What I learnt since starting work

It’s nearly 2 years now since I started work. And boy, what a ride it has been. I’ve learnt so much and thought that I should pen them down. For my future self.

Loving what you do is super important

After working for a while, the job gets a little bit mundane. Having to drag oneself out of bed every morning is never easy. I can’t phantom how it’d feel like if I hate my job. It must be very depressing! I count myself lucky that while I dread the THOUGHT of having to do work, I actually love every moment while I’m doing it. And it makes waking up in the morning less arduous (but still, never easy).

Make yourself indispensable

I like to reflect on what sets me apart from any other colleague, in order for me to stay relevant for the company. And I feel like I’ve fulfilled a satisfactory performance thus far in initiating projects (and along the way, being more experienced in certain aspects). It feels good to know that your efforts are appreciated, that your contributions made a difference and that you stand out from the rest.

Treat all your colleagues like how you’d like to be treated

Which means, avoid drama at all costs. I gotta say, I’m still guilty of this from time to time. But I’ve been trying my hardest to stop when I catch myself talking about someone else. With work, the line between gossip and discussion becomes blurred. It ain’t as straightforward as black vs white, I’m afraid.

Be open to criticism, but learn to protect yourself

There will always be space for improvement. And receiving criticisms never feel good. But I learnt to be more open to them because at least I know what I have to improve on. However, if the criticism isn’t doing me justice, I’ve learnt to stand up for myself and still be cordial about it.

Never stop learning

In my line of work, there’s never idling time. When you’re “free”, you hit the books to further your knowledge. It’s funny how you’ve read a chapter before but you always have something new to take away from it every time you revisit it.

I need to…

Till date, I’ve been taking each day as it comes. The only marker I have is when a project is successfully completed or the time I’ve been employed. I want to work towards have a clearer idea of my career progression and where I’d like to be at 1, 2 and 5 years from now.

 

 

Buy only when on sale

French pharmacies is the equivalent of candy stores to a child. Many of the raved (and not so cheap) skincare brands originate from France. So when a friend says she’s going to France for a holiday, it’s only normal for a girl to ask for certain things to be brought back. Here are some examples of the “must buys” in France.

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Bioderma Sensibio H20 500ml

Watsons: S$41.90

Guardian: S$41.90

Random French pharmacy: €12.60 = S$19.35 (less than half price!)

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La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+ 40ml

Watsons: S$38.90

Guardian: S$31.12 (on sale, original price S$38.90)

Random French pharmacy: €11.66 = S$17.90 (less than half price!)

caudalie-beauty-elixir

Caudalie Beauty Elixir 100ml

Sephora: S$67

Random French pharmacy: €30.10 = $46.20

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Avene Thermal Spring Water Spray, Twin Pack 300ml

Watsons: S$29.90 (on sale, original price S$53)

Guardian: S$29.90

Random French pharmacy: €13.08 = S$20.10

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Klorane Strengthening Serum 125ml

Guardian: S$108.90

Random French pharmacy: €32.70 = S$50.20 (less than half price!)

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La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra-light SPF50+, 50ml

Watsons: S$46.90

Guardian: $37.52 (on sale, original price S$46.90)

Random French pharmacy: €13.34 = S$20.50 (less than half price!)

 

Having been to France myself and seeing the drastic price differences for the exact same products, I have never bought these products in Singapore at their retail prices before. I’d always wait for the sale at Guardian or Watsons to purchase them in bulk (ok, not cartons but at least 5 of the same product). However, it is still nowhere near the retail prices in France. Let’s just hope my friend has enough luggage space to bring these back for me!

This very same principle can be applied to investing as well I guess? So far what I’ve been trying to achieve is to wait for good stable companies (like the French dermatologically-proven products) to be “on sale”. Sometimes the sale will not as high as you’d like. But on a case-by-case basis, some stocks better just grab no matter how meagre the sale is. Almost like how you’re running low on the skincare product and you must purchase one ASAP during a not-so-good sale. But it’s still a sale anyway ain’t it?

Hold or sell?

I’m a newbie when it comes to investing. And I’m now in the midst of learning a lesson.

To test the water, I bought 1 lot of DBS shares at $15 in October last year. Kept telling myself that I’m gonna collect them dividends and I’m in for the long-term.

But last Wed, DBS share price rose to $20.83, the highest it has been since buying it. I started to falter – sell now to realise the profit or continue holding?

This makes me wonder – do experienced investors veer out of their investing principles when “the time is right” or do they stick to them no matter what? Do long-term investors sometimes become not-so-long-term investors?

My Whole Life Policy

Sequel to one of my very initial posts here. See why I have a whole life policy – hint: not my idea.

Just received the annual bonus letter from the insurance company. So for the sake of sharing, here you go.

  • Entry year: 2006
  • Entry age: 13
  • Sum assured: $100K
  • Yearly premium amount: $1,290
  • Premium paid till date: $15,480
  • Projected bonus (based on 5.25% return): $15,070
  • Actual accumulated bonus: $17,280
  • Actual surrender value: $16,940

Broke even 2 years earlier than anticipated as per the projection in the insurance document. Lucky me?

(I love House btw)

My 2017 $$$ Goals

Since my post a while back where I reviewed my goals for 2016, I just realised that I haven’t written about my goals for 2017! They’ve been set a long while ago in fact. So here they are – black = my goal, pink = what I achieved in 2016, green = current progress.

Savings:

  • To save $30K in 2017. I saved $27K in 2016. Still working on this, fingers crossed.
  • To look for alternatives other than OCBC 360 for savings. I created the OCBC Frank Account in 2016 as my “spending” account for cash withdrawals and to qualify for the promo with OCBC Securities for  $15 minimum commission per trade. Purchased March 2017 Singapore Savings Bond which gives 2.38% interest. Opened CIMB FastSaver account (which gives 1% interest) during their $8 giveaway promo.. 

Spending:

  • To spend less than $1000 a month excluding monthly “filial piety fees” to my parents. My monthly spending ranged from $800 to $950 in 2016. I haven’t been great at keeping track of my daily expenses, but I make sure I only have $1000 in my OCBC Frank account to spend every month.
  • To source for an alternative credit card in anticipation of cancelling my OCBC 365 card once the annual fee waiver is no longer available. Planning to apply for the Standard Chartered Bank’s Unlimited Cashback Credit Card with the $138 credit on successful card application.

Insurance:

  • To take over all my insurance from my parents. Completed.
  • To review my insurances and ensure satisfactory coverage at <$180 per month. Completed.

Investment:

  • Increase my portfolio dividend yield to 4%. Started buying stocks in 2016 and based on the dividend history, the maximum dividend yield I’m expecting is 3.4%. Haven’t done much changes this year as the stocks on my watch list are currently overvalued.
  • Increase portfolio to $12K, with more investments in REITs. NIL change from 2016.

We’re now one quarter into 2017 already! That’s crazy.

 

 

Good lobang: cheap spectacles!

Most Singaporeans have myopia and require glasses or contact lenses. Like many others, I started wearing glasses in primary school and they were never cheap – at least $180 each as my parents always opt for the best lenses for me. ❤ Had to change them approx once every 2 years. So that’s more than $1000 spent on glasses in total till date!

Then while on holiday in UK many years ago, I made a pair online for $90 and I thought that’s the cheapest glasses I’d ever get in my life. They were of the wayfarer shape too, the trendy thing back then.

My latest (and most attas) pair cost me $300 (ouch), from an obscure ulu shop at the bottom of a HDB block. They were just plain classic black, in a bid to make myself look more professional and serious for my first job. (So I don’t look so fresh out of uni in order to gain people’s trust HAHA)

Recently, I’ve been itching to make a new pair for a change of look. Something more relatable and fresh. And I needed to update my prescription. I went to OWNDAYS, which is known for cheap glasses and express collection, but nothing caught my eye. (They weren’t exactly super cheap too).

Coincidentally, a friend of mine just made a new pair and she recommended me to this place called Mimeo. Googled it, found that they have rave reviews on Facebook and express collection too! So I made a trip down one weekend and OMG I was in paradise. It was non-stop trying on pair after pair, as all their styles were super trendy! The frames I saw range from $25 to $155. Basic lenses with express service cost only $30. I took a long time to choose as there were soooo many that I loved. I finally bought THE ONE for just $75!

Good lobang must share. Now I know where to go for my future prescription glasses 🙂

Integrated Shield Plan Rant

My dad is a skeptic. So when I told him that I’m considering changing over my integrated shield plan to something that is cheaper and offers better benefits (see here), he warned me that there is no free lunch in this world and advised for me to research thoroughly before making my decision. So I went to read up on Prudential and AXA shield and here’s what I found.

For private hospitalisation with rider that covers from the first dollar up, NTUC Income’s total premium over an average lifespan is actually slightly lesser than Prudential’s, while AXA is significantly cheaper than the two. I then told my dad about AXA and how it covers longer pre and post-hospitalisation periods. He gave me the same response, insinuating that there must be a catch somewhere to explain the lower premium rates.

And behold, my dad was right. After much searching through the depths of the inter web, I found out why AXA can afford to have their premiums so low despite the attractive benefits. That is:

“Letter of Guarantee (LOG) of up to S$100,000 at private hospitals if referred through our panel of Specialists”

As a layperson, reading this scares me.

Does it mean that to get LOG, I have to set an appointment with their specialist first before I can get admitted into the hospital? What if it’s really an emergency?

Would LOG still be issued if for example, I were to get admitted to Mount E first and then request to be seen by a Dr XXX that is listed in that panel? Because technically I wasn’t referred through him.

If I were to get admitted to a private hospital without going through the panel of specialists, my hospitalisation bill will be based on a reimbursement basis. Do I have sufficient emergency funds to cover the (not-so-affordable) private hospitalisation bill while awaiting reimbursement? And what is the success rate of reimbursement? Last thing I want to do while being ill is to worry about my finances.

I can imagine people worrying about this clause and opting to go to a restructured hospital instead to get the guaranteed LOG of $15,000 for a peace of mind even though they are eligible for private hospitalisation. This would then reduce the claims amount for the company as a whole, which I suppose is why they can keep their premium rates this low.

I’m quite interested to wait and see how the claiming process is like for people who are currently on the AXA Shield Plan A. Because this is a relatively new plan, there’s little information on the MOH website on the claims speed for AXA and there are very little anecdotal reviews on it on the internet.

So for now, I will continue to sit on my NTUC Enhanced Incomeshield Preferred. From age 50 till passing, I would opt for AXA Shield Plan B with the basic care rider. No questions about that. However, from now till then, I’m still undecided.

Disability Income Insurance or Early Critical Illness Insurance or both?

I’ve been reviewing my insurance coverage lately and realised that I am lacking in 2 areas: disability income insurance and early critical illness.

I feel that I’m adequately covered for all other aspects – death, total permanent disability, critical illness, personal accident and hospitalisation. However, because I have no dependents, I’m starting to think whether CI coverage is necessary for me since these usually pay out in the more severe stages of the disease – what can you do with the money when you’re so ill other than leaving it for your dependents?

Disability Income Insurance

Currently, my biggest asset is my skill in the workforce and I need to protect my only source of income (i.e. employment income). Disability income insurance is thus attractive for a young working adult like me. There are 3 insurance companies that provide this form of insurance: AIA Premier Disability, Aviva IdealIncome and GE PayAssure.

Below is a comparison I made for them 3 based on their product summaries. I do not guarantee the accuracy of these information, this is just for my own reference.

AIA Premier Disability Aviva IdealIncome GE PayAssure
Annual premium for 25yo non-smoker female for $2K monthly payout $710

(till age 60)

$741

(till age 65)

$420

(till age 60)

$456

(till age 65)

Equivalent monthly premium $59.17 $61.75 $35 / $38
Premiums guaranteed? No No No
Definition of total disability during non-working periods Unable to perform 2 of 6 ADLs Unable to perform 3 of 6 ADLs Unable to perform 2 of 6 ADLs
Partial disability benefit

All calculated the same

Catastrophic disability benefit 24x
Rehab benefit 6x 3x 3x
Death benefit 12x = $24,000 $5000 6x = $12,000

Based on these information, Aviva appears to be most expensive and most difficult to qualify for payout. Its rehab and death benefits are also the least attractive.

I like the added catastrophic disability benefit provided by AIA, which I suspect is the reason for its high premium rate over GE. However, like I mentioned, I feel that I am adequately covered for death and total permanent disability, so I am truly looking for a basic no-frills disability income insurance.

So, GE PayAssure is looking especially attractive to me right now due to its affordable premium. Of course, I have to find a competent GE insurance agent who is ready to answer my list of questions about a specific clause of the product summary.

Early Critical Illness Insurance

There seems to be 2 schools of thought for this form of insurance.

Proponents say:

  • It is meant to take care of policyholder (which is applicable for me since I have no dependents)
  • It can cover for treatment costs that might not be covered by H&S insurance
  • It helps with living expenses if the policyholder needs to take break from working
  • It is good if you do not have enough savings to tide over that period
  • Depending on family history and lifestyle choices, the probability of claiming this insurance might be high.

Opponents say:

  • It is relatively expensive.
  • You could probably do a better job saving up that money for early CI instead of paying for premiums.
  • There may be overlaps with disability income insurance. So if you have disability income insurance, is early CI necessary?
  • Early CI rarely knocks you out of work.
  • Small chance of successful claim.
  • Common cancers like breast / prostrate may not be covered?

Budget is key for me, especially since I’m pretty fresh into the workforce and can’t afford to overdose on insurance. Even if I were to purchase one, I would probably get a small sum assured like $50,000.

I did a quick search of premium rates of early CI plans out there based on information available on the companies’ websites for a 30yo, non-smoker male of sum assured $50K. This is a non-exhaustive list and in order of premium rate:

  1. AXA Early-payout LivingEnhancer: $318/yr till 65yo
  2. Aviva My Early CI: $444/yr till 99yo
  3. PruEarly Stage Crisis Cover: $500/yr till 75yo
  4. AXA Early stage criticare: $600/yr till 65yo
  5. Manulife ManuComplete Care: $627/yr
  6. Aviva My Multipay CI: $675/yr till 75yo
  7. Tokio Marine EarlyCare: $768/yr

I took a close look at one of the product summaries for all the conditions covered (not going to reveal which one) to analyse the definition of “early” CI in detail.

As a rule of thumb, I’ve considered the following conditions to be relatively prevalent in SG: dementia, parkinson’s disease, stroke, cardiac related issues, cancer, loss of sight, loss of hearing, paralysis, kidney failure, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy. The others? Not so much, but this is just my own layman opinion.

So how “early” should the state of your CI be to qualify for early CI payout?

  • Dementia:  require constant supervision, “severe”.
  • Parkinson’s: cannot be controlled by medication, cannot perform 2 of 6 ADLs independently
  • Stroke: undergo craniotomy or shunt
  • Cardiac related issues: undergo balloon angioplasty with minimum 60% stenosis / undergo keyhole surgery / insertion of permanent pacemaker / undergo valvotomy or valvuloplasty
  • Paralysis: irreversible loss of function of one entire limb
  • Kidney failure: surgical removal of one kidney
  • Loss of hearing: 60dB (i.e. moderate-severe hearing loss)
  • Loss of sight: total and irreversible loss in one eye
  • Benign brain tumour: surgical removal / burr hole surgery
  • Cancer: carcinoma in situ (pre-malignant and non-invasive are thus excluded), T1N0M0 for thyroid cancer

I don’t know about you but these definition of “early” don’t exactly sound “early” to me. Perhaps I had too high expectations coming into this.

So if you get a early CI plan covering till age 65, the likelihood of claiming during that period of life based on the above severity is extremely low. Of course unless you have significant family history, then that’s a whole other story.

I might potentially look into Aviva My Early CI as it covers till age 99.

Conclusion

So I guess you can tell from this post that I’m gonna get the DII but possibly not early CI insurance unless the Aviva My Early CI is super attractive or reasonable to me in terms of their T&Cs.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

Wisdom Tooth Extraction Surgery in SG

People usually get their wisdom teeth extraction between ages 18-25. So mine is overdue. Both of my bottom wisdom teeth are impacted. My private dentist charges $900-1200 per tooth! Vomit blood! That’s potentially kissing $2400 goodbye.

So I’ve gone for the cheapo method – polyclinic referral to a hospital’s dental services. Not only do I get a subsidised rate, I’m also hoping for hospitalisation leave instead of MC. Need to save MC for rainy days.

Below is a timeline of how things unveiled.

  • 22 Jan 2017: I sent in an online request for a dentist appt at Woodlands Polyclinic on the NHG Online Appointment System.
  • 23 Jan 2017: Received a call from the polyclinic to arrange my appt. Few days later, received a letter in the post stating my appt date and time.
  • 10 Feb 2017 (Polyclinic): This was the earliest appt they had. I only had a consultation that lasted less than 10mins. Was initially offered to have my surgery at NUH because I live in the West but I asked for KTPH instead. (Btw I didn’t know that you can get a referral for a hospital in a different area! So I could have gone to Jurong polyclinic which is nearer to where I live to get a referral to KTPH!) Got my referral letter and called the number on the letter to arrange an appt with the KTPH dentist.
  • 24 Feb 2017 (KTPH consultation): The earliest appt available was actually on 20 Feb, but I couldn’t make it that day. This session was basically the dentist discussing the options of LA VS GA and the risk of surgery (i.e. damage to trigeminal nerve).
  • 20 March 2017 (KTPH surgery day): The earliest appt available was actually mid-March but I couldn’t make it due to work commitments.

So in summary,

  • Waiting times: approx 2 weeks between each step (i.e. request – polyclinic, polyclinic – KTPH consultation, KPTH consultation – surgery).

Why did I choose KTPH? Well, I heard that the dentistry dept there is not bad! And there’s a specific dentist there who has many good reviews online about her wisdom tooth removal skills. She is Dr Sylvia Tay. Of course, being a subsidised patient, I don’t have the luxury to choose my dentist. But let’s just say I’m very lucky. 🙂

Total cost:

  • Polyclinic: $15.10
  • Consultation and Xray @ KTPH: $57.87
  • Estimated cost for GA and 4-tooth extraction (excluding medications): $1400
  • Estimated cost for LA and 2-tooth extraction (excluding medications): $800
  • Actual cost for LA and 2-tooth extraction (including medications): $873.52

So, let me break it down for you:

  • Actual cost with polyclinic referral: $873.52
  • Actual cost without polyclinic referral: $1425.72
  • Private dentist estimated cost: $1800-$2400

$15 polyclinic letter can save you $550! Worth it!

 

One bad thing about POSB InvestSaver that no one has talked about

Regular savings plans like the POSB InvestSaver or OCBC Blue Chips Investment Plan (BCIP) were the talk of town quite a while ago. They implement the principles of index investing and dollar-cost averaging, and is especially suitable for investors with little capital or little investing experience.

When I first started my journey in July last year, I subscribed myself to the POSB InvestSaver plan with a meagre sum of $100 a month. With the 1% charge, units of the Nikko AM STI ETF are bought with the remaining amount. For myself, the charge would be $1 and units are purchased with a total sum that usually lies between $97-$99.

So many articles on the interweb have featured about the works of the POSB InvestSaver. However, one tiny detail was probably not pointed out.

When redeeming the units (i.e. selling), you are in no position to control the price at which the units will be sold. Once you click “Redeem RSP” on your i-banking platform, it gives an indicative net asset value per unit (e.g. $3.20). But in actual fact, that value is subjected to changes, depending on when the units are sold and the average price at which all the units (i.e. your units and other people’s units) are sold . So, even when the day’s highest were sold at $3.22, you might eventually be given a price of 3.17 per unit. And there’s no way to reverse the process if you are unhappy with sell price.

Luckily for me, because I bought so few units, $10 was not a huge difference to me. But I can imagine it being a significant figure to some if the capital invested was greater. So do consider this when deciding for such a plan!