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In the world of easy access to information, it’s remarkable that over the 16 years that I’ve been living here, many financial questions that expats face upon arrival to Singapore, still remain.
This came to light at the the recent ANZA New Members evening I attended with Select Investors. A large majority of attendees had only been in Singapore for less than 12 months, and the financial issues around expat life were familiar.
The ANZA New Members evening was a great event at the Singapore Cricket Club, brilliant after a hiatus to have these gatherings back in full swing. Here are some recurring financial subjects that expats always have questions about:
- Banking: One thing that is different to other countries, is that in Singapore you can only withdraw cash at the atm of your bank, not from any atm. Although cash has become far less of a utility these days, it can be frustrating to try to find the atm you need if you don’t have a local bank in Singapore: use DBS, UOB or OCBC, the three largest Singapore banks, as they will have everything you need for banking here. DBS even has multi-currency accounts. Don’t be fooled into thinking a High Street Bank at home will operate the same or in a connected fashion here.
- What is CPF? Central Provident Fund or CPF for short. This Singapore’s financial system covering retirement savings, property purchases and medical costs as well as others. It is only for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents (it is a brilliant system nonetheless).
- What is SRS? In addition to CPF, there is the Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS). This is available to all and the benefit is the contributions are tax relieved. There are limits and access is not flexible, there are also tax and penalty considerations if you ever re-locate from Singapore.
- What about my Pension/Super: Regardless of where in the world you have arrived from, you need to plug any gaps in Pension or Superannuation scheme contributions. Make sure you don’t let that gap widen. Find somewhere to save and invest your money regularly and ensure that it is flexible and tax-efficient outside of Singapore, wherever your onward journey takes you.
- Employee benefits not matching. You may be used to having not just employer contributions to your Super/Pension but also good life insurance and critical illness benefits. These are likely far lower if they exist at all in Singapore, and it may require you to take personal responsibility to protect you and your family.
- Travel cash. This is easier now with the reduction in requirements for cash, but even in remote parts of Asia, make sure you have a card like Wise or Revolut for spending overseas and always choose ‘local currency’ if given the option at the till. If it is cash you need, there are plenty of money changers in Singapore and some of the best rates can be found in Raffles Place – but check a few before choosing where to buy your foreign currency from.
- Possibly my favourite question I get asked – which is the best credit card for earning Kris Flyer miles? In simple terms there is no one answer. There are a few very good ones, but most will allow you to accrue points that you sell to buy miles etc. AMEX have a Kris Flyer Card, Citibank Premier Miles is well loved, and UOB even has a Kris Flyer Current Account and earns points for using your debit card.
You may have other questions and I would love to hear them and see if I can help demystify living and working in Singapore from any personal financial angle.
David Reynolds is a Partner with Select Investors and a seasoned expat, as he has been living and working in Singapore for the past 16 years. Please do reach out to David to discuss how to make the most of your time in Singapore via email David.Reynolds@sjpp.asia or phone +65 9101 4814.
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