An Interview on Savings by Mediacorp

Singaporeans most unhappy with personal savings: The Happiness Report

®Copyright MediaCorp

According to a recent study titled The Happiness Report, Singaporeans rated their personal savings as the area in which they are most unhappy with.

The survey, conducted by Grey Group, was designed to monitor national sentiments on issues that impact consumer behaviour.

Other areas in which respondents voiced their unhappiness with over the last half year were personal expenditure, confidence in the economy, job satisfaction and work-life balance.

In order to understand why Singaporeans are dissatisfied with their personal savings, 938LIVE speaks to Alex Lew, the Vice-President of the Society for Financial Service Professionals to find out why.

"I think I can agree we have seen some issues. The Society and I we have been giving bankruptcy counselling with the Ministry of Law. My friends and I have also been talking to people with credit issues for the last few years. These issues are quite consistent. They are credit card debts, they are not able to pay up the minimum sum on time, purchasing of big ticket items, ill-disciplined spending structure... we agree we can see some of these issues coming up."

So what are some common issues or difficulties we often face with regard to managing personal savings?

"What may be the most relevant reason would be most of these developed nations have highly-geared living and we are not outside this circle of highly geared living. So we have some of the most expensive necessities in Singapore especially housing and education. Especially when youth aspire to be graduates but only 25% can be university graduates and education outside Singapore can be quite expensive. So these are some reasons why Singaporeans may have the perceived fear of insufficient savings."

Alex, who is also an author and thought leader in the financial service sector, shares some tips for more effective streamlining of personal expenditure to help us save better.

" Firstly, don’t underestimate your savings. Many people underestimate their savings because savings can be wiped out by big expenditures like going to the hospital, going to see a doctor, check-ups... these things can be quite expensive today and more so in the future. So don’t underestimate savings including your child’s expenditure including education fees, university fees. These are some of the things we urge people to consider when they find out the amount they want to save."

"Use a monthly savings plan because this will give you some discipline to save. So every month, if you want to save 10-20 percent of your income, use a plan that automatically deducts from your account. The act of automatically deducting from your salary is very important because it gives us the discipline to go ahead and save. Otherwise, it can be very difficult."

So what are some schemes and strategies we can take advantage of to secure our personal savings in the long run?

"Know about plans like the supplementary retirement scheme, there are very good tax advantages. Monitor your expenditure, your cash flow. After a month, I did this for myself and actually you’ll find you spend quite a lot on smaller items but cumulatively, they come up to 8-10 percent of your outflow. That’s a lot, so we can learn to cut them down."

"Insurance is very important also. Because without medical insurance, bills could wipe out your savings at one go. And I would like to tell people to be careful in their use of credit cards. Because the rates can really stun your savings - actually more than 20 percent a year- if we don’t pay off our credit card debts."

"Hedge your inflation with money instruments. Meaning you don’t just put money into your savings account, you can buy some money instruments. "

In today’s global economic climate, Alex stresses the importance of budgeting to ensure we live within our means.

"Always develop a budget. People always spend, and after spending they’ll take the rest of the amount as savings. I’m not too sure if that works, because as human beings, we have the propensity to spend a bit more. Especially with Singapore being such a developed nation, there are so many things we can purchase, there are many choices we have to make, and many of these choices involve money. "

"So developing a budget in terms of how much money you can spend and in terms of a timeline (when you spend), these two dimensions are really important. You need to know how much you want to save right at the start. Analysing that budget, spend within your means and live below your means. That’s my advice."

Alex Lew, Vice-President of the Society for Financial Service Professionals. He sheds light on the possible reasons behind why Singaporeans are dissatisfied with our personal savings and how we can employ simple but effective strategies to manage our finances better.

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