Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Taking A HDB Loan - Should I Wipe Out My CPF OA?

Starting from August 2018, we do not need to wipe out our CPF OA anymore when taking a HDB loan. Now, we can have the flexibility to leave up to $20,000 in our CPF OA when we take a HDB loan. For a couple, this means a total of $40,000 in their CPF OA ($20,000 each). 

The question now will be should we wipe out our CPF OA or leave $20,000 in our account? Leaving $20,000 in our CPF OA means taking up a higher mortgage loan and paying more loan instalment and interest per month. This may not be a bad thing. Let's look into detail on this. 

Setting out the scenario

Let's assume the following scenario for a couple who has bought a house and looking to take HDB loan:
  1. Bought a house at $400,000
  2. Has $100,000 each in CPF OA
  3. Wants to take HDB loan at 2.6%
Now, this couple wants to consider whether to leave $20,000 each in their OA or wipe out totally to pay lesser monthly instalment? 

If they wipe out their CPF OA and take a loan of $200,000 for 25 years, their monthly loan instalment will be $908/month. 

If they leave $20,000 in their CPF OA each (total of $40,000) and take a loan of $240,000 for 25 years, their monthly loan instalment will be $1,089/month. 

Looking at the above, most couple will choose to go for the lesser monthly loan instalment right? It seems like a logical choice but unfortunately logic does not always prevail. 

Interest gained for $20,000 left in CPF OA 

The decision now is whether to leave $20,000 in CPF OA. First, we must know how much interest we would have gained if we leave it in CPF OA. Here's a table to summarize:

$20,000 @ 2.5%
15 years $9,088
20 years $12,957
25 years $17,341

The above is the interest we would have gained for leaving $20,000 in CPF OA for 15, 20 and 25 years at 2.5% interest. Doesn't look a lot but let's move on to how much more interest we would have paid if we take up a bigger home loan if we have not wiped out our CPF OA. 

*Do note that CPF OA is actually giving 3.5% interest for the first $20,000 so the amount should be larger.

Interest paid on $240,000 vs $200,000 home loan

In order to know whether it is good to leave $20,000 in our CPF OA accounts, let's take a look at the interest we would have paid on a $240,000 vs a $200,000 home loan. 

25 years20 years15 years
$200,000 $72,121 $68,711 $59,081
$240,000 $86,618 $82,497 $70,921

The above shows the cumulative interest paid for a $200K vs $240K home loan for 25, 20 and 15 years at 2.6% interest rate. Now, let's calculate how much more interest we would have paid on a $240,000 home loan should a couple not leave $20,000 in each of their CPF OA. 

25 years20 years15 years
Additional interest on $240K vs $200K loan$14,497 $13,787 $11,840

Now, the additional interest paid on that additional $40,000 loan doesn't seem like a lot. Will the interest gained on the $20,000 each in a couple's CPF OA be more than the above interest paid?

Let's bring the numbers together. 

Taking HDB Loan - Should I Wipe Out My CPF OA?

Now, with all the calculations, will we see higher interest gained for leaving the $20,000 in our CPF OA? The answer is yes. Let's look at the table below. 


25 years20 years15 years
Additional interest on $240K vs $200K loan$14,497 $13,787 $11,840
Interest gained in CPF OA ($20,000 each for couple) $34,681 $25,915 $18,177
    
Net Interest gained for leaving $20K in CPF OA $20,184 $12,128 $6,337

While the net interest gained is more for the above, we still have to consider the higher mortgage paid per month for taking a $240,000 loan vs a $200,000 loan. The difference in monthly instalment is $1089-$908=$181 per month for 25 years mortgage. This sum will be left in our CPF OA earning 3.5% interest which can be quite significant. 

Apart from the interest point of view, leaving $20K in our CPF OA can be used as emergency fund just in case when we lose our job later. If we do not have leftover in our CPF OA, then we will have to pay our housing loan in cash at that time which makes it worse for our financial circumstances during that tough period. 

CPF OA monies can be invested as well for sums more than $20K. Leaving $20K in oir OA will enable us to invest the accumulated sums thereafter (above $20K) and may earn more interest higher than 2.5%. However, as with all investments there are always risks involved. 

Deciding on whether to wipe out our CPF OA is not an easy decision. It depends on what we really want. Nevertheless, this gives us the flexibility to choose based on our risk appetite.



Monday, August 24, 2020

Life and Investing In the Midst of A Recession

News of what was to come came in early January 2020. Working in healthcare, I first heard of the then Wuhan virus in early Jan. Infectious disease experts in Singapore were already starting to monitor the developments in China very early on and preparing for what was to come. We didn't have the mood to celebrate Chinese New Year and the worrying part is when people around the world travel to different parts of the world during the CNY holidays causing the virus to spread.

In the midst of CNY, I was busy preparing slides for manpower planning for COVID-19 support. I had to work till midnight for several days. The CNY holidays were totally disrupted for me. The preparation work continued for the rest of the 15 days of CNY and DORSCON was raised to orange in Singapore even before the 15 days CNY was over. I remembered some of my colleagues had arranged reunion dinner with their family on that faithful night but all plans were disrupted. 

The virus was officially named 2019-nCOV in February and then changed to COVID-19 thereafter. The events happened very quickly and caught many by surprise. It sent shock waves to the stock market and every stock went into free fall mode. Many people, including me started to deploy our warchest to buy some stocks at good bargain thinking this virus will pass by in just a few months. The only comparison we had was the SARS virus back in 2003 and the world got out of it in just a few months. 

Little did I know that COVID-19 would cause such massive damage to the economy as compared to SARS. Fast forward 7 months into COVID-19, we are still far from over from this crisis. Retrenchments are intensifying and pay cuts become a common occurence. Our borders are still mostly closed even though there's some good news now that our borders are starting to reopen to revive the tourism, hospitality and aviation sector. This sector contributes about 5% to Singapore's GDP which is somewhat significant. Furthermore, there are repercussions if there are no tourists in Singapore. Tourists contributes significantly when they spend in our country. Without them, many businesses suffer a drop in income and many had to close down as what we have seen. Singapore's domestic market is still too small to sustain our economy for the long run. 


Is this still the best time for investing?

Nevertheless, I still think this is the best time for investing. Many investors in the past have said that they will take advantage and find opportunity to invest when a crisis happens. I too was looking forward to a crisis so that I can invest more. When the crisis really comes, it was easy deploying cash into stocks at the start but as the crisis drags on and your portfolio continues to see losses, we also start to doubt our investment thesis whether is it correct or should we even be investing now. I had self doubts too investing in this crisis. Almost all companies have cut dividends. The more than 10% dividend yield we see for some companies when the stock price drop becomes less than 5% now after they cut dividends. Its almost like everything is going against you.  

The good thing now is the companies I invested in, so far non have collapsed in the midst of the crisis. This is especially important as some companies will surely not make it and file for bankruptcy. Big names like Muji, GNC, Hertz have filed for bankruptcy in the US. Recently, Genting HK which owns Dream Cruise and Zouk Singapore also defaulted on its loans. Car sharing firm Smove in Singapore also collapsed. In times like this, it is really important to invest in strong companies with good balance sheet to ensure they can ride out the storm. 

This storm may take some time to pass. Perhaps another 6 months to 1 year from what I read so far. For Singapore, we should be looking at a vaccine nearer to the end of 2021 which is still quite some time from now. For now, we still have to get use to living this different life we have since the start of 2020. I am still accumulating stocks which are at depressed prices now. I still believe in REITs which I had accumulated more of Frasers Centrepoint Trust, Capitaland Mall Trust and Lendlease REIT to larger positions. I have also invested more on hospitality REITs such as CDL Htrust even though the hospitality sector may still take some time to recover. However, the REITs that own hotels are still surviving with profits as they cater for visitors on SHN and foreign workers. I believe once COVID-19 is under control, people will start travelling again. There is definitely pent up demand for travel again.

I also bought more Netlink Trust as they continue to generate dividends and appear unscathed from the crisis. For recovery plays, I bought in Comfortdelgro at $1.35 as I feel they should be the first to recover and the stock price is really attractive. I also invested in banks such as OCBC and DBS to ride on the banking giants at attractive prices. Lastly, I also made my first investment in US stock in Alphabet Inc which is the Google company we know. 

Nevertheless, my portfolio is still down 15% YTD while the STI is down almost 20%. This is definitely not a good year for investment and who knows how long this will continue on. Reference to the past during the 2008 global financial crisis, the stock market took about 7 months to 1 year to bottom out and recovered furiously thereafter to reach another peak in 1-2 years. I feel the stock market has already bottomed out and bad news are already priced in, not withstanding another shock to the world again. There may still be another slight dip but it should not be as bad as what we have went through thus far. 

Therefore, I do feel this is the best time to accumulate good companies in the next few months. We are so far about 5-6 months from the stock market drop and if history do repeat itself, then it should take another 5-6 months to see recovery. Remember, the stock market is always 6 months to 1 year ahead of the economy. So, the market can be recovering when retrenchments are intensifying and at the peak. This is the nature of investing. 

Life has not been an easy one for many of us this year and it may get worse before it gets better. Nevertheless, when we get out of this crisis, we will become better and life will be back as normal again. As with all other crisis, nothing will be permanent. Those who look for opportunities during a crisis will become better and emerge stronger. Its up to us to take action now in all aspects of our life. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Forget About Investments - Look At The Looming Economic Crisis

2020 has became the toughest year to live in human history. Virtually everything has changed from the way we work, to the way we shop and the way we could travel. Investing will become the toughest as we brace for a longer depression happening in the economy which means stock prices could take very long to recover. 

I was looking at Singapore's GDP forecast by MTI and things don't look rosy at all. Many of you may have lost your job or have your pay cut and bonuses cut too. Those working in hospitality related sectors such as hotels, attractions and those doing events or in the entertainment industry will be affected the most. Singapore's unemployment numbers have not moved up much due to the many temporarily jobs created by the government. This has enabled people to continue earning some money even though their salary may not be as high as what they would have got before they were retrenched. 

In times like this, if you're working in an industry which is at risk of retrenchment now, its better to prepare your emergency fund for the possibility of a retrenchment later. This will definitely help you to tide thorough when it really happens. We do not want to make the mistake of investing all our savings in the stock market and end up having to sell at a loss when we lose our jobs. I believe the worse is yet to come and companies have not felt the full impact of the crisis yet due to government supporting wages through the jobs support scheme. This is unsustainable and it will be unwise for the government to keep using taxpayers money to fund wages for the long term. We have already drawn $52 Billion from our past reserves and used a total of $92.9 Billion for all the 4 budgets combined. This is at about 20% of our GDP in 2019. 

Breakdown of Singapore's GDP

If we breakdown Singapore's GDP, we will know which are the areas affected and why MTI forecasted a contraction of -7% to -4% for 2020. 

A contraction in GDP means the aggregate value of the goods and services produced within the economic territory of Singapore is decreasing. This means lesser revenue for the businesses which may lead to retrenchments as companies tighten their belts to protect their bottom line. 

Statistics of Singapore has a very good info-graphics as shown below showing the breakdown of GDP. 70% of Singapore's GDP comes from services producing industries such as wholesale & retail trade, finance & insurance and business services etc. 

Adapted from: https://www.singstat.gov.sg/modules/infographics/-/media/Files/visualising_data/infographics/Economy/singapore-economy25062020.pdf

According to MTI report here, the worst contraction in 1Q 2020 came from the accomodation & food services sector with a 23.8% year on year and 69.9% quarter on quarter contraction. Luckily, this sector only makes up 2.1% of our GDP. This sector includes hotels and also food services providers such as caterers and restaurants. 

The next sector which contracted the most is the transportation and storage sector. It contracted 8.1% year on year and 29.9% quarter on quarter. This sector includes air, land and sea transportation. Air travel shrunk drastically due to the closed borders and restrictions on international visitors. Sea and land transport also contracted due to lesser demand for sea cargo handled and reduced domestic demand for public transportation. 

Wholesale and retail trade also contracted by 5.8% year on year and 18.1% quarter on quarter. This sector includes motor vehicle sales, watches and jewelry and also apparel and footwear etc. Amidst all the contraction, we still see some expansion in some sectors such as manufacturing, finance & insurance and information & communication. 

Which sector will have more retrenchments?

By looking at the breakdown of the GDP above, we might be able to get some hints on which sector will have more retrenchments moving forward. The accommodation and food services sector made up only 2.1% of GDP while tourism contributes about 4.2% of Singapore's GDP. If borders continue to be closed to tourists, Singapore's economy will still survive. Thus, this sector may see more retrenchments if tourists are still not allowed to come to Singapore. It is difficult for the hotels to survive if they continue to keep their staff with them. 

Wholesale and retail trade may also continue to face some headwinds due to reduced domestic demand as most people work from home during the weekdays and also reduced tourism spending in areas such as Orchard road. Businesses in the CBD area will definitely be more affected as compared to shops in the heartlands. 

We have not touched on the "other services industries" which also is the most affected in this COVID-19 crisis. This includes the arts, entertainment & recreation segment such as concerts, events etc. Events are still not allowed in Singapore but good news is entertainment is slowly allowed to reopen such as cinemas and attractions. For corporate events, it will definitely take some time before it is allowed again so those businesses which provide event services to corporations will surely retrench many of its staff.     
It is election week for the whole of next week and we await to see the election results if Singaporeans will lean more to the government side or the opposition side. Nevertheless, life still goes on and we should always be prepared for such a crisis like this by having an emergency fund for rainy days. This is what I have always been advocating for and maybe through this crisis, the importance of financial planning will emerge out at the top again. 

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