Simple Financial Tips That Can Make A Difference

tips2018 has certainly flew by and wow.. we’re going into March already? Perhaps now is a good time for us to do a stock-take on our money. Here is a couple of tips on how to keep more money in your wallet this year.

1. Don’t Do Mental Accounting When Building Your Budget
Mental accounting means the behavioural thinking of having different piles of money for different reasons. You might have a “jar” that says this is for emergencies or a vacation, and you’re putting money in there every month – at close to zero interest rate.

Then you also have a credit card debt. You mentally classify it as a different thing and pay your debt with income each month.

Financially, this doesn’t make much sense. Money is fungible, it really is all the same. You shouldn’t have a jar with money sitting in it that’s getting no interest or growth while you still have credit card debt.

The solution is to think about all your money as the same. People like to put cash in different buckets for different reasons, but that’s mental accounting and we need to overcome that hurdle.

2. Prepaying your mortgage
Some people add a little extra to their monthly payments to pay the loan off faster. This brings up a common question – is this a good use of the extra cash?

With current mortgage rates at under 4%, you should not be prepaying your mortgage. In fact, mortgages have really low interest rates and are designed for long periods of payments, and you should stick to that payment.

Prepaying it means you are giving up opportunity to use that money elsewhere – whether it’s paying off credit card debt or just investing it, putting it aside for retirement. If you’d be getting 8% returns on your long-term investments, why put your money in something that’s only 4%?

So from a financial planning standpoint, it’s not a good strategy. Nonetheless, people feel comfortable doing that. I know you want to feel like you’re paying off the house faster, but resist if you can.

2 Investing Biases that Hurt Your Retirement Savings

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Being aware of our behavioural biases could mean a significant increase in retirement savings. There are two common biases that can affect how we save for retirement:

1. Present bias – the tendency to put more value in current or short-term decisions than the future

2. Exponential-growth bias (EGB) – the tendency to underestimate and neglect the power of compounding investment returns.

A person with present-bias may intend to save more in the future but never do so; while a person with EGB will underestimate the returns to savings and the costs of holding debt.

All is not lost, however, as understanding your own biases is the first step to creating a proper retirement savings plan to fund the lifestyle you want when you stop working.

Self-awareness has the potential to reduce the impact of our biases. For example, a person who is aware of his/her EGB could rely on the market to acquire tools or seek advice, and a present-biased person could use committed arrangements to control the impulses of his/her future self.

It is proven that people who understand their EGB, hence accurately perceived the power of compounding, had about 20% more savings than those who neglect compounding completely.

So what does this mean? Be aware and keep check of your biases, and your retirement nest egg could be a lot bigger.

3 Obvious Ways to Build Wealth

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You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to build wealth. The wealthy understand that while being smart can certainly help you earn money, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll build wealth with your earnings.

Likewise, being famous doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to build wealth. Sure, it can help, but there are countless stories of those who earn a ton of money only to watch it disappear seemingly overnight.

So, what are the secrets to building wealth? And, once you build wealth, how do you keep it? The truth is that the “secrets” to building wealth really aren’t secrets at all.

They are simply common sense behaviors that, when practiced with purpose and over a long period of time, are likely to result in a pool full of cash. Let’s take a look at some of these behaviors.

1. Say “no” to debt.

Saying “no” to debt is truly a behavior at the heart of so many wealthy individuals. Why? It has something to do with interest rates.

Student loans, credit cards, personal loans, car loans, and many other types of debt all have interest rates. Some of these rates are higher than others, but one thing is guaranteed: you will pay a lot more money than necessary if you make minimum payments on a loan, and the interest rates will slowly drain any wealth you do have.

Unfortunately, that’s where many people get stuck. They are so used to debt, they think it’s normal and shrug it off as a way of life. Sure, it might be a way of life for some people, but it doesn’t have to be a way of life for you.

The way to get out of debt is to focus your energy on saying “no” to more debt. Make money fast, you might choose to attack your debt even faster than you might initially think possible.

2. Practice discipline and invest for the long-term.

It can be all too easy to get caught up in the hype of this stock or that stock. The media continually reports this or that “new hot stock.” Don’t fall for the trap. It is always better to diversify your investments and not get carried away by the allure of quick wealth.

The number one behavior that inevitably leads to more wealth is staying disciplined. Emotions are very real and very dangerous, and it’s hard to be objective about your money, especially when people around us are talking about doom and gloom as it relates to the economy. Most of your money is invested for the long-term – do not make short-term decisions about your long-term money.

The best way to get market-like returns is not to meddle with your investment mix. If you do, the probability of achieving your financial goals will most likely go down. Predicting where the stock market is headed and making decisions off the prediction is a fool’s game. It requires a crystal ball – and no one has a crystal ball. Stay disciplined.

3. Stay frugal.

It’s human nature for any increase in income to be immediately swallowed by lifestyle improvements, a phenomenon known as ‘lifestyle creep’. Avoid lifestyle creep and build guaranteed increases into your savings plan by changing the way you think about annual raises. The next time you are presented with a raise, challenge yourself to save half of the increase, and ‘creep’ with the other half. This strategy will allow you to pay yourself first, enjoy the fruits of your labor, and build wealth over time.

It’s better to stay frugal, build wealth, and have a firm financial position rather than squander your money on things that you really don’t need – especially over the long-term.

Money Advice that Don’t Grow Old

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Many recommendations I’ve made are as applicable today as they will be in future, and they bear repeating. Here are some of the best financial moves for you to consider:

1. Understanding and managing your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about money is as important as understanding how money works. Our brains are programmed to make poor financial decisions. Exploring your money history and learning to identify your unconscious beliefs about money can change your financial behaviours forever. It is important to gain control of your finances and become comfortable using money as the valuable tool it is.

2. Building an emergency reserve to cover living expenses for three to months if you lose your job or experience a business slump is a necessity. If you are retired, having one to three years of cash available to cover living expenses can help you avoid taking money out of investments when their value has declined.

3. Retirement will happen, sooner than you think. Start early — as in the day after university graduation — and be consistent in investing at least 20 percent of your paycheck.

4. Learn to appreciate the word “budget”. Creating a way to track and manage income and expenses is an essential skill to thrive financially. Numerous free or inexpensive tools, like Mint.com and Expensify, can help.

5. Run from consumer debt. Personally, I use credit cards for almost every purchase for convenience and cash back rewards. However, it’s of vital importance to pay the card off every month, without fail.

6. A house is a home, not an investment. Don’t buy more home than you can afford, and don’t buy without a down payment.

7. No asset goes up forever. Price declines, even crashes, are part and parcel of investing. It’s essential to understand that the value of your portfolio will fluctuate. Be prepared to ride out downturns. Selling in a down market is a big mistake that will cost you dearly.

8. The fundamental strategy for managing market ups and downs is asset class diversification. This doesn’t mean having money in different banks, with different brokers, or with different fund managers. It’s about having a good balance of mutual/exchange-traded funds that invest in SG and International stocks, SG and International government bonds, real estate investment trusts, commodities and junk bonds.

9. There are no free investments. Pay attention to the fees associated with any investment, as well as how the advisor recommending any investment is compensated.

10. Pay yourself first. The most successful savers and investors I know simply take all their fixed expenses, taxes, and retirement plan contributions off their income earned, then spend the rest. This means learning to live on 30% to 50% of how much you earn. Certainly, it isn’t easy, but one of the most valuable money habits to cultivate is to save something for the future, instead of spending everything that comes in.

You may have likely heard of these pieces of advice before. There’s a reason for that: it works, and never goes out of style.

Are Your Debts Good or Bad?

Debt is like a double-edged sword. It can help you, but it can harm you too. Making good use of debt can create wealth for you, but mishandle it and you can possibly be put into bankruptcy.

Therefore, we should learn how to use debt wisely to let our money grow. Debts can be classified as bad debts and good debts. Here’s a table showing annual interest rates of various types of loans currently:

CURRENT INTEREST RATES FOR VARIOUS LOANS
Type of Loan Interest Rate
Mortgage 1.8% – 3.75%
Education 4.6%
Car 5%
Renovation 5% – 7%
Personal Unsecured 14%
SME Unsecured 5% – 10%
Credit Card 24%

Bad Debt

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What types of debt should be considered bad? Any expense-related debts can be classified as bad. Examples include taking a loan for travel and taking up a hire purchase with interest for your home furniture.

This is because the value of these purchased goods usually drop after you purchase them. For example, after getting a new TV at $3,000 hire purchase, the value of it drops by $500 in the following month.

Another popular form of debt comes from something almost all of us use – credit cards. If used smartly, credit cards can help us enjoy discounts and savings when we make purchases from relevant merchants. On top of that, it allows us to carry less cash in our wallets and makes payment convenient. However, if you were to delay your credit card debt repayments, the interest payment can be as high as 24%. Let’s say a person has just charged $10,000 to his/her credit card today and defaults on his/her repayments for the next 3 years. Based on the rule of 72, the total debt would have grown twice the size 3 years later. Yes, that’s a whopping $20,000!

Therefore, please think twice before you use your credit cards or when taking up bad debts. You may land yourself in huge financial trouble if you fail to make repayments on time.

Good Debt

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A loan that helps you to acquire an asset which can potentially earn a higher rate of return than the loan interest rate can be classified as a good debt.

Mortgage and business loans are examples of good debt. In fact, the interest rate on mortgage is the lowest among different types of loans which we can get. Although a HDB Housing Loan is at 2.6% per annum currently, you can potentially earn a higher yield if your house is timely sold in the future. At the same time, CPF Board credits a return of 2.5% per annum into our CPF Ordinary Account (CPFOA). This means that your HDB Housing Loan interest is offset to 0.1% annually.

Many successful entrepreneurs have also benefited from the use of good debt. Through the use of business loans, small enterprises are able to expand their businesses. Large companies are able to grow even bigger.

Another example of good debt is your education loan. The knowledge gained through your education allows you to acquire a good job and earn living. It is definitely a worthwhile investment.

In summary, leveraging on good debts to grow your wealth is one of the important principles to growing rich.

Be careful not to over-borrow

Here’s a warning – do not over-borrow, as you may get yourself into trouble. How do we ensure then, that we do not over-borrow?

Your monthly debt repayments should not add up to more than 35% of your monthly salary. If your monthly salary is $4,000, then your monthly debt commitment should not exceed $1,400.

Avoid bad debts and use good debts smartly – this is a sure way to create great wealth for yourself.