resources.


Next, look at your current resources. How much cash savings do you have? And are you simply leaving it in your bank account to earn paltry interest, or actively growing that through investments?


Some of you may even have funds sitting idle in your Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) account – to be more accurate, 26% of the total contributions in 2020 ($12 billion) are held in cash. For those who invest their SRS monies, insurance and direct investments continue to be the most popular tools used.


Source: Ministry of Finance


Insurance retirement plans that allow you to invest using funds from your SRS account can help. They don’t have to be expensive either – for instance, AIA Platinum Retirement Elite starts with premiums from $500 a month, and you can then set the monthly retirement income you wish to receive upon your target retirement age. It is no wonder that such plans focusing on sustainable long-term returns to help grow your wealth and build passive income for retirement continue to remain popular. To further ensure that your desired retirement lifestyle is not impeded by rising inflation rates, you can check if your insurer allows you the flexibility to receive a yearly stepped-up income as well (similar to you opting for the Escalating Plan on CPF Life).


3. Plan how much to set aside each month.


To get to your goal, you need to be disciplined in putting aside money each month towards your retirement. The good news is, the earlier you start, the easier it is.


For instance, even setting aside a monthly amount of $400 (or a lump sum of $5,000 each year) can go a long way when you allow this to compound over time. In the chart above, you can clearly see that because Susan started earlier, she still emerges with more money than Bill, even though Bill sticks to his plan for a longer duration (30 years) and invests more capital (3 times more) than she does.


That is the power of starting early – even if you were to pause later on in life, your money can continue to grow if you’ve parked it in the right financial instruments.


In choosing which tool to grow your savings with, you’ll need to ask yourself, how confident are you when it comes to investing, and are you reasonably good at it?


Whether you prefer to manage your own investments or outsource it to the professionals (e.g. BlackRock or Wellington Management, just to name a few), there are different options to suit your discipline level, skill, budget and even time (or the lack of it, when it comes to actively managing your own investments for growth). 


4. Factor in your property.


If you have a property, don’t forget to include that into your plans as well. Will you be staying in your current residence all the way, or do you intend to downsize (or “rightsize”) when you’re older and your kids have moved out?


Liquidating your property can sometimes help to unlock cash for your retirement years as well. This was what we did for my parents (neither of them have much savings for retirement) since the house was now too big for just the two of them.


5. Review, adapt and change.


It is prudent to review your retirement plans every few years to ensure that you are on track to meeting your goals. Another good time to do so is whenever there is a significant change in your life milestones, as that may necessitate a change in your retirement plans as well.


For instance, if you end up having more children, then you may be faced with the prospect of having lesser cash flow to invest during their younger years (especially as preschool and tuition fees can cost quite a bit to support!). This may then mean you have to either push back your target retirement age, or perhaps consider if taking a more calculated and aggressive risk approach (such as increasing your exposure to equities, for instance) would be more appropriate.


Should you top up your monthly savings for investments, or take on higher risk in your portfolio?


Take the above illustration for instance: these portfolios, accessible via AIA Platinum Retirement Elite, are managed by AIA Investments and powered by some of the world’s top institutional asset managers (Baillie Gifford, Wellington Management and BlackRock) which most ordinary retail investors may find difficult to get access to. 




As you can see, planning for your retirement need not be difficult. And the best part is, the earlier you start, the easier it will be for you to achieve your retirement goals since you get to ride on the power of compounding your money over time.


Procrastination, on the other hand, will mean you’ll have a much harder time catching up in your later years.


It is easy to get caught up in the pressing day-to-day matters such as climbing the career ladder and taking care of our family that we forget, or push aside planning for our own retirement. But it can be as easy as 1-2-3:


1. Optimise what you currently have.

2. Set aside a sum each month.

3. Invest your cash.


So start thinking about your retirement today, and if you’re married, have a chat with your spouse about theirs as well.


For more ideas on how to start and explore possible solutions, click here.


Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with AIA Singapore. All opinions are that of my own, and information referenced is accurate as of 29 July 2021.

This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Here’s What You Can Save With NTUC’s 60th Birthday!

I’ve been an NTUC Member for several years now, and have benefited from the various benefits and offers that come with it. For instance, within 2021 alone, I’ve already received over $100+ of FairPrice rebates which effectively reduced our grocery bills, earned LinkPoints on my son’s monthly childcare fees and even used $195 of my UTAP credits this year to offset a certification exam that I went for.

Read more here on why I feel it is well worth the membership, and how I use the benefits in my daily life!

If you’re a millennial or a parent like me, you’re likely to find the membership perks and support schemes useful as well. From a personal finance standpoint, aside from helping you to save an incredible amount of money in a year, you can also benefit from low-cost insurance and investments to grow your wealth.

What’s more, as NTUC celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, the union has put together several offers and merchant discounts for its members like us, which includes savings on daily essentials, leisure activities, courses and many more that contribute towards better health and financial well-being. 

Here are some of the offers that stood out to me:

Insurance: Complimentary $50,000 Basic Coverage

For instance, if you need to top up your insurance protection but have limited cash, you can sign up for NTUC Income’s term life insurance, exclusively for NTUC Members. Underwritten by Income, the policy offers complimentary $50,000 LUV Basic coverage for the 1st year. What’s more, receive $25 daily hospital cash benefit in the event of hospitalisation (even if you’re admitted for COVID-19) and you can also enhance your coverage further with LUV Deluxe cover to cover 30 critical illnesses – when we top up $10 per month in our case (we’re in our 30s). See terms and conditions here.

Investments: Reduced advisory fees on diversified portfolios

Alternatively, you can also kickstart your investments with MoneyOwl (read about my experience with them here) because as an NTUC Member, you can enjoy an additional 10% off advisory fees on access to Dimensional Funds (read my review here), or even a complete waiver of advisory fees on their latest WiseIncome Fund that is specifically designed to provide you with a steady stream of passive income for the long term.

Courses: Learn with >60 courses for only $6 a year

NTUC LearningHub has specially curated a library of over 60 courses (more than 100 hours of learning) covering the various in-demand skills most coveted by employers in Singapore, spanning across technology, digital transformation, adaptive skills and more (modules include data visualization with python, Six Sigma basics, Power BI, etc). NTUC Members can now get access to all these courses at a discounted rate of only $6 a year and even receive certificates for them – this is incredibly good value for up-skilling yourself, especially when you compare how much it costs for to pay for certifications offered by other online learning platforms (such as Coursera)!

Consumer Deals

If you need a new phone, StarHub is currently offering NTUC Members up to an extra $200 off iPhone 12 mini, 20% off monthly subscription of their Mobile+ 2-year plans and more. For instance, all Mobile+ plans come with 5G service at no extra cost. The discounted $52 per month (on $65 plan) gives you 30GB of data, 500 outgoing minutes, free incoming calls, 200 SMSes, free caller number display and other perks including a 3-month Amazon Prime membership. For those of you not needing a phone, you can always choose a SIM Only 1-year plan with 60GB at just $20/mth.

You can also get up to $80 bill rebates if you intend to sign up for Sembcorp Power’s electricity plan, together with $30 of NTUC vouchers for you to spend when you choose their 24-Month Fixed Price Plan. I don’t know about you, but that’s the equivalent of 2 – 3 months of my electricity bills in savings! Furthermore, they retire 50kWh worth of renewable energy certificates (RECs) every month on your behalf which means that you’ll be helping to avoid carbon dioxide emissions when you power your home with them. That means you’ll be getting cost savings and being able to do your part to protect the environment at the same time, too.


Healthcare costs are rising, but seeing a doctor doesn’t have to be expensive, especially if you prefer to seek medical consultations from the comfort of your own home during this pandemic. As an NTUC Member, you can get telemedicine services from Fullerton Health with waiver of tele-consultation and medicine delivery fees

Retail Offers
Whether you’re shopping for your weekly groceries, grabbing a teatime drink or more, you can simply launch the MyNTUC app and look under “eCoupons” to claim a variety of promo codes:

For Families / Parents

Can’t travel? No problem, because you can always explore Singapore with your family instead in the meantime with discounts off Sentosa attractions, Wild Wild Wet day passes and NERFAX plays! For NTUC Members with young children, you can also bring them to learn more about animals at attractions like Jurong Bird Park, Wildlife Reserves, River Safari, Singapore Zoo, Night Safari. Alternatively, how about visiting the Science Centre or playing at Snow City, or even going for playdates at indoor playgrounds such as Pororo Park, Tayo Station, SuperPark? Of course, be sure to abide by COVID-19 guidelines when you visit these places!

Greater Savings for NTUC Members

As you can see, being an NTUC member comes with a whole host of privileges, discounts and other benefits that can help you save money on your daily essentials, leisure, well-being and many more.

That’s why I’ve personally stuck with my NTUC membership – because it is worth it.
Check out NTUC’s 60th birthday offers here and follow their Facebook page here for announcements on new deals to come. 

Sponsored Message

At NTUC, every single Singaporean worker matters to us #EveryWorkerMatters. While we continue to take care and protect all workers, union members will continue to benefit through receiving more support and protection. We believe that NTUC members deserve the best – both at work and at play – and will always subscribe to our philosophy of “Members First, Workers Always”.

If you’re not an NTUC member yet, then you’re seriously missing out! 
Get a Ginnie Beanie worth $108* when you join me as an NTUC member here today!

*Terms and conditions apply.

Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with NTUC. Psst, my NTUC membership certainly isn’t sponsored; I’ve been a paying member since 2018 and will continue to be!


All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of my own and do not reflect the opinions of NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative Limited (“Income”) or any of the other brands featured here.

The information contained in this article are provided and meant for general information only and do not constitute an offer, recommendation, solicitation or advice by Income or SG Budget Babe to buy or sell any product(s) or investment product(s). It is not and should not be relied as a financial advice and has no regards to any person’s investment and financial needs. If you are unsure whether this plan is suitable for you, you may seek personalised financial advice from a qualified insurance advisor. Otherwise, you may end up buying a plan that does not meet your expectations or needs. As a result, you may not be able to afford the premiums or get the insurance protection you want. Precise terms, conditions and exclusions of product are found in the policy contract. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.

Protected up to specified limits by SDIC. Information is correct as at July 2021.

This App Helps You Automatically Save Your Spare Change and Invest into Gold

Now that we’re more than halfway through 2021, how are you guys doing with your wealth plans that you had set at the beginning of the year? Or have you simply been stagnant all this while? If you’re stuck, here’s a tip, for the best way to making long and lasting change is to:

Start by taking baby steps, and make wealthcare a HABIT.

I’ve previously written about why this is so important – check out the article here if you missed it.

In this era of technological tools, one of the easiest, fuss-free ways to do so would be to download a finance mobile app that can help you form the habit of wealthcare. If you don’t already have one, check out Hugo – a Singapore-based digital saving account that helps you to manage your finances and invest your savings effortlessly.

I’ve been using the app – which comes with my very own Hugo Platinum Visa Debit      Card – ever since its launch, and truly appreciate how it helps me to save and invest my spare change, so here’s my review of the Hugo app! Instead of doing it physically, everything is automated and done through the app for me. Known as Roundups , this feature rounds up my spending to the nearest dollar and my spare change gets automatically swept into your Gold Vault where it is invested as gold, to accumulate and hedge against inflation.


Here’s how I’ve been personally using it:

  • I set up a recurring transfer to give myself a monthly allowance by transferring $500 into my Hugo Account at the start of each month
  • For retail purchases in physical stores, I simply tap to pay with my Hugo debit card (it works just like any Visa contactless card would)
  • I also use the card to pay for food delivery and shopping online, having loaded the card details into my app / frequently-visited merchant websites like Shopee and RedMart

Check out my user demonstration video of the app here, or a day out with Hugo on my Instagram page here.


Every transaction gets recorded in the ledger on your Hugo app, with notifications as well. You can tap on each transaction record to add your own notes, such as even uploading a receipt if you need to.


This can also be ideal for those of you thinking of giving your kids/parents a Hugo Account + card where you can load their spending allowance each month (without worrying about them busting the budget!) and track where they’re spending at. Avoid a scenario of your kids spending thousands of dollars on online games, merchandise or even mystery boxes!


Without me having to do anything, Hugo has helped me to save and invest my spare change in my Gold Vault.  Check it out here:

For instance, just imagine how much spare change Hugo can stash aside for you on an average day on just food alone:
  • Breakfast at Ya Kun: $4.80 (roundup $0.20)
  • Lunch at a hawker centre: $4.50 (roundup $0.50)
  • Afternoon kopi: $1.80 (roundup $0.20)
  • Dinner cai png: $3.50 (roundup $0.50)
  • Ice-cream sundae at McDonald: $1.70 (roundup $0.30)
Total Roundups = $2.70

When you accumulate that kind of spare change regularly with each day of expenses, Hugo helps you to snowball it into a sizable amount without you having to deal with the hassle of loose coins in your pocket.


What’s better is that Hugo doesn’t let it just sit in your (digital) account as cash – it helps you to invest it into gold so that the value of your money doesn’t get eroded by inflation. What’s more, you can even buy, sell or save your money in gold in any amount that you want, from as little as S$0.01!


Just imagine: your daily $2.70 Roundups x 365 days = $985.50 of gold in a year.


By simply doing what you already do every day (spend, save and invest your loose change), every small action (or cents) adds up in your Gold Vault.

But…is Hugo safe?

I was probably more skeptical than most of you are, which is why it took me several months to write this post – I was questioning the Hugo team on the safety and security features before I was willing to put in my own money in it.


You’d be glad to know that:

  • Money in your Hugo account is safeguarded and ring-fenced by DBS Bank. No matter what happens to Hugo, your money will still be there in DBS.
  • Your gold is insured and securely stored in an LBMA-accredited vault located in Singapore. Technical details: Hugo’s Gold Vault service is backed by actual, physical gold stored in vaults that are accredited by the London Bullion Market Association and insured by Lloyd’s of London.
  • Your Hugo Platinum Visa Debit Card is a numberless card, which means that only you can access your card details on the Hugo app. This is a great way to keep yourself safe from online hackers trying to steal your card information. You can even temporarily lock the card via the app if you need to.

This isn’t just any startup, either. Hugo’s co-founders are veterans in the fintech and financial industry, including a former director of Citigroup and UBS. The company’s idea of wealthcare for the common man resonated so well among angel investors that it successfully raised US$2 million in seed funding recently to help expand and boost its financial offerings for users.

How can I get access to Hugo?


Whether you’re keen to use Hugo for yourself or for giving your kids/parents spending allowance, you can now get $20 worth of gold for FREE, via my referral code here.


You’ll have to go through a simple KYC process (verify your NRIC with a live selfie for identity verification) as part of their standard compliance process, but once that’s done, you should be up and running within a matter of hours. Don’t forget to request for your Hugo Card, and activate it in your app once you receive your card in the mail!


This would totally be an app I’d build myself to help people save and start investing to beat inflation (if I had the resources to do so), and I’m glad that Singapore finally has one of its own.


What else are you waiting for?


Watching your wealth accumulate has never been easier.

Get $20 of gold when you download the Hugo app now.


Disclosure: This article is written in collaboration with Hugo. All the money spent (and invested into my Gold Vault) are that of my own.

Which is Singapore’s most comprehensive maternity insurance? (includes delivery and NICU bills)

When I was previously hospitalised in KKH during my first pregnancy at 24 weeks (after tumbling down an overhead bridge), the financial consultant there had advised me that if I were to give birth then and choose the lowest-class ward, my baby’s NICU bills could run into an estimated $250,000. 

This made me realise how scary the potential financial burden can be to a couple in the event that a pregnancy encounters complications, which prompted me to speak to over 8 insurers to understand their maternity insurance plans in detail. It has been 3 years since I last published the results of my efforts in this comparison (one that was lacking in the public domain back then) during my first pregnancy. My experience also made me realise that none of the maternity plans offered by local insurers would cover: 

  • pre-natal expenses (e.g. OB/GYN bills, scans)

  • doctor’s fees during delivery (we had 3 doctors the last time around whose operation/attendance fees were payable, i.e. my gynaecologist, anesthesiologist and paediatrician) 

  • emergency delivery

  • neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) hospital bills

These are the largest expenses that you’ll likely incur during your pregnancy.The problem is there are few insurance plans that will help you with that, especially none of the local insurers – Prudential, AIA, Aviva, etc.

How much could these cost?

You may want to make a backup plan for this. Within my own social circle, one of my friends was hit by a bill shock due to her emergency C-section – which was deemed medically necessary by her gynaecologist back then as the baby was in distress (even though she had planned for a normal delivery and had already taken epidural); her total bill came up to over $26,000. Another friend had to deliver her baby prematurely at 25 weeks via an emergency C-section due to an infection that caused her water bag to burst, and their baby has since been in NICU for over 120 days – and the bill continues to climb.

The financial expenses incurred are no small sum, especially for NICU bills which can be $1,000+ per day of hospitalisation. 

How then do couples cope? In both of my friends’ cases, they had to dip into their savings and work hard to earn the money to pay off the bill. Some others have no choice but to turn to family and friends, or even strangers, to appeal for funds. You can see from the various appeals online for donations from desperate parents, such as this $280,000 appeal for NICU bills that made it to Mothership, or even this $300,000 appeal for SGH’s NICU bills or this $120,000 donation fund-raiser to pay NUH’s NICU on GIVEasia or . Such premature births are also on the rise, which prompted public hospitals like KKH and NUH to expand their NICU bed capacity in recent years.

While we all hope for the best during pregnancy, there is a chance that premature birth or complications could occur.

A $22,000 bill for a premature baby’s 10-day stay in NICU,
 in May 2021 at Singapore General Hospital

Pre and post-natal expenses

Each pregnancy, doctor and mum-to-be is different, so there is no fixed amount of required consultations or scans. Pricing is not fixed in Singapore either, and doctors/specialists in the private sector may charge dramatically different rates for consultations, therefore the cost of your pre-natal expenses will also vary depending on your choice of doctor/clinic

In the majority of cases, you would expect scans and consultations with an OB-GYN every 4 to 6 weeks in the early stages of the pregnancy, and eventually once a week or once every 2 weeks closer to your due date. Of course, there could always be complications that can lead to bed rest or unexpected procedures and costs (this was exactly what happened to several of my friends). For example, some pregnancies can be considered ‘high-risk’ and might require amniocentesis and a higher number of consultations with a specialist as well. It is therefore difficult to plan and save towards an accurate figure for pre-natal expenses and everything required prior to giving birth. 


Another aspect seldom discussed is that the risk of major costs would also be in relation to complications associated with the newborn (e.g. premature birth, congenital disorders, distress, neonatal stroke, etc.). With the potential for these fees to reach thousands of dollars per day, it is therefore important for parents to consider securing health insurance or ensure that their existing policy provides newborn coverage benefits.

Can I use insurance to cover this?

As you can see, the risk of major costs largely comes from complications of pregnancy/childbirth and newborn care (e.g. premature birth, congenital conditions, etc). With the high likelihood of these expenses reaching thousands of dollars per day, it can therefore be a huge relief if your insurance plan can financially protect you against that. 

To date, most people do not realise that there ARE in fact maternity insurance plans that can cover you for such routine maternity and delivery costs (especially if you intend to give birth via an elective C-section).

I jumped in on the discussion and decided to write this article after seeing how many people were answering this particular mummy’s question with recommendations to their plans or agents from Prudential, AIA and AXA. That is a gross misconception, and you only need to look within the product brochure or T&Cs to realise that.

Instead, your solution lies in comprehensive insurance plans offered by international insurers, such as Bupa, Cigna or TM Henner. I’ve highlighted the key benefits it protects you for (which the other local insurers’ plans named here do not cover) in yellow, in particular:

  • Routine maternity and delivery costs in private or public hospitals with the doctor of your choice: this covers your OB/GYN check-ups, scans, blood tests, normal delivery, etc.

  • C-section (both elective and emergency)

  • Newborn coverage: including NICU care for premature babies, treatment fees or hospitalisation bills

For instance, here are some of the pre and post-natal care items covered by one of the insurers:

While each insurer has different definitions under “complications”, these plans also generally cover a broader scope, rather than the common 10 – 12 conditions that most local insurance plans cover. As an example, here’s one by TM Henner:

But why are the premiums higher than local maternity plans?

Since the benefits covered are wayyyy more than what the local insurance plans provide, the premiums payable are naturally also higher. The local plans have very limited coverage (rare complications or specific time periods for which they are applicable) and/or have very limited payouts (small hospital cash amount per day, overall low combined limits of $5K or $10K payouts, etc). 

Which is why you’re essentially paying more to get higher coverage for greater peace of mind.

But here’s what I think – even though the premiums may appear high at first glance, once you consider the fact that you are able to make claims even for your pre/post-natal treatments and delivery bills, does it still look pricey to you? If you ask most couples who gave birth in private hospitals how much their bills came up to, the range is generally between $10,000 to $20,000 at least.

What’s more, by getting such an insurance plan, you’re effectively topping up a small sum to insure yourself against the potential financial risks of complications and NICU stay. Here’s how the math could look like:

  • Premiums (Insurer D): $14,000 over 2 years

  • Claims

    • OB/GYN visits and tests: $1K – $3K

    • Delivery: $10K – $15K (normal) / $20K (elective C-section)

Is it worth it? You decide.

What about the costs for a smooth pregnancy?

To date, what most people have been doing is saving up and paying for their own pregnancy expenses, and I’d previously documented the fees you might need to prepare for here. You can potentially reduce the costs by going through the public hospitals as a subsidised patient, but that option comes with several drawbacks as well – such as longer waiting times and being assigned to random OB/GYNs for each visit.

The estimated cost? Back in 2018, our routine maternity costs which included OB/GYN consultations, mandatory tests (OSCAR, detailed foetus scan and gestational diabetes) and delivery bill at the hospital easily came up to over $12,000. That’s not even counting the other bills we incurred for our confinement nanny, herbs, breastfeeding, diapering, insurance and more.

Even if you have a smooth pregnancy with no complications, you’ll likely still be able to benefit from such expat insurance plans, while having peace of mind against large financial bills.

Should I get an international maternity insurance plan?

If you’re planning to try for a baby and you’re worried about the costs, here’s a rough guideline on costs for complex cases that you might want to consider:

  • OB/GYN visits: $1K – $2K

  • Pre-natal tests: $1K – $2K

  • Premature labour: $25K delivery for mother (emergency C-section)

  • NICU bills for premature baby: $100K – $250K

Don’t forget that in the event that your baby is born with any pre-existing conditions, it would also be difficult for your child to get insurance coverage from any insurance company. But if you had gotten one of the above plans from an international insurer, then you wouldn’t have to worry as long as you add your baby to the plan within 30 days of their birth (a pro-rated premium will need to be paid, of course). This is in sharp contrast with many local insurers, whose restrictions will only allow you to insure your baby after at least 2 weeks upon their discharge from the hospital.

Thanks to Pacific Prime, I found out about this useful nugget of information when I was close to delivering my firstborn and was planning to get it before I conceived my second child…but then I completely forgot and missed the waiting period. If we do decide to have a third child, I’ll definitely be trying to purchase this before we conceive.

As a broker, they’ve been an incredible help throughout, and whether you need a quote for yourself (or even someone to explain further the above comparison table to you), you can contact Pacific Prime here to find out if such plans will be suitable for you.

Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Pacific Prime. A huge thanks to the PP team for helping with all my questions and requests!

Sponsor’s Message

Whether you are planning on starting a family now or in the next few years, it is highly important to make sure you include maternity benefits in your insurance policy at an early stage, especially because most comprehensive maternity benefits come with a waiting period ranging from 10 to 24 months. 

At Pacific Prime, we have an in-house team of maternity experts who have not only had babies in Singapore but also know the ins and outs of maternity cover from the top insurers. What really sets us apart from other brokers in the city when it comes to maternity insurance is our extra service, offered at no cost to you. This service includes elements like claims assistance, day-to-day plan administration, delivery pre-authorisation, and more.

Contact Pacific Prime for a quote today.

Most Singaporeans Are Under-Insured for Critical Illness

Almost everyone who has encountered critical illness regrets not getting more coverage, and are willing to pay more just to get more protection, but yet they cannot. But on the other end of the spectrum, most people who have never experienced (or cared for a patient with) critical illness are unwilling to pay for higher protection. 

Welcome to reality, where most of us usually think we’re sufficiently insured and don’t realize the problem until sh*t hits the fan.

Don’t wait until it is too late for regret.

This was my takeaway when I was reading through the survey results of Great Eastern’s latest survey, which revealed a stunning information and perception gap among those with experience and those without.

Compare the findings between the Non-Experiencers (in blue) vs. the Experiencers (in red). Do you see what I’m seeing?

The survey was conducted among 507 respondents in total, out of which:

  • 250 are the Experiencers i.e. critical illness (CI) patients and their caregivers. These included cancer patients or other terminal illnesses, while the caregivers looked after someone with cancer, stroke or dementia.

  • 257 are the Non-Experiencers i.e. not CI patients nor have they cared for a CI patient before 
Key Findings

Insurance payouts are a huge reason why they could cope with the bills and expenses – over 50% of CI patients and their caregivers relied on insurance payouts.

Almost 1 in 3 of them incur more than $250,000 in medical and hospitalisation bills for their entire recovery duration.

Nearly 40% was unable to work or had no income for at least a year.

As a result, more than 80% of them regretted not getting more coverage.

73% were willing to pay higher premiums for more protection, but could no longer do so.

But yet,

almost 40% of the Non-Experiencers were unwilling to pay more for higher protection.

Nearly half of Singaporeans who have never experienced CI believe that they have sufficient coverage, and assume that their existing medical plans (MediSave/MediShield/Integrated Shield Plans) are sufficient.

Having hospitalisation insurance isn’t enough

Here’s why: your MediSave / hospital insurance is not going to pay for your mortgage. Try telling your bank, “hey I have a CI and the doctor says I cannot work because my immune system will be severely compromised for the next 6 months of treatment. Can you waive or defer my mortgage instalments first, please?”

Neither will your MediSave / hospital insurance pay for your child’s education expenses. Imagine if your kid is sitting for their PSLE / ‘O’ levels / ‘A’ levels this year…and you have to stop all their tuition even though they’re struggling and need the academic help. Or imagine if your child is in polytechnic, where the fees are easily a few thousand dollars a year, and you can no longer afford that because you’re not working…so you have to ask your child to drop out of school.

If you stashed away your emergency fund to account for 6 months of expenses, what happens when that runs out but your treatments still aren’t over? Where will you get the money for food and all your other living expenses?

I see a lot of chatter on social media calling folks who save up more than 3 – 6 months of emergency funds as “stupid” 

My response: yes it is because imagine if you fall ill and cannot get a new job / cannot work because of the treatments. Or if you had to take some time off work to care for a sick elderly parent or child. Good luck not having any emergency savings then.

My thoughts: I hope you’re well-insured, because otherwise without that and no emergency savings then who’s gonna foot the bill if you get diagnosed with a CI and have to stop working, or may even need to hire a caregiver? Is that financial burden going to fall to your family?

You can say that you’ll liquidate your investments, but what if that happens during the stock market crash and your positions are mostly underwater?

Your expenses don’t simply disappear overnight just because you got sick.

That’s why a CI insurance plan is so important, and I’ve written about it on this blog on several occasions here and here.

CI can also happen multiple times.

I had a schoolmate who was diagnosed with breast cancer. 6 months after she had defeated the disease and was declared cancer-free, she discovered a brain tumour. A month after undergoing surgery to remove it, she was then hit by another piece of bad news and was diagnosed with leptomeningeal disease – a condition that occurs when cancer cells migrate from other parts of the body to one’s cerebrospinal fluid.

Some of you may have read about her story on social media before.

Another cancer survivor, Zoe Yap, also fought through 4 incidences of cancer and is still fighting it up till today. Her insurance payouts are now helping her and her family to manage the medical and hospitalisation bills, including all the chemotherapy treatments, drugs and more.

You see, it can be quite hard to understand how much cancer (or other critical illnesses) really costs if you haven’t personally encountered it. 

It wasn’t until I spoke more with friends who were cancer survivors and they openly shared with me how much their bills were…that I realized the level of coverage my husband and I may not even be enough if anything happens.

When two of my friends told me how they were unable to work during the treatment and recovery phase, it hit me that even our emergency savings then may not be enough. Plus, you don’t always get to control how fast your body recovers.

So you can imagine what I did next – I bought extra coverage.

Review your CI coverage and don’t wait until it is too late.

This is exactly what is happening now. According to LIA’s 2018 Protection Gap Study, an average Singaporean working adult has critical illness cover of just S$60,000, way below LIA’s recommendation of about S$316,000 or almost 4 times the average annual pay of S$81,663. 

I can’t tell you how much you need to have – if you’re someone with more dependents who rely on your income (e.g. the sandwiched generation with elderly parents + young children), then you’ll likely need more than a couple who doesn’t have any children and who have many siblings to “split” the bill in caring for their parents. In my case, my husband is the only child, and my dad only has me. 

The type of mortgage – and other fixed liabilities – that you have will also play a part. For instance, you’ll need more if your mortgage costs $3,000 a month vs. someone else who only has to pay $1,000+ and can finance completely using their CPF.

Isn’t life funny? When you have the chance to get covered, you’d rather skimp on the money and believe that your health (and youth) will remain forever so.

But the moment you lose your chance to get more coverage…you regret and wish you had done so otherwise. And even if you’re now willing to pay more, the insurers may not accept you anymore.

So don’t wait until it is too late. We should try and keep our insurance premiums low, but that’s not a reason to skimp on coverage and be under-protected.

Speak with a financial advisor if you’re looking for licensed advice.

With love,
Budget Babe

Life Insurance Doesn’t Have to be Expensive – A Review of ePROTECT Term Life Plan

As the COVID-19 situation worsens, many Singaporeans have started to add on more insurance coverage in a bid to protect themselves and their loved ones further, with the highest in-demand options being policies with shorter terms and lower premiums.

If you’ve yet to do the same, take this chance to review your insurance portfolio and ensure that you have enough. Your needs will likely differ based on your profile, but when it comes to life protection, it helps to think about the loved ones or dependents that you’ll be leaving behind, and what could be the worst-case financial scenario for them if you are no longer around.

If you’re part of the sandwiched generation like I am – with both young children and elderly parents/in-laws to think about – here are some factors that I generally take into account in deciding how much coverage we need:

  • (for my spouse) expenses needed to hire a caregiver so he can continue working to provide for the family
  • (for parents) their remaining lifespan
  • (for children) years remaining until they graduate from university
  • loans (thankfully, we only have our mortgage for now, which we’ve gotten mortgage insurance to protect against)
  • future household expenses (groceries, bills, insurance premiums, school fees)
Which is why long-term regular readers would have noticed that we’ve been adding on to our insurance coverage in recent years, given that 4 significant life events happened within just the past 4 years alone: 

(i) my dad retired, and got diagnosed with 2 terminal illnesses
(ii) we welcomed the birth of our first child
(iii) we bought our first home
(iv) we’re now expecting our second kid
To be exact, we’ve added on further coverage to our life insurance and critical illness (together with early CI) as a result.

Note that the CI add-on cover is only applicable for DIRECT – Etiqa term life.

If you’re also thinking of increasing your life coverage for the sake of your loved ones, check out online term life insurance plans like ePROTECT term life plan here, as it includes other benefits such as financial assistance in the event of COVID-19 and any side effects arising from a COVID-19 vaccination.

Term life plans like these offered online are also among the most competitive in the market, since there are no agent commissions or distribution fees to be paid out. With the ability for you to generate your own quotes here (instead of having to ask, or wait for an agent), it has also made the whole buying process a lot cheaper, easier and more convenient for consumers. 

For instance, premiums for a 30-year-old (non-smoking) male to get covered for a minimal $100,000 will cost you less than your Starbucks coffee, at just:

The coverage amount is totally flexible, so you can choose anywhere between $50,000 to $2 million.

And if you’re currently unsure as to how long you can commit to the plan, you can opt for a shorter term period of 5-years renewable. Otherwise, a medium term option (20-years) or up to age 65 is also available. 

How much coverage should you get? 3.9 times of your annual salary is recommended, based on the Life Insurance Association of Singapore (LIA) Protection Gap Study of 2017. However, I personally advocate that as a general guideline instead as your exact needs may or may not be higher, and balancing between that and the amount of premiums you can comfortably afford to pay.

If it helps, my husband and I feel we’ll need at least $250,000 per young child and $100,000 per elderly parent.

Of course, $100,000 may hardly be enough when you have multiple loved ones to consider. As such, if you need a coverage of at least $401,000 or above, you can take advantage of the current promotion of up to 18%* perpetual premium discount (i.e. throughout your policy term).

At this coverage level, the discounted premiums for a 30-year-old (non-smoker) female will be just $9.35 / month for a renewable, 5-year term:

Tip: Opt to pay annually (instead of monthly) if you want to save more.

If you’re a male, the premiums are $12.37 / month instead:

If you have chosen a policy term of 5 years (renewable), it means the policy will be renewed automatically from the renewal date for another 5 years at the same sum insured, without you having to give any proof of good health.

The renewal premium will be calculated based on the prevailing premium rates at the attained age of the life insured and will stay level throughout the renewed term. Thus, if u want flexibility (or affordability for now), go for 5 years. If you’d rather have certainty, go for 20 years. 

The perpetual discount will apply as follows:

Plan Type

Premium Discount

Sum Assured (S$)

5-year renewable term plan


$401,000 & above

20-year fixed term plan


$401,000 – $999,000

20-year fixed term plan

Up to $100 Cashback
(with min. annual premium of $500)

$1,000,000 & above


If you’re sharp-eyed enough, you may have noticed that the perpetual discount does not apply for plans covering until 65 years old. However, you can still get to enjoy a $100 cashback if you were to purchase during Etiqa’s current promotional period.

Summarizing the benefits of the ePROTECT term life plan, here’s what I like about it:

1. Affordable life insurance – whether you need it to cover you and your loved ones for this period (or for a much longer term), to cover you against death, terminal illness or total and permanent disability.

2. Up to 18%* perpetual premium discount.

3. Includes financial assistance benefits for COVID-19 and side effects from the vaccination.

4. Flexible coverage amount and term period to fit your every budget or need.

Get a quote for yourself here before you decide. 

P.S. I own direct-purchase term life insurance plans myself, which I first used to obtain coverage when I was a broke graduate, and later on to increase my coverage at different life milestones. If you find this strategy similarly useful for your own circumstances, feel free to check out the current promotion for ePROTECT term life plan here.

Disclosure: This is a post written in collaboration with Tiq by Etiqa Insurance.

(Sponsored Message)

With ePROTECT term life, you can enjoy up to 18% premium discount* throughout your policy term. 
Refer your friends and get rewarded too!

Read more about the terms and conditions governing the policy here.

*Terms apply. 

This policy is underwritten by Etiqa Insurance Pte. Ltd. (Company Reg. No. 201331905K).

This content is for reference only and is not a contract of insurance. You should seek advice from a financial adviser before deciding to purchase the policy. If you choose not to seek advice, you should consider if the policy is suitable for you. 

Protected up to specified limits by SDIC. 

As this product has no savings or investment feature, there is no cash value if the policy ends or if the policy is terminated prematurely. 

This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. 

Information is accurate as at 12 June 2021.

Should I get a rider on my Integrated Shield plan?

The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced several new changes to MediShield Life earlier this year, in light of rising healthcare costs that they say necessitated higher premiums. As a result, some consumers are now having difficulty keeping up with the rise in their insurance premiums. The question on everyone’s mind is thus whether MediShield Life is sufficient, or if one still needs a private Integrated Shield plan (IP) to supplement it. In this article, I will address that issue, as well as whether your IP riders still make sense from here.

This is Part 2 of a series on hospitalisation coverage and medical insurance in Singapore. Click to view Part 1 here.


Healthcare costs have been rising. As a result, with larger claims being made against both MediShield Life and private insurers, consumers like you and I have been paying higher premiums for healthcare protection in the past few years.

Why, and how does this happen?


This is largely because insurance works via risk-pooling – here’s a helpful graphic by MOH to illustrate this concept:


Source: MOH Youtube

Unfortunately, the rapid rise in costs over the last few years can be attributed to several factors at play – including medical inflation, higher operating costs, and even a “buffet syndrome” when it comes to the consumption of medical treatment and services (since it’ll be paid for by your insurer anyway).


This is not sustainable, and we’re already starting to feel the heat.


Why co-payments are the way to go


When consumers have to foot a portion of their hospitalisation bills (instead of leaving it entirely to your insurer), it should theoretically make one think twice about consuming healthcare services, or choose public hospitals instead of private ones whenever possible.

And indeed, MOH has now mandated that zero co-payment IPs are no longer allowed to be sold (after 2018).


This is definitely a step in the right direction. Aside from that, further changes to MediShield Life have been made. Great Eastern has put together the below table which covers the key changes:


Source: Great Eastern

Aside from these changes, you may want to pay close attention to the following:

  1. All consumers (even those with existing IP or IP supplementary plans) will now have to fork out a minimum 5% co-payment towards their hospitalisation bills.

  2. You’ll only be able to claim 25% of your private hospital bill from MediShield Life (down from 35%).


The second change is important, because this means private insurers will now have to foot a larger share of each private hospital bill (75% now vs. 65% previously). This could likely lead to higher claim costs for the insurers, and I won’t be surprised if this will be potentially passed to policyholders in the form of higher premiums.


Expect higher premiums (for both public and private hospitalisation insurance)


Unless we manage to curb the rising healthcare costs as a nation, it is only a matter of time that our insurance premiums will continue to rise. This isn’t just happening amongst the private insurers – even our mandatory insurance scheme hasn’t been spared.


As a result, another change announced by MOH earlier this year is that we’ll now have to pay more (up to 35%) for our MediShield Life premiums:


When you add up the premiums for your MediShield Life and private IP, it is likely that most of you guys are paying annual premiums anywhere between $1,000 – $2,000 easily right now (myself included). If you’re in the older age bands, or have more riders on your plan, you’re likely paying even more.


Obviously premiums cannot be allowed to continuously rise at an unsustainable rate, which is why some insurers like AIA, Prudential and Great Eastern have introduced Claims-Adjusted pricing.


How will Claims-Adjusted pricing affect me?


This framework will reward consumers who stay healthy and make no (or low) claims, since they will now benefit from lower insurance premiums. As a result, it should incentivise more people to take better care of their health, such as by eating healthier and integrating exercise into their weekly routines.


Conversely, if your health is poor and you end up making more claims on your insurance, then the trade-off will be that you’ll have to pay more (towards the risk-pooling) in the form of higher premiums the following year.


Here’s an example of how the changes might look like for Great Eastern policyholders with GREAT TotalCare (Elite-P) and (Classic-P) plans:




D:\Users\730_LWQ\Documents\Shield 2021 - GTC and GTH\Content\Banners tables\CAP-tables.jpg

Source: Great Eastern


Thus, assuming you are at the Standard Level, you can expect to pay 20% lesser premiums next year if you don’t make any claims this year – if your plan is with Great Eastern.


In the event that your total claim size is more than $2,000 for treatment at a private hospital, you’ll be moved up to the next level (e.g. pay 50% more). But if you choose to seek treatment at government or restructured hospitals, then you’ll remain at the same level, which means you pay the same premium amount as your current / move up to Standard if you were previously at Preferred. 


So, should I still keep my Integrated Shield plan?


In order to answer that question, you need to understand exactly how your IP helps you when it comes to reducing your cash outlay for hospitalisation bills:


Source: Great Eastern


You can see (in the second column) the difference an Integrated Shield plan can make to your bill in reducing how much cash you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket when you’re hospitalised. However, if your hospital bill is larger, the cash outlay you will need to pay can still be pretty sizeable.


Since we cannot predict in advance what health conditions may befall us, or what kind of treatments we’ll end up needing…this makes it difficult to save up some buffer cash for such situations. Consider the recent case of an unlucky 31-year-old hawker who got into a traffic accident on his way home from work, and racked up a $100,000 bill at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (a public hospital).


So if that worries you and you want more assurance when it comes to your hospital bills, you can see that adding another layer of coverage with riders (third column)- such as via a supplementary plan like GREAT TotalCare (regardless of whether you opt for Elite-P or Classic-P) to partially cover the deductibles and co-insurance portion of your billcan help cover up to 95% of your total hospital bill. 


That way, you end up co-paying only 5% of your hospital bill i.e. essentially the minimum that MOH has mandated. This is a fairly popular approach that many people have opted for, with 1 in 3 of the population having IPs with a rider.


Source: The Straits Times


Of course, if you want to add on even more coverage, add-ons such as GREAT TotalCare Plus Rider or even Supreme MediCash can give you more benefits – but just note that you’d have to pay for the premiums in cash (and not from your MediSave).

For a complete hospitalisation coverage, you can add on Supreme MediCash to help provide daily hospital cash benefit to close up the co-payment gap. GREAT TotalCare Plus Rider, on the other hand, will give you 24/7 specialised support for overseas emergency situations.


The questions you’ll need to ask yourself are:

  1. Can I afford to pay for all that premiums?

  2. How much am I willing to pay for the benefits given by the additional rider(s)?


My personal take is that while it sounds attractive to add as many riders as your insurer offers you (such as GREAT TotalCare Plus Rider by Great Eastern), which can extend your coverage to include overseas medical bills…this is a benefit that some of us can do without if we intend to seek treatment only in Singapore. As such, it is highly likely that even if we pay to add on this rider, it’ll potentially be an option we might never end up utilising. 


Which is why I feel opting for just the IP and a basic supplementary plan (or rider) might just be good enough for me. 


Using Great Eastern’s GREAT SupremeHealth enhanced with GREAT TotalCare supplementary plan as an example, you will get covered for

  • up to 95% coverage of your total hospitalisation bill, 

  • pre-hospitalisation coverage of 120 days, 

  • post-hospitalisation coverage for up to 365 days (one year) to focus on your recovery, and even 

  • long-term cancer treatment coverage.


Note: (1) S$1.5 million and S$400,000 annual benefit limit applies to GREAT SupremeHealth P Plus and GREAT TotalCare (Elite-P) / (Classic-P) plans respectively.

According to Great Eastern, their GREAT TotalCare Classic-P has one of the most comprehensive list of benefits in the market at an affordable premium, making it one of the most value-for-money health plans.


Here’s another illustration showing how your MediShield Life + Integrated Shield plan + riders will stack up to give you a more complete coverage of your hospitalisation bills:


But while 5% co-payment sounds reasonable, what happens if my bill is $200,000? That 5% will then cost me at least $10,000, and I may not have that kind of liquid cash lying around!


Considering how 100 patients in Singapore hit the annual claims limit on their MediShield Life in 2019 and have no further coverage for their hospital bills (which were higher than $100,000), you may rightfully be concerned about not having enough cash to co-pay your hospital bill.


But there’s a solution for this. As long as you stick to the panel of specialists offered by your insurer and obtain pre-authorisation for any medical treatment and hospitalisation, you will not need to worry about having to pay anything more than the $3,000 co-payment cap. 


Of course, if you prefer to choose your own doctor who’s not on your insurer’s panel, then you’ll have to be prepared to fork out potentially more. 



Conclusion: Focus on what you can afford + pay attention to your health


As I grow older, I’ve begun to appreciate the wisdom of “health is wealth”. My metabolism has dropped, and my body no longer works as well as before. Gone are the days where I can indulge in junk food and not bother to exercise – today, I’m making more effort to eat healthier and schedule exercises like swimming or HIIT in my calendar.


But while I work on maintaining and improving my health, I still need insurance to cover me against rising hospital bills. This is why I continue to keep my IP and rider (supplementary plan), but choose not to pay for riders that entitle me to additional benefits such as overseas treatments because that will leave me with less money to pay for other types of healthcare insurance that I might also need (such as CareShield Life supplementary plans).


When you’re younger and still in the pink of health, it makes sense to get the highest hospitalisation coverage you need and can afford to pay for…before you risk becoming uninsurable. 


But if you’re paying for more than what you can comfortably maintain, then you may want to check with your financial advisor whether it makes sense to either drop some rider(s), or downgrade your hospitalisation plan.


At the end of the day, we must focus on insurance that we can afford.


If you’re looking for Integrated Shield plans and/or riders that provide comprehensive coverage without costing an arm or a leg, while rewarding you for healthier living, you may want to check out Great Eastern’s plans here.


Sponsored Message

For a limited-time only, you can sign up and enjoy 20% off your first-year premiums for GREAT TotalCare (Elite P) and (Classic-P) plans. 

Find out more here or request for a call back

Disclosure: This post is written in collaboration with Great Eastern. All opinions are that of my own, and information accurate as of xx June 2021. 


1. GREAT TotalCare and GREAT TotalCare Plus are not MediSave-approved Integrated Shield plans and premiums are not payable using MediSave.

2. GREAT TotalCare is designed to complement the benefits offered under GREAT SupremeHealth. GREAT TotalCare Plus is a rider that can only be attached to GREAT TotalCare to extend medical coverage worldwide.

This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The above is for general information only. It is not a contract of insurance. The precise terms and conditions of this insurance plan are specified in the policy contract.

Protected up to specified limits by SDIC.

What Singaporeans Did with Their CPF in 2020

In recent years, more Singaporeans have been making voluntary top-ups to their CPF and housing refunds. What could be behind these trends?The CPF Board just released the newest statistics involving what Singaporeans have been doing with their CPF, and …