4 Financial Essentials for New Parents

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Being part of the Gen Y babies born in the 1980s, in recent years I have found myself often discussing the topic of parenting with my friends who have just become Mums and Dads. Interestingly, quite a handful of them have asked me the same questions: How can I financially plan for my baby? What are policies should I be looking at as a parent now? This article shall touch on these concerns for new parents.

1. Get Health Insurance

According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, the average probability across both genders of a child aged 0-4 being warded is higher than that of the population aged 5-69. It is therefore, never too early to have our newborn well-covered for hospital bills. At the same time, it is equally important for parents, who are the ones bringing the dough home, to have adequate health insurance for themselves.

2. Get Life Insurance

Each parent should also take out a life insurance plan to offer financial stability. Many parents get a life insurance plan on a child as soon as they bring him or her home, but it’s more likely that something will happen to one of the parents. Life insurance will cover the cost of child care if the surviving parent has to work, as well as other expenses related to bringing up the child. The purpose of life insurance is to make sure the surviving spouse can continue to take care of the kids.

3. Create an Education Savings Plan, Don’t Overlook Retirement

A child might not have taken his first steps, but soon he’ll be walking across the graduation stage, so time is of the essence when it comes to saving for tertiary education. However, it is important to balance the need to pay for your child’s education and save for your retirement.

Most new parents are very excited and focused on making sure their kids have great early years that they overlook planning for their own retirement – which is equally, if not more important. There are many financing options to send a kid to university, like taking out loans and scholarships, but there are no loans for retirement.

Because of this, parents need to consider their retirement savings first before putting money aside for their child’s education. It is important to discuss with your spouse how much you want to contribute to your child’s education and weigh that with what they can save for retirement.

4. Plan for the Unexpected

Once the baby is home with the sleeping and eating routine established, parents need to determine and detail an estate plan in case something happens to one or both of them. Parents need to create a will stating who would care for the child in case the unimaginable happens.

4 Life Stages of Financial Planning

Many of us know that financial planning is a lifelong process. Our ultimate dream is to achieve a retirement life which we desire. This could mean being debt-free, having a passive stream of income and best of all, pursuing our interest and passion which we might not get to do in our younger days.

Our lifelong financial process can be split into 4 stages. What are the crucial aspects which we should consider at each stage? Read on to find out more.

Stage 1: Young Adult (Aged 20-30)

The young adult is new to the working world and naturally earns a low income. He/she is driven to succeed and increase his earning ability. Being single, there are little or no financial commitments for him/her. Some may have an education loan to pay off after graduation which can be fully redeemed after working for 2 to 3 years.

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This is the best time for you to start some form of wealth accumulation to prepare for retirement as it could be harder to save money in later stages of life when financial commitments increase. With the high risk tolerance at a young age, investing in more equities and mutual funds on a regular basis is recommended.

 

Buying a house is common goal for young couples preparing to get married. Do the math on your liquid finances and CPF savings to find out which type of property best suits your financial ability.

Having a comprehensive insurance portfolio is a must as well for wealth protection. Key insurance components include Hospital & Surgical, Critical Illness and Disability.

Stage 2: Young Family (Aged 30-40)

At this stage, one could be married with or without children. With a moderate income, you would have more financial commitments such as a home loan and a car loan. Retirement planning remains an essential component in your portfolio. Risk tolerance starts to moderate as you are one step closer to retirement. A correct investment mix of equity and fixed income helps you to achieve financial goals easily.

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Being a parent, getting insurance cover for your child prevents you from incurring unnecessary huge medical bills. Saving for your child’s future tertiary education should be your concern too. Another wealth protection area concerns the largest debt that you share with your spouse – home loan. If a spouse passes away, any outstanding loan is left to be paid off by the surviving spouse. Be responsible in financially protecting your loved ones in the event of your passing.

 

Stage 3: Mature Family (Aged 40-50)

Your children are grown up by this stage of your life. Your earning ability is at its highest and naturally your expenses increase as well. You could possibly take up a bigger car loan of home loan, thus increasing your financial commitment.

Child’s education and retirement planning are your main financial objectives for the long term. Therefore, your investments should be diversified in equities and debts instruments according to your age, available time and risk ability.

Stage 4: Pre-retirees or Retirees (Aged 50 and above)

retireesBy now, your home loan would have been fully paid off and your children are no longer dependent on you financially. This means low financial commitment which means your protection needs are its lowest stage. However, health insurance continues to play an important role as you age.

The security of your retirement savings carefully accumulated over your younger days, coupled with regular income, becomes your focus now. For that, investments should be more in fixed income which yields regular income with low risk.

4 Simple Ways to Invest for The Long Term

Most people do not want investing to take up too much of their time and effort. This is due to us having many other things in life to focus on, such as our careers, families, housing etc. And so, trading, timing the market and stock picking is not suitable for 90% of retail investors.

So how can you grow your money without taking up too much time and effort? Here are 4 simple ways to do so and if you stick to this, there will be a high chance for you to retire comfortably after 20 to 30 years.

1) Start Early & Stay Invested

Inexperienced investors looking to grow their money without active monitoring can first look to compound interest to pursue gains over time. The key ingredients here are starting early, and staying invested. By doing so, you will have more time to grow your money. The table below shows how even saving and investing a small amount every month when you are young benefits you, simply because of the power of compound interest.

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2) Diversify Your Portfolio Among Various Assets and Geographical Regions

Market timing and stock picking are not suitable strategies when you want to invest passively. What you can do is to construct a well-diversified portfolio.

Diversification involves another important concept – Asset Allocation. This means mixing you portfolio among various asset classes to spread your risk. The most common asset classes for retail investors are: equities, bonds and cash. A lack of diversity means less liquidity in times of need.

A simple two-asset portfolio, comprising bonds and equities, helps to enhance returns and reduce risk. The proportion of a person’s investment portfolio to be allocated in bonds should be equal to the person’s age (or age minus 10 if he/she is more risk tolerant).

The reason behind this formula is because as we age, we are closer to retirement and should safeguard out nest egg by having less exposure to risky assets such as equities. For young people who mostly have higher risk tolerance, they can allocate more of their investments in equities which can potentially yield higher returns. I have written a separate article on why we should invest in equities if we have a long investment horizon to prepare for retirement.

Besides the classes of assets, having a basket of stocks spread across different geographical regions can reduce your long-term portfolio risk.

Interestingly, we should note that much research have shown that more than 90% of investment returns are determined by asset allocation. Only 10% is influenced by stock picking and market timing. The pie chart below illustrates the recommended asset allocation for a person with a moderately aggressive risk profile.

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3) Invest Regularly – Effect of Dollar Cost Averaging

Every stock investor may fall into the trap of emotional or irrational investing. This stems from our 2 strongest emotional forces – fear and greed, which leads to failure to grow our money.

1. Fear – When the price of our stock holdings fall, a common response stemming from fear is to sell our shares and cut our losses. Subsequently, when the stock price rises, we may be afraid to invest in the stock again. If the stock price continues to rise, we may enter the market too late to see any substantial return.

2. Greed – When we see the price of a stock going up, greed drives us to invest our money in it, with irrational optimism that the price will continue to rise. Quite often, the stock price drops instead.

Emotional/irrational investing often yields little returns for retail investors. Instead of speculating on a stock price, we should do quite the exact opposite – We should set aside a fixed amount of money to invest regularly, regardless of how the stock market is performing. The graph below illustrates what happens if we invest a fixed sum of money on a monthly basis for a certain stock, X:

DCA graph

This enables us to take advantage of Dollar Cost Averaging, a passive mechanism which helps you to buy less of an investment when the price rises, and more when the price falls. This lowers your overall purchase price for investments in the long term.

4) Review and Rebalance Your Portfolio

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Given the dynamic global economy, investors should review their investment portfolio regularly and change the mix of assets, a process called rebalancing. Rebalancing safeguards your portfolio from being exposed to undesirable risks and maintains your original desired asset allocation. This would ensure you are on track to meeting your financial goals.

3 Mistakes in Retirement Planning

retirementIt is common for young working adults to delay saving for retirement as they feel that they still have a long time before this stage in life.

Suppose you are 25 years old now and intend to retire at age 65. Given the average life expectancy of Singaporeans of 85 years old, you would have about 40 years to accumulate wealth and live the remaining 20 years without a working income.

Among the younger Singaporean parents now, most are only having 1 or 2 children. Due to the fact that the standard of living will increase in future, it is getting harder for our children to survive and take care of us when we turn old. It is not sensible to depend on our government too. Hence, the best way is to prepare now on our own, so that we can enjoy our old age without worries. Here are 3 mistakes you should avoid when planning for your retirement:

1. Saving too little

saving too little

Many people save around $100-200 per month. This is not sufficient if we want to retire at 65, and live a decent lifestyle (eg. travel once a year and eat out once a week). If you save $200/month at 6% growth per year, you would only have $400,000 in 40 years’ time. Naturally, if you intend to retire earlier at say 55, you have less number of years to save and need to thus save more.

2. Starting too late

When we are in our 20s, we save for marriage and our first house. In our 30s, we save for our children’s education. It is only when our children are much older, we begin to start saving for retirement. By this time, we are likely to be in 50s. Even if we begin at 40s, to meet our financial goal, we may need to turn to investments with higher yield. By not managing these higher risk investments properly, we may even lose our savings.

3. Playing it too safe or too risky

If we keep our money in the bank, the low interests paid are grossly insufficient to help us beat inflation. Hence, the purchasing power of your money is actually shrinking. On the other hand, if you do not know how to invest and just plunge into the stock market, you are likely to lose a lot of money. Depending on their risk appetite, there are different forms of investments which are suitable for each individual. The 3 most common forms in Singapore are shown in the following table:

Holding period Investment (low to high risk) Expected returns Risk of Loss
1 year Fixed deposit 1% Very low
5-10 years Bonds 3-5% Very low
17-25 years Stocks 7-15% Very low

For these 3 types of investments, the risk of loss can be minimised with their respective holding period. The riskier the investment, the longer the holding period required, and naturally you can expect higher returns. For younger people, there is an advantage with stocks because they have a longer time horizon to invest before retirement. Hence, it is also important for you to know which stage of life you are at, understand your purpose of saving & investing and select a product which fits your risk appetite.

At age 25, retirement may seem to be something so much later in future. But the later you start saving for it, the greater the amount you need to save. As an article from Lifehack suggests, one of the top 10 regrets (Point 8 in article) in life among people who are about to die is not saving more for retirement. Remember the saying, “You are the young person that can take care of yourself at old age”.