Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Today I Defeated an Insurance Agent. Can You?

"Excuse Sir, can you help me do a survey? Only 3 questions"

Sorry, I'm really urgent, I need to pee.

"Oh okay Sir, nevermind then..." *sad, dejected face*

When I came out of the toilet, he was still lingering around, so I went up and told him I'll do his 3 question survey.

"Ok, thanks! Are you working?"

Yes I am working now. Okay 1 question done. 2 questions left.

"No no Sir, that wasn't the survey question! Give chance can?"

Okay, can can. Faster, what's the first question?

"Which bank do you have an account with?"

*I peep over at his paper. The only choices were DBS, POSB, OCBC, UOB and others*

Erm... DBS, OCBC, SCB, Citibank, Maybank...

"Wa, so many? I just tick DBS and OCBC...."

Sure, whatever you want to do.

"Do you know what is your interest rate from your bank account?"

Yup, 1.85%.

"Oh, the OCBC 360 right? Well did you know if you save $300 every month blah blah blah.... you can get $1000 instead of $60?! Do you want to hear more about it?"

Oh really now. What kind of product is that?

"A savings product!"

You mean an endowment plan?

"Ah yes, an endowment plan"

No thanks. I don't need an endowment plan.

"Oh... Why is that?"

I do my own investments.

"What kind of investments do you do?'

Shares, ETFs, unit trusts, other stuff.

"Actually I also have unit trusts that pays out 7-8% annually, as cold hard cash. COLD HARD CASH! Not re-invested, so you can take that money and spend".

Erm. No thanks, it's okay, I don't need to pay someone to pick a unit trust for me. I buy my unit trust through POEMS with 0% fees.

"Erm okay, what about insurance? Do you have insurance?"

Yes, I have insurance.

"Okay, by who?" *He is wearing a Prudential shirt, by the way*

Aviva, AXA.

"Shall we review your insurance? Maybe we can get you some cheaper insurance."

Erm, I don't think so. I have the MHA group insurance.

"Oh... okay. What about health insurance?"

Yeah, I'm with AXA for my health insurance.

"Is your insurance for B wards? We can upgrade your insurance to a better ward."

It's for private hospitals.

"Oh... Can I ask why AXA and not the others?"

AXA has the Basic rider that covers for any deductibles and co-payments.

"Prudential has the same thing too!"

No, not really. Prudential's one has extra stuff like daily hospital cash and other things that I think are useless. Prudential's health insurance is about 10-20% more expensive than AXA.

*Insurance agent stunned with mouth open*

Anyway, I think that should be about it, right?

"Sorry, what kind of work do you do? Are you in Finance? Do you work in a bank?"

Haha, no I don't work in a bank. Anyway, I'll go now then.

"Okay... bye."

Endowment: FAILED
General Insurance: FAILED
Shield Plan: FAILED

In all honesty, they are asking the right questions. It just so happened that I had all the right answers.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Easing" is a Good Sign... for Buyers?

One of the people in the local scene that I quite admire is Vina Ip aka Property Soul. Many people might not agree with me and attribute her success to luck and timing, but it takes massive stones to take the calculated risks that she did and walk away from everything a glowing success. Anyway I feel that her book about buying property in Singapore is a true gem - focused specifically to buyers of Singapore property and littered with wise and time-tested financial advice.

In her latest post, she talked about the recent "easing" of the cooling measures that were just announced. Let me quickly point out the 3 changes:

  1. SSD has 1 tier removed, and hence 1 year less, and a lower rate
  2. TDSR doesn't apply to MWL if LTV is 50% or less
  3. "ACD" is the new acronym that plugs the QC/ABSD loophole that is being abused

Why do these 3 things actually means worse times for the property market?

Lowering the SSD will help all those stuck with properties to unload it off at the market quicker. It might *spark* demand speculation since properties can now be sold off easier and quicker, but it seems like this is to allow those with bleeding bank accounts to save themselves.

If they had really wanted to stimulate buying demand, they would have reduced or removed the ABSD. What I infer from this action (lowering SSD) and inaction (of the ABSD) is that the Gov doesn't think that more houses need to be bought; they think more of the investment properties of multiple owners should be off-loaded instead.

I would imagine that there is pent-up demand for private homes. But with prices these ridiculous, people like me just continue staying rent-free with our parents until these "property investors" finally decide to stop their monthly bleeding by biting the bullet of reality.

The MWL for LTV of 50% and below is rather neutral, but I can see the rationale behind that. Basically, if you can cough up a 50% deposit, your don't need the TDSR framework to "guard you from overconsumption". 

The ACD plug is good news. There was all this crap nonsense going around recent about some rich ass guys buying tons of expensive properties here and there to prevent the ABSD surcharge. Now developers have to cut price or pay the charges.

I think they are gonna cut prices.

Anyway, this doesn't really affect me directly. New leasehold launches are punching way above anything I would want to pay. I believe that there is PLENTY of blood left that has yet to flow onto the streets, especially from recent buying speculators (2012 onwards). I have high hopes for some of the resellers in my targetted developments to not to be able to stand the heat of the market and let go at a price which is still profitable to them (due to their longer holding period), but at a much more realistic market price. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Financial Cyber Security: The Series

Dear all,

This topic has actually been something that I feel quite passionately about. I think cyber security is a very serious issue, and unfortunately, the people that are the least able to effectively deal with cyber security are individuals.

Why? Individuals are the most likely to lack time, resources (including money) and technical knowledge to effectively deal with cyber security. Compare this to an organization, where there are dedicated staff with the technical knowledge and the enterprise-grade software and hardware to help them prevent costly cyber attacks. Companies spend money on cyber security, not because they want to, but because succumbing to a cyber attack can be very costly. Obviously, this applies to individuals as well, but it is somehow very rarely talked about.

While cyber security is actually a VERY BROAD problem affecting pretty much almost everybody that you can think of, the reason why I want to talk about it here, on my personal finance blog is because cyber security also has a real, direct effect to your financial security.

Have you never seen or felt any cyber security failures before?

Friends who have got hacked send out virus emails, or have weird activities and requests from their social media?

Emails appear in your inbox asking you to follow the link to reset your password?

Your own device, or others' device that have been locked by ransomware?

I'm sure you have definitely experienced some of this first-hand. Let's be honest here, I have too. Recently a hacker from Venezuela hacked my password and gained access into one of my accounts. I had a real-life online battle with him about who could take control of the account faster. He had sneakily replaced my mobile number and authenticated his device so that he could take over my account with his new "authentication". It was lucky that I was checking my email at the time of the hacking, or else my account would have been lost. Not only did my account have personal information about me, it also had my credit card details!

I've also seen phishing + malware attacks happen in real life, where an attacker directed the target over the phone through a phony website to get scammed. I recognized the weird behaviour and I stopped the target and took over the phone and engaged the attacker. It was clearly an foreign voice. Upon further investigation, the target's computer was found to be infected and the scam was prevented and reported. The funny thing about the police's reponse? "Since no money was actually stolen, it is very hard for us to pursue this case because nothing is missing".

The morale of the story: Cyber attacks can originate from anywhere (internal and external) and can come from anywhere in the world!

At the end of the day, it's not the police's fault for not being able to recover money or information lost during a cyber attack. The responsibility lies entirely with the person who owns those assets to protect it properly.

Your ibanking login credentials? Your email account? Your email account linked to your ibanking that is used to reset your password?

The responsibility of all of that belongs to you.

If someone is able to log into your account from the username and password you wrote down on a post it note and transfer away your money, it is really hard to blame anyone except yourself.

I hope that with this series of post that I am planning to do, I can share with everyone what are the things that I personally have done to improve my cyber security, along with useful suggestions. I've been wanting to do this for a long time and I first talked about it back in Nov 2015.. wow, blast from the past!

What do you guys think of this series? Let me know if there are any things that you would like me to blog about and I'll see if I can include it! Kind in mind, I'm not a technical expert in this field, but I'll try my best!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Bye EZ Link, Bye NETS Flash Pay, Hello MasterCard?

A while back ago, there was a news piece that quietly slipped past the radars of most people, but I read it with quite some keen interest. It was an article about how it was going to be possible to pay for public transport directly with your contactless credit card and charged through the credit card network instead of going through a stored value wallet.

I recently saw a Facebook campaign by POSB asking ppl to sign up for this service, although they did have a promotion to have 3 free rides if you register before the... 12th. But today is the 13th, oh well.

Anyway, I still signed up for the service.

Why do I think that it is good?

1) No more stored value wallets
2) No more top-up charges
3) Possibly free up 1 card space in your wallet

Personally, as much as I like the ATU / Reload function of the EZ and NETS cards, I don't like that I have to top up like $50 into my card and slowly draw it down over the next month or two.

I also don't like paying a small admin fee to have this top-up service every single time. Of course I understand that there is some cost involved, but of course free would be better, right?

With this new change, hopefully I can refund the balance in my NETS Flashpay stored wallet, retire that card, and just use my newer card that is linked to this direct deduction service.

I really don't like having so many cards in my wallet. Now all I need to do after this is to figure out which credit card do I want to keep, and which do I want to ditch for good...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

SCB's Unlimited 1.5% Cashback Credit Card

Okay, here's the quick rundown.

SCB has just launched a new cashback card:

  • 1.5% cashback
  • $30,000 annual income requirement

Personally, I think it looks great so far. Let's look at current its REAL competitors:

AMEX True Cashback: 1.5%, no minimum spend, no cap, BUT ITS AMEX
CIMB Visa Infinite: 1%, no minimum spend, no cap, $120,000 annual income
CIMB World MasterCard: 1%, no minimum spend, no cap, $120,000 annual income
SCB Manhattan: 0.5% - 3% cashback tiers, $200 quarter cap

Personally, I'm getting really, really sick of jumping through hoops and doing little dances for the banks so that they toss me some interest rate bonuses. The one that I hate the most is a minimum amount of monthly credit card spending. 

This card is perfect for:
  • your first starting credit card
  • people with erratic spending habits (as opposed to regularly spending habits)
  • people who don't want to be stress to spend MORE to earn back SOME 
  • people who want to simplify their life

With the bloody simple features of the card, eating free cashback has never been easier and better.

I personally like the EZ-reload feature. From what I understand, there is a $0.25 charge, but you earn back $0.75 as cashback, so you actually get $0.50 for every $50 top-up. If you have never linked your EZ link card for automated top-ups, then you are living in the dark ages. Automated top up is the best shit in the world. I can't even remember the last time I had to queue up to put money in my EZ Link card. I had always thought only tourists and ignorant people do that, but I actually realized that most people are either ignorant about it, or are too lazy to set it up. Mmm.... okay. What can I say to that? Lol.

For people with no credit card with SCB before, sign up and get freaking $138 cash rebate!!!
For people with a SCB card already, sign up and still get $20. Well, better than nothing, right?

With all the banks making me dance like a crazy monkey to qualify for some meager cashback, it's products like these that remind me that personal finance can be both simple and rewarding.

Want a fuss-free way to manage your finances? Get a CIMB Fast Saver account and pair it up with this SCB Cashback card. You'll be looking at 1% interest to your bank balance and 1.5% reduction to your expenses because of the cashback.

Sometimes simplicity and peace of mind is worth paying for, wouldn't you agree?