Friday, May 10, 2019

New Rules For Using CPF For Property Purchase and HDB Housing Loans Changes

There are some changes to the rules on using CPF for purchasing of properties and also changes to the HDB housing loans we can take for a HDB property. This can be quite confusing so I will skip all the complexity of it and dive in to talk about who are the people who will get affected. Let's get started.

What the changes means to us? 

In simple terms, what I see is the changes are implemented to ensure we still have a roof over our heads when we are old and also slow down the depreciation of properties which have lesser lease remaining. The changes starts from Friday 10 May 2019 which is today.

When we buy a property, especially for HDB flats, most of us do not look at the remaining lease thinking that even if the lease goes to 0, we will still get to keep our house or the government will pay us to get another flat or we may get an en bloc on the flat. This is not true at all. The government has said multiple times that if the lease goes to 0, the HDB flat asset value will depreciate to zero.

With the above concern, a new rule of making sure the remaining lease covers the youngest buyer up to 95 years old is implemented. Previously, this was at 80 years old. If the remaining lease does not cover the youngest buyer up to 95 years old, they will be offered a loan on a pro-rated basis.

The updated rules will apply to:

  • HDB flats: Flat applications received on or after May 10, 2019
  • Private properties and executive condominium units: Option to Purchase or Sales & Purchase Agreement signed on or after May 10, 2019
  • CPF withdrawals: Applications received on or after May 10, 2019


Young Couples will be affected negatively

Let's see how this affect a young buyer who wants to purchase a resale flat:

Gabriel and Rachel intends to get married in 2019 and plans to purchase a resale flat. They are age 25 currently. They shortlisted 3 HDB properties in Boon Keng, Bishan and Seng Kang. Previously under the old rules before 10 May 2019, they could get full HDB loan up to 90% loan to value.

Let's see how the new rules will affect them:

Boon Keng (Remaining lease 55 years)Bishan (Remaining lease 65 years)Seng Kang (Remaining lease >75 years)
Maximum CPF usage70% Valuation Limit90% Valuation Limit 100% Valuation Limit 
HDB housing loan63% Loan-to-Value81% Loan-to-Value90% Loan-to-Value 

As we can see, the couple can only take 63% loan for their Boon Keng property as the remaining lease is only 55 years and they are still young at 25 years old. The remaining lease does not cover them to age 95 so their maximum CPF usage and HDB housing loan is pro-rated. Even if they want to purchase a Bishan property which has remaining lease of 65 years, they can only take a maximum HDB housing loan of 81%. 

For newer estates such as Seng Kang with remaining lease more than 75 years, they can still get the full 90% loan if they take the HDB housing loan. 

Let's put some property price numbers into the above scenario for better visualisation:

Boon Keng (Remaining lease 55 years)Bishan (Remaining lease 65 years)Seng Kang (Remaining lease >75 years)
Property Price$700,000$640,000.00 $416,000
Maximum CPF usage70% Valuation Limit ($490,000)90% Valuation Limit ($576,000)100% Valuation Limit ($416,000)
HDB housing loan63% Loan-to-Value ($441,000)81% Loan-to-Value ($518,400)90% Loan-to-Value ($374,400)

If we look at the Boon Keng property, for a 4 room flat price of estimated $700,000, the couple has to fork out $210,000 cash as the maximum CPF usage is only 70% of the valuation of the property. Even for the Bishan property, the couple has to also fork out additional $64,000 cash as the maximum CPF usage is only 90% instead of the previous 100%. 

In this case, for young couples who are age 25 to 30, the wiser choice is to ballot for a BTO or look at HDB properties with lease remaining of >75-80 years. Just make sure the HDB remaining lease can cover you at least to age 95 years old and you're safe from the changes of the new rules. 

Older buyers will benefit from this changes

Good news for older buyers who want to move house to live near parents or live in a better location in Singapore. With the new changes, older couple and buyers will be able to purchase HDB flats with shorter lease and still able to use their CPF for the purchase. Previously, they may only be able to use up to maximum 80% of their CPF for HDB purchase with lesser remaining lease. 

Let's look at one example below:

Gorden and Chloe are both 45 years old. They are thinking of purchasing a resale HDB flat to live near their parents. Their parents live in an old estate with most of the flats only with remaining lease of 50 years. With the revised rules, they will be happy to know that they can use more CPF to purchase the HDB flats with lesser remaining lease. 

Let's look at an example below:

Before 10 May 2019From 10 May 2019  
Property Price$430,000$430,000
Maximum CPF usage80% Valuation Limit ($344,000) 100%* Valuation Limit ($430,000)
HDB housing loan90% Loan-to-Value ($387,000)90% Loan-to-Value ($387,000)
*Applicable limit for buyers who have not set aside the BRS. Usage beyond the Valuation Limit (up to applicable limits) is allowed if the property buyers have accumulated their BRS. 
1. Banks also take reference from CPF restrictions when assessing how much loan to lend. 
2. Actual loan amount is subject to credit assessment which takes into account, among others, buyer’s income and age. 

With the revised rules, this couple who are 45 years old can use $86,000 more of their combined CPF savings to buy the flat. Their HDB housing loan does not change. This is because even when the remaining lease is at a low of 50 years, it can cover them till at least 95 years old (45 years old + 50 years).

Changes to CPF withdrawal rules

Previously, CPF members above the age of 55 could withdraw their CPF savings above the Basic Retirement Sum (BRS) if they owned a property with a remaining lease of at least 30 years. This will change with the new CPF withdrawal rules.

CPF members will now need to have a property with sufficient remaining lease to cover them until at least the age of 95, before they can withdraw their CPF savings above the BRS

Summary of changes

While some will be worse of with this changes, others will benefit especially for the older people who are looking to move house. Here's a summary of the changes:

  • Property remaining lease should cover youngest buyer up to 95 years old else maximum CPF usage and HDB housing loan LTV will be pro-rate.
  • No CPF can be used if the remaining lease is less than 20 years. This has been lowered from 30 years currently. 
  • CPF withdrawal above basic retirement sum is only allowed if remaining lease on property covers until at least age 95. 

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Making Money Full Time Online - How To Do it?

Blogs and YouTube have become more and more popular in recent years with the help of social media such as Facebook, Instagram etc. It becomes easier for these online sources to become popular when people start to share it. Even a simple post on Facebook can go viral and attract the attention of the government and authorities which we have seen a lot in the recent NUS voyeur case. 

In recent times where I'm seeing more and more people able to create websites or YouTube channels and make it their full time work. This means that they are able to earn a decent income from their online channels that they don't have to work in the corporate world at all. If you think this only happens overseas but not in Singapore, then you're wrong. Let me show you some examples of websites and Youtube Channels in Singapore whose founders have made it possible to make money full time online and also international channels as well.

Singapore News Website Mothership

The first one is well known to many of us in Singapore. Mothership is an online news website which in essence just writes on news in Singapore and around the world. They have 300K followers on their Facebook page. On their about us page, they mention they attract over 1 Million visits to their site each month with over 60 per cent of their audience being between the ages of 25 and 44. They even have a license with IMDA where now online news channel is regulated by the government.
On advertising front, it is stated on their website that they have worked with many government ministries and stat board including MOT, MOE, MINDEF, EDB, MCCY, MOF, MND, NYC, HDB, AIC, NLB, MAS, LTA and CPF board. For companies, they have worked with big players such as DBS, UOB, Maybank, AXA, MacDonald, BreadTalk, KFC, Singapore Airlines, Singtel, Grab etc. This is quite an impressive portfolio of clients with deep pockets to pay for advertising. From my experience, with their kind of website traffic, advertisers are expected to pay a few thousand just for one article which mentions their brand.

The website started with 3 guys and I see that their team has expanded to more than 10 staff. This is really a company running in full force to deliver the best news you can get. So, they made it as the first website that could make money full time online.

Singapore Finance Website Seedly

The next website is a Singapore personal finance website called Seedly. Many of you who are reading my blog should already know or heard of Seedly. They have been gaining popularity lately due to the community fan base which they have built in just a few years. On their Facebook page, they have close to 16K followers and is still growing strongly. Recently, they also had a mega personal finance ticketed event at Suntec which attracted thousands of people to attend.

Seedly started in 2016. I met their founder Kenneth just before Seedly was born and my impression is he's a passionate guy who has the drive to make things happen in the personal finance world. He was at that time looking to develop an app for people in Singapore to track their finances. He made it happen and expanded to create the Seedly app, moving on to creating their website and building the Facebook community which is really strong now.

A quick check on similarweb shows that the website has more than 700K visits in March 2019 alone. If I'm not wrong, they are now a team of 9 running the company and recently in May 2018, they were acquired by Shopback. This is a homegrown success story for a small start up which shows that if we want to make things happen, it can be done. So, they made it as the second website that could make money full time online.

Singapore YouTuber JianHao Tan

The next one is not a website but a YouTube channel. YouTube is gaining popularity among young people especially those in their teens. I've observed that the younger generation have also moved on from Facebook to Instagram now with many of them posting photos and Instagram stories on a daily basis.

The YouTube channel JianHao Tan is created by a young guy whose name is as its channel says it is. From the looks, he seems quite young in his 20s and have already garnered more than 3 Million subscribers on his YouTube channel. He also have 476K followers on his personal Instagram page and 85K followers on Facebook. He also talks about people who recognize him when he travels overseas which is quite impressive for a Singapore start up. He is definitely doing this full time as he has registered a company called Titan Digital Media and also shows his office space and daily life routine on his YouTube channel. Of course, he's not doing this alone and has a team of about 5 to 6 staff if I'm not wrong.
Most of his videos posted have more than a million views with those more popular ones having views as high as 26M views for 1 video alone. Curious to know what kind of video can attract so many views? Here is the video for reference:

He also has an annual fan meet up and the one I saw which was held at Dhoby Ghaut area attracted people to queue up all the way from Plaze Singapura to Istana area. Most of them are quite young who are teens in secondary school. So, they made it as the YouTube channel that could make money full time online.

International Travel Vlogger Mark Weins

For those who like to travel, ever thought that you could make money while travelling full time? This guy has done it. He's just one of the popular travel vloggers who has managed to do it. Mark Weins started his travel website Migrationology back in 2009.

His success story is reproduced below which is found on his website:

"It was during that time, back in early 2009 when I decided to start a blog. With the help of about 10 cups of coffee per day, was born. 
I still wasn’t ready to get a job and stay put, so I caught a one way ticket to Bangkok, with no plans other than to eat as much as I could. 
After traveling around Southeast Asia for about 6 months, I managed to spend nearly all my money. 
I was in the Philippines at that time, and I caught a flight from Manila to Bangkok. At this point, I decided to get a job teaching English, and it didn’t take long before I signed a contract to teach English for a year. 
However, English teaching was not for me (it was a great experience, but teaching English is just not my passion). 
But during that year, I set a personal goal that I would never teach again, and that I would find a way to make a living on the internet, so I could travel (and eat) and earn money at the same time. 
It wasn’t easy. 
Every spare moment I would blog and sit glued in front of my laptop until my eyes went crazy. 
At the beginning, when I made the decision to earn a living online, I’ll admit that I had to live on the cheap (really cheap). 
One of the biggest turning points for me was when I published my first eBook, the Eating Thai Food Guide. I finally had my very first product to sell on my website. 
It took about 3 years of online work and experimenting before I really started making enough to live fully and support anyone other than myself."
It took him 3 years of online work and experimenting before he could make enough fully online. Now, his YouTube channel Mark Weins has more than 4 Million subscribers. This is quite impressive. I love his travel videos for his love for food and his expression when he eats something good is priceless.
Does money fall from the sky if we don't work in the corporate world?

So, after seeing people who manage to make money full time online, do you think it is easy to do it? From my experience, it is not easy and it requires perseverance and time and effort to make it happen. Yes my blog can make some money online but it is definitely not sufficient to make enough to live fully and support my family or loved ones. It is about creating great contents consistently and working in a team is important to bring in new contents if you really want to make money full time online.

Just like a company has a team to work together to make things happen, making money online is also like running a company. Instead of the brick and mortal business we see in the past where real products are needed, online contents such as articles and videos can also generate profits now. The hard work required to create these online content products is still the same or even more to make it successful.

The difference is nowadays, everyone has the opportunity to do this online business instead of the brick and mortal which was limited to certain people only. That's why now we can see more young people trying to make the cut to be the next successful blogger, influencer or YouTuber. It may just be you if you try hard enough and are passionate for what you really want to do.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Is 6% Dividend Yield Achievable For A Singapore Market Investment Portfolio?

In my previous post on The 10 Years Financial Independence Target, I laid out the strategy to compound our money to reach financial independence in 10 years. The strategy involves having a dividend yield of 6% in the investment portfolio. There are quite a few questions on whether 6% dividend yield is achievable? Also, how do we get that 6% dividend yield?

In my years of investing experience, I've learnt that it is indeed achievable to get 6% dividend yield in our investment portfolio. Over the years, I've learnt to pick some good stocks that have generated on average 6% or more dividend yield for my portfolio. Some of these stocks I've held it for many years and they are still generating stable and good dividends for me. In fact, the dividend yield should  increase over the years if its a good stock and of course the price of the stock will increase too.

Here is a glance of some of the stocks which are generating good dividends in my portfolio:

StockAvg Price when boughtDividend Yield on portfolio
Starhill Global Reit$0.686.48%
Frasers L&I Tr$1.036.95%
Suntec Reit$1.656.04%
CDL HTrust$1.297.12%
Far East HTrust$0.636.35%
Frasers Cpt Tr$1.956.16%
CapitaMall Trust$1.906.04%
Frasers HTrust$0.786.02%
CapitaCom Trust$1.326.59%

Above are 11 stocks in my portfolio which are generating on average 5% and more dividends. With the exception of Singtel, all other stocks are generating 6%-8% dividend yield for me. Unfortunately, most of the stocks are not giving more than 6% dividend yield based on current price. I bought most of the stocks when the price was significantly lower. 

If you've missed the boat, fear not because there will always be an opportunity to buy stocks at lower prices again. When the market is bad, that is the time to buy. But, it is important to pick good stocks so that they can ride out the bad economic situation at that time. 

Let me share some tips and what to look out for when identifying companies to buy based solely on my experience to achieve 6% dividend yield.

1. REITs and Business Trusts are good stocks to get dividend income

The first thing you will realise is that REITs and business trust is the answer to get higher dividend yield. As compared to blue chips such as Singtel, DBS or other big companies, the dividend given by REITs and business trust is mostly higher due to the fact that they are income generating assets. They own assets which they rent out to get rental income. REITs also have to give out at least 90% of their income to shareholders in the form of dividend.

2. Sustainability of rental income affects dividend yield

As dividends are given out from the rental income which the REIT or business trust receive, the sustainability of it is important. If you invest in a retail REIT such as Capitamall or Suntec, the retail sales, traffic flow and the positions of the malls will affect its rental income. Economic changes will also affect its rental income. 

For example, there has been discussions that retail sales will be affected due to the emergence of online shopping. If lesser people shop at the stores, the stores will have lesser income and thus may not want to renew their lease. If the shop space is left empty, then rental income will be affected. 

The location of the malls is also important when it comes to sustainability of rental income for retail REITs. For example, Frasers centrepoint trust has malls which are located in sub urban areas such as Woodlands causeway point, Yishun North Point etc. The malls are also mostly located next to MRT stations. This brings a lot of shopper traffic to their malls and thus they are able to attract better tenants who are willing to pay more rental. 

Other REITs such as commercial REITs, hospitality REITs and logistics REITs will also have factors affecting its rental income. Commercial REITs rental income is affected mostly by economic market conditions, hospitality REITs are affected by the number of tourists who come and stay in Singapore or the supply of new hotels and logistics REITs are affected by economic market conditions also. This is just a general statement but if we really want to dive deeper, there are lots of factors for each REIT to talk about. 

Master lease is another factor to look at for sustainability of rental income. Starhill global reit which owns Ngee Ann City has master lease with Toshin which owns Takashimaya in the mall itself. This has contributed to stable income for the REIT as there is certainty that the tenant will continue to pay its rental income under the lease contract. 

3. Is the REIT able to generate higher rental income progressively?

Besides the sustainability of the rental income, we should also look at REITs and business trust which can generate higher rental income. This is called rental reversion. Lease of the tenants do expire according to their contract. When the lease expires, tenants may renew their lease with the REIT or business trust. Good REITs will be able to generate positive rental reversion for many years. An example of this REIT is Frasers Centrepoint Trust. They have managed to generate positive rental reversion since 2007. This is 12 years and going strong. Rental reversion is the metric that shows whether new leases that were signed have higher or lower rental rates than before.

Another way the REIT can generate more rental income is through yield accretive acquisition and Asset Enhancement Initiatives (AEI). REITs will often look out for good properties to take over. A recent big acquisition is by Frasers Centrepoint Trust where they took a major stake in PGIM Real estate AsiaRetail Fund which owns the Asiamalls in Singapore. Frasers Centrepoint Trust also did an AEI few years back where they expanded North Point in Yishun and this has resulted in higher rental income due to more space which they can rent out. 

For commercial REITs such as Capitaland Commercial Trust, they did a series of yield accretive acquisition such as acquiring Asia square tower 2 and they are doing AEI on Raffles City which will increase their rental income. Hospitality trust such as Far East Hospitality is expanding with its newly built Outpost hotel Sentosa opening this month. This will add to its income which it gets from its hotel rooms and also events management revenue. 

4. Make a trip down to the REIT's property

We should make a trip down to the REITs we invest in especially those that are in our home country. Having a look and feel of the human traffic, business activity of the property itself can tell a lot about whether its a good investment.

For retail REITs, most likely we would have visited before so what makes the malls stand out from the rest of its competitor? Some retail REITs are smart enough to take advantage of the rise of ecommerce such as Capitaland Mall is opening the new Funan mall in June 2019 with drive through click-and-collect and hands-free shopping service, where shoppers can choose to either pick up their purchases at Funan’s concierge when they are done, or have their shopping bags delivered to their homes.

For hospitality REITs, we can make a trip down or read the reviews on online websites such as or TripAdvisor. The reviews can tell a lot about its business activities.

For commercial and industrial REITs, it gets a little more tricky as we can't really visit these commercial offices or industrial buildings. But, we can still look at reports to gauge the occupancy and business activities. For this kind of REITs, most of the time they are more affected by economic cycles so its important to know what is going on around the world. Reports from CBRE are good sources of information to read more on commercial property activities.

5. Never over pay for a REIT

Buying REITs is like buying properties. When I invest in REITs, I will make sure I buy it at a reasonable price. You can see whether the price is reasonable by looking at the NAV or the dividend yield. The NAV is the net asset value which is the net value of all its assets (mostly properties for REITs). The dividend yield will tell you how much rental income you are getting and whether its worth the investment.

For example, when we buy a physical property for investment, we will also look at the location, then the reasonableness of the price (whether its below or above valuation) and then we will look at how much rental income we will get. Taking the rental income divided by the price we pay, we will get the % return. When investing in REITs, we should approach it like buying a real property also and most of the time this will make sure we get good value out of our investments.

It takes patience to get good value on our investments. Some of the REITs I waited a few years before I finally invested in it. When the price is right, I will know at that time because I've been reading up and researching all along.

In Summary
From my own personal experience, investing in REITs and business trust has been a rewarding experience. While waiting for the REIT to continue growing, I get dividends over the years to have some certainty on the return on investment in my portfolio. Even if the REIT does not do well later, the loss will be cushioned by the dividends we received.

Within the investment, I also buy and sell the REIT along the way to take some profit when it goes up and buy again when the price goes lower. 6% dividend yield and return on investment is possible and I've managed to achieve this consistently over the past few years. There are ups and downs over the years but the overall % return should still be there. Hope this post has helped you to get some insights on how to achieve 6% dividend yield in your investment portfolio.

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