Sunday, September 15, 2019

New Housing Grants 2019 - Up to $160,000 Grants At All Locations

HDB just announced a few days ago they will introduce the new Enhanced CPF Housing Grant (EHG) which will replace the additional housing grant (AHG) and special housing grant (SHG). The income ceiling has also increased from $12,000 to $14,000 for new and resale HDB purchases and $14,000 to $16,000 for EC purchases. Many more people will benefit in this latest roll out. Let me illustrate a few key points which will be more applicable to most of us.




More Grants for purchase of HDB flats in Mature Estates

Under the previous AHG and SHG scheme, only couples who has combined income of $5000 or less will get AHG. SHG is not applicable for flats in mature estates where couples with combined income of up to $8500 could get some grants.

Good news for those who are looking to get a BTO or resale flat in mature estates now. The EHG now gives out grants for combined income up to $9000 for first timer families and up to $4500 income for singles.

Check out the grants below:


Average Monthly Household Income* Over 12 MonthsEHG Amount
Not more than $1,500$80,000
$1,501 to $2,000$75,000
$2,001 to $2,500$70,000
$2,501 to $3,000$65,000
$3,001 to $3,500$60,000
$3,501 to $4,000$55,000
$4,001 to $4,500$50,000
$4,501 to $5,000$45,000
$5,001 to $5,500$40,000
$5,501 to $6,000$35,000
$6,001 to $6,500$30,000
$6,501 to $7,000$25,000
$7,001 to $7,500$20,000
$7,501 to $8,000$15,000
$8,001 to $8,500$10,000
$8,501 to $9,000$5,000
Source: HDB

The above grants apply to all flat types and at all locations regardless if its non mature or mature estates. As we can see, most couples who have combined income below $8000 will get at least $15,000 in grants even when they buy a 5 room flat or a flat in a mature estate. Previously, they get nothing under these conditions. 


One Condition - Flats must have lease remaining to cover until age 95

While the type of flats and locations are no longer factors which affect whether we get the grants, the only caveat is that we must buy flats that we can call home until age 95. This affects the subsidies for those who are considering buying resale flats. 

In simple terms, if you're 30 years old and buy a resale flat that has less than 65 years lease, you will not get the full grants under EHG. You will still be able to get the grants but it will be prorated based on the extent that the flat’s remaining lease can cover you until age 95. It means you will still get some grants but lesser. 


Grants for low income families

The grants for families with income of less than $1500 remains high at $80,000. Previously, if they buy a HDB flat in a non mature estate, they could get $40,000 AHG and $40,000 SHG. However, if they decide to stay near their parents who may be in a mature estate, they could only get $40,000 AHG but $0 SHG. Their total grants is only $40,000. 

Under the new EHG, if they buy a flat in a mature estate, they will still get $80,000 EHG as long as the remaining lease of the flat covers them until age 95. 


Grants for middle income families

Middle income families were known to be the most disadvantaged in terms of grants as they are not very poor but not very rich also. Under the previous scheme, a couple with combined income of $4900 and buys a flat in a mature estate will get only $5000 under AHG. They will not qualify for SHG. 

Under the new EHG, the same couple who buys a flat in a mature estate will get additional $40,000 in subsidies. In total, they will get $45,000 in grants under EHG as long as the remaining lease of the flat covers them until age 95. 


Up to $160,000 grant for resale HDB flats - For first timer

Those first timer who are buying resale HDB flats in non mature and mature estates will be really happy to hear that they can get up to $160,000 grants. For the maximum grant, you need to fulfill the following criteria:
  1. Buying 2- to 4-room Resale Flat ($50,000 family grant)
  2. To live with parents/ child ($30,000 proximity housing grant)
  3. Have income of not more than $1500 ($80,000 EHG)
$50,000 + $30,000 + $80,000 = $160,000

While most of us may not meet the criteria above to get the full $160,000 grant for resale flats purchase, we might meet the below criteria to get $100,000 grant:
  1. Buying 2- to 4-room Resale Flat ($50,000 family grant)
  2. To live within 4km of parents/child ($20,000 proximity housing grant)
  3. Have income of $6,001 to $6,500 ($30,000 EHG)
$50,000 + $20,000 + $30,000 = $100,000 grants. 

This $100K grant is still quite substantial for a middle income couple looking to buy resale flats living near their parents regardless of location. However, don't forget the remaining lease of the flat must cover until age 95. Under previous scheme, they could only get $70,000 if they bought a flat living near their parents in a mature estate. 

The new housing grants scheme definitely makes it more flexible as they have totally removed the criteria for flat type and locations. Most people can definitely get more grants as compared to last time. You might want to check out the new enhanced housing grant to see if you are eligible. 

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Employed vs Self Employed - Who Should Save More Money?

In Singapore today, there are more and more self employed people due to the many opportunities arising from the gig economy. Many of them are freelancers working in many different sectors with varying skills. Some of the common examples of self employed jobs are financial advisers, property agents, grab drivers, business owners, freelance musicians/singers etc.

While being self employed brings about the flexibility of time due to no fixed working hours and possibly higher pay when they work harder, the financial aspect has to be planned out well enough due to instability of income as compared to a full time employee working in the corporate world who receives fixed income every month. There is another part which self employed workers need to take note of, which is they have essentially no CPF savings to use for housing or have any for retirement as well.


On the other side, being employed means getting a fixed monthly salary but with less flexibility in working hours. Having a fixed monthly salary makes financial planning easier as we can set savings goals and achieve it with more predictability (bearing any unforeseen circumstances. While being employed means we have an automatic savings called the CPF, it may still not be enough for retirement. Let's take a look on being employed vs self employed and who should save more.


Why Self Employed People In Singapore Should Save More Money?

Self employed people definitely should save more money as they have no CPF savings to begin with. A full time corporate employee below the age of 35 will automatically have 20% of his monthly salary saved up in his CPF account every month. On top of that, the employer puts in an additional 17% of his monthly salary into his CPF account also. This adds up to 37% which is quite a significant savings rate. This means, a person who earns just $3000 will have $1110 saved up automatically every month.

A quick calculation will show that a person who earns just $3000 at age 25 will have CPF savings of about $240,000 at the age of 35 assuming his salary grows at 3% per annum only. A self employed person will have to save $24,000 every year for 10 years just to be on par with the full time employed person above.

Most employed persons will use their CPF savings to pay for the house they buy so they can channel more money into their savings. For self employed people who do not have CPF, they should definitely factor in that they have to pay for the down payment and monthly loan installment for their house. This can be quite significant and eat up into their retirement savings significantly.


How much more should a self employed person save to match his full time employed peers?

Being self employed usually comes with higher pay. If the average starting salary for university graduates is $3000 per month for full time employed workers, then a self employed person should strive to earn $4110 per month and save that extra $1110 per month to be on par with their full time employed peers. Without doing this, they will surely be worse off at the end of the day. Furthermore, CPF earns interest of 2.5%-5% for various accounts and monies. A self employed person have to make his savings work harder by investing his savings for at least 3%-4% interest.


Employed persons may not have enough for retirement even with CPF savings

For employed persons, some may think that CPF will cover their retirement fully so they don't have to save any money and spend all their income. This is not true actually. Let's look at a typical example of an employed person and see how much he or she will have in the CPF accounts at age 55.
  • Starts work at age 25 with $3000 gross monthly salary
  • Has 3% salary increment annually
  • 2 months salary bonus
  • Buys a 4 room HDB flat at $400,000 using CPF to pay fully
With the above example, how much will this person have in his or her CPF at age 55? The answer is about $770,000. 

Although $770,000 may seem like a lot of money, however, the amount we can take out will be much lesser as there will always be a basic retirement sum which we have to keep inside till age 65 before CPF life kicks in to give us some monthly income for retirement. 

Also, $770,000 to last for 30 years is actually not a lot if we do some detailed calculations. Each year, we can only spend $25,666 and each month just $2138 for 30 years. Definitely not a lot of money considering cost of living will most likely at least doubled when most of us in our 30s now, retire in the future. 


Employed vs Self Employed - Who Should Save More Money?

No matter if we're employed or self employed, we should all have some savings for ourselves. While those who are full time employed have CPF savings, don't forget that we will all be using a portion of it for our housing loan so there won't be too much left. 

For those who are self employed, they definitely have to save much more as there is no CPF for them. They also have to first save for their first home as they have to use all cash to settle their down payment and housing loan. Then, there is retirement to save for and ensure enough to last through retirement without being on CPF annuity plan (CPF life). Of course, self employed people can also contribute to their own CPF to save for their retirement and also enjoy tax relief. By doing this, they are also enrolling themselves to a national annuity plan called CPF life.

Being employed or self employed requires different levels of financial planning. At the end of the day, its about what we want in the future. Whatever decisions we make now will have a great impact to our future.  


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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Early Retirement Through Finding Work That You Enjoy Doing

How many times have you heard people complaining about their work? I'm sure almost on a daily basis be it your family members, your friends, your colleagues and maybe even your boss complains about work to you.

This is why early retirement and financial freedom is so popular. In Singapore, we probably need about $1 Million to retire comfortably. But the bad news is its extremely hard to save this amount of money in a very short time.

In my previous post, I introduced the 30 years retirement grid:



In this grid, it shows how much we need to save and invest to achieve whichever amount we desire for retirement. I figured out we need to save consistently $1500 every month and invest at 4% return for 30 years to achieve $1 Million. 30 years is honestly too long a time if you hate your job every single day. This is 10,950 days of your life!

You can read more about the 30 years retirement grid here.

Introducing the 10 years early retirement grid

In this case, can we achieve retirement in 10 years instead just to get out of the rat race? Let me introduce you the 10 years early retirement grid.



Sadly, you would realise that it is extremely difficult to achieve a desired sum of money for retirement in 10 years even if we invest at 8% return. We need to save $6000 per month to get $1 Million dollars, which will definitely lead to a poor quality of life (unless your income is extremely high). For most of us, even saving 100% of our salary will not lead us to retirement in 10 years.


Introducing the sustainable way to early retirement

The truth is, we don't need to save till we drop to achieve early retirement. Most of us think of retirement as quitting our jobs completely. This shouldn't be the case for early retirement as I can guarantee you that you'll be too bored in a short while.

A financial blogger, Zack from four pillar freedom, who's based in the US, recently quit his job and achieved early retirement before his 30s. Now, he focus his time on his blog which generates a decent $3K plus per month. He mentioned work feels like play for him now which is early retirement to him.

While in SG it may be different for us, I'm sure we can also find something we like to do and still create some sustainable income. It is never an easy journey as income outside of work also takes time to build. The key is doing what we like to do.

Building income outside of work requires times and effort. We need to create value to generate sustainable income. Some ways to create sustainable income outside of work are:
  • Start an online blog writing content which you like
  • Investing in good dividend stocks
  • Providing consultancy services on your expertise areas
  • Providing professional services such as playing musical instruments, singing or doing emcee for events
  • Start a part time business
  • Providing freelance service such as website programming, content writing, design etc
You can see in our world today, there are endless opportunities to create income outside of work. Everyone can do it. 

If creating income outside of work is too tough, we can also find work which is more meaningful and let us feel more fulfilled. Since we are spending so much time at work, it is quite important that we do not work in a job we hate. While we can't totally like our jobs and there will always be conflict, we can at least find some work which we like a bit more. Its just like relationships where there will always be conflicts but we resolve it and get stronger.

Rethinking retirement

If we create income outside of work which we enjoy doing and the income can sustain our monthly expenses, then we have achieved early retirement.

If we work in a job we enjoy and feel fulfilled then perhaps thinking of quitting work totally for retirement is not so critical anymore. If we have enough money, we can even consider slowing down by taking on part time or freelance roles instead of totally quitting.

The end goal is that we feel more fulfilled in life and able to spend time on the things that matter to us more. If you're stressed up having to plan for retirement, perhaps its time to rethink how each of us see retirement in life. Perhaps its time to lead a more purposeful life, creating value and doing more meaningful work in our lives.

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Monday, July 29, 2019

The 30 Years Retirement Grid - Saving $1500 per month to achieve $1 Million

I was on course last week and during the course, there were several people who were in their 60s and some even nearing 70s. They were here to upgrade their skills in order to make sure they could still afford to work in their old age. I really admire their attitude to continue learning and still go through the stress of having to sit through an exam to get certified. Many of them were worried they couldn't pass the test and were so stressed out. I thought to myself at this old age they should be enjoying life why still go through this? I spoke to some of them and found out that most had to keep working and in order to get higher salary, they decided to upgrade themselves.

Most of them have been working for more than 30 years but still do not have enough for retirement. Many of them were earning as low as $200 per month back when they first started working. As inflation sets in and things become more expensive in Singapore, it became impossible to retire for them. Some of them even tell me to prepare a house overseas as retirement in Singapore will become even more impossible in the future. Is this really the case?

Is saving $500 per month for 30 years enough for retirement? 

I did some quick calculations and indeed its quite hard for low wage workers to save enough for retirement. If they had diligently saved $500 per month for 30 years, they would only accumulate a savings of $180,000. As we now know, this amount is too little to last for any retirement. For this amount to last 20 years, they can only spend $750 per month.

So, saving $500 per month is definitely not enough for retirement especially during our times now. Then, how much savings is enough?

The 30 Years retirement grid - Saving $1500 per month to achieve $1 Million

For retirement planning, we should first determine how much we need to accumulate? For simplicity sake, let's put this figure at $1 Million since this is the sweet spot to have a good retirement. I did a retirement grid which shows how much our savings and investment will become in 30 years.



Let me guide you on how to read the grid above. The left most column is the savings per month and the top row is the annual investment return. The first figure of $180,000 is derived from saving $500 per month for 30 years with 0% investment return. If there is 1% investment return compounded over 30 years, the sum will be $208,709 instead.

I concluded we need to save at least $1,500 per month for 30 years to get a comfortable retirement sum of $1.01 Million. However, saving $1500 per month is not enough. We still have to invest it at 4% compounded returns to achieve that sum. Without investment, we will only accumulate $540,000. Most of us will start working probably in our mid 20s and in 30 years, we will be about 55 to 60 years old so 30 years timeline is just nice for retirement planning.

If we're not comfortable with 4% investment return, then saving $2000 per month may be a better option as we can accumulate $1.14 Million with just a 3% investment return. If we're still not comfortable with 3% investment return, we can save $2500 per month to accumulate $1.04 Million with just 1% investment return. 1% can be achieved easily through bank interest.


Why income is so important for retirement planning?

If you look closely at the retirement grid I created, you may have notice that savings form a big part of the retirement. If we just save $1000 per month and invest at 6% investment return, we will not even accumulate $1 Million in 30 years.

This is why income is so important for retirement planning. If we earn a low income, it is really quite difficult to save more money. It becomes a very miserable life to save money with too low an income. However, do take note that most of us do start with lower income so the starting point is always more of a sacrifice but it gets easier later.

Investing is also an important part in retirement planning. Looking at savings of $1500 per month in 30 years, a person who does not invest will only accumulate $540K while a person who invests at 4% investment return accumulates $1.01 Million. This is almost double in 30 years! This also shows investing early in our life is quite important.


Retirement planning is time critical

Another thing about retirement is that it is really time critical. The above retirement grid is in a 30 years time frame so it is more manageable. If we are late in the planning stage and only have 20 years till retirement, it will be much more difficult to accumulate substantial savings for retirement.

Here's the 20 years retirement grid:


Let's look at the same $1500 per month savings at 4% investment return. This time, we could only accumulate $536K in 20 years vs $1.01 Million in 30 years. You can see how much difference 10 years is in retirement planning.

Let's say we only start saving and investing in our 40s and look to retirement in our 60s, we have to save double ($3000 per month) as compared to the person who started saving in his 30s ($1500 per month) to achieve the same retirement savings.


Start saving and investing early for retirement!

In conclusion, the earlier we start saving and investing, the better it is. Most people could not see the actual benefits of starting early so many people only realise its too late when they are much older. I hope this retirement grid will finally give you the visualisation to see the benefits of saving and investing early.

The earlier we start, it gets easier as we earn more income. This is because we only have to maintain that same $1500 per month savings instead of saving much more to accumulate that same amount if we start 10 years later.

If you're in your late 20s already, its probably good to start saving that $1500 or $2000 per month from now so that you can retire in your late 50s.

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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Updates on Life after 1 month plus of not blogging

Its been 1 month plus since my last post on 29 May. Many things were keeping me busy in life and I've been keeping things to myself struggling to understand what I was thinking about life myself. The whole of June I was still busy with work while planning for a Japan trip the whole of the month. I was so looking forward to the trip in end of June that everyday I went home after work its about more research on the trip itself. I've always wanted to go Japan and finally made the dream come true with a short 5 days trip to Tokyo. It was an eye opening experience.

Walking around Shinjuku in Tokyo

I came back from the trip around 2 weeks ago and was back to the usual busyness of work and life. I didn't have the energy to do anything after work and weekends is mostly spent with the same routine of spending time with my fiancee on Saturday and exercise on Sunday plus spend time with my family. There are lots of things to plan for our big day next year which is getting closer each day. I also had catch up with my friends as well.

Life is full of surprises in a sense that there are always ups and downs. For me, its no different and I struggle to keep myself happy on some days and sink into gloominess. It gets worse and worse when I see the struggles in my life and also in other people's life. I get worried on certain occasions about health, money and so on. Many things have happened in the past 2 years seeing some loved ones gone, some in poor health and this worries me a lot. I no longer focus so much on money anymore as I felt life is getting shorter and shorter. I do hope this feeling is normal and I'm not the only one who feels this way.

One of the reasons I stopped blogging for so long is because of all these negative emotions and I wanted to hide it and to be alone. In the 5 years of starting this blog, I don't think I have stopped for so long before. Now, I feel better and ready to take on life challenges again and wanted to share this episode in my life with all of you. If you're also facing life challenges and feel that life is hard, do not give up as you will definitely be stronger after this. Life is not always smooth sailing and there will always be problems to deal with. Yes we may get tired so we need some time to relax and recharge again. In this instance, spending money on good food and going overseas may be the best thing to do.

For work, its always busy even after 9 months on my new job. This is my 3rd job and its the most hectic among all my jobs so far but its also the job I find most meaningful to do. I've been tasked with big projects to really change things which I feel happy to take on. The working environment has been good and people are generally nicer here in the healthcare sector. This is also the 3rd industry I've changed to and its interesting to learn new things and see how different industries in Singapore operate.

For investments, its been a good year even with the trade war still ongoing. Stocks have went up crazily and with my portfolio made up of mostly blue chips and REITs, it benefited a lot. My portfolio is already up 11.3% for the year and I've started to sold some of the stocks such as Frasers L&I and Starhill global REIT. One of my favorite stock, Ascendas Hospitality trust is having a merger with Ascott residence trust and I think the offer is quite decent. In any case, I've held this stock for many years with almost 100% return on investments already including dividends received. This is the highest dividend yielding stock in my portfolio at 8.4% for many years. Its a pity I can't get that kind of dividend yield anymore if the deal goes through.

I do feel life is short and I want to enjoy fully what life has to offer. Someone younger than me and whom I'm close to passed on a few years back and till now its still hard to accept the loss. There are other things that happened but I shall not mention here. Life situations has changed my view towards it and I hope its a good change for now.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Most Cost Effective Way To Plan Your Travel Without Compromising on Quality

Travelling is the most common hobby which we as Singaporeans have. I see most people travel at least once a year and increasingly people are travelling multiple times a year. I love travelling also and its really to see more of the world outside as we live in a really small city in Singapore.

In this article, I'll share how I plan my travel for this coming year and some tips you could follow to really get some good deals out there. Its not about getting the cheapest option to travel as it would mean compromising on quality but its about finding the most cost effective way to plan a good relaxing travel experience.

Booking the flight

When it comes to travelling, booking the flight is always the first step. I use the website skyscanner to search for flight to the destination I want. Its easy just key in your destination and dates and click search and this website will search for the best flight across almost all airlines in the world. You can also filter base on your budget, preference for direct or transfer flights or the airlines you want.


Flexible on your dates? You can also choose to find the lowest flight tickets for the whole month by searching using the whole month as shown below:


After selecting the month (eg June), click search and it will show you a calendar view of the lowest flights available for the whole month:


That's it. You can find the best deal for your flight by using the method above.

Another tip is all airlines have several promotions at certain periods. You can subscribe to email alerts on the airlines website and you will get notified when there are promotions ongoing.


Booking the Hotel

The next major step for your travel plan is to find a good hotel to stay in. Trivago is a good website I always use to find the best deals out there. This website search for hotels in any destinations and then compares the best price across all other hotel websites such as Expedia, booking.com, hotels.com, Agoda and many more. Most of us may just search our hotels on one website such as Expedia but with Trivago, you can compare across all websites with just a click.

For hotels, besides the price as a comparison, I always emphasize on the location as well as the reviews. To me, staying in a good location will save time and also good reviews means a better stay and better travelling experience. With Trivago, you can sort the hotels by ratings and even see them on a map view.


After you find a hotel in a good location with good reviews, just select view deal and it will take you to the website which has the best deal to book your hotel.

Getting good hotel deals doesn't just stop here. If you own credit cards, banks do offer special deals for hotel bookings also. For example, Citibank card holders get 10% off hotel bookings on Expedia with any Citi card. Do note you can get this offer only if you book through the URL www.expedia.com.sg/citibank with promo code CITIEXPSG. I'm sure other bank credit cards do have such promo also so do check out the banks website for more information.

*Apply for Citi Cash Back card and get $300 worth of vouchers here



Buying travel insurance

The next thing to consider is travel insurance. To me this is quite important to get a peace of mind and its not too expensive also. NTUC is so far my favorite travel insurance as I've made claims before due to an unexpected cancellation of trip and they refunded me for all the expenses I incurred on flights and all that. NTUC almost always have discount on their travel insurance plans. The highest I've seen is 45% discount while most of the time is around 30%-40% discount.

FWD is another increasingly popular travel insurance which you can consider. They are the cheapest so far in the market but I'm not sure how good the claim process is? If you've claimed travel insurance from FWD before, do leave a comment below to share your good or bad experiences.


Getting internet in a foreign country

Wifi/data is extremely important for us now who can't live without our phones. Its also important when we need to use it to navigate around in a foreign country. If you're travelling in a group, you can consider Changi Recommends portable Wifi device which is quite affordable in my opinion. This device can connect multiple devices at a time to use the internet. Its as low as $4 for Asian countries including Japan and sometimes they offer promo with 2 free days off which they have currently. The best thing about Changi Wifi is you can collect and return the device  at the airport in all terminals.

Another alternative is to use your own Telco's mobile roaming plans. Singtel offers data roaming at $5-$12 per month for 1GB of data in up to 9 different countries. If you're travelling to multiple countries, this is a good choice. Starhub also has this happy prepaid card which has data roaming plans you can choose. I used this when I went to Australia 2 years back and it was quite affordable with good coverage.


Book travel attractions and transportation on Klook

While you're planning your travel, you would also need to book transportation or maybe local travel packages to enjoy your travel experience more. I always book any additional travel plans I need through Klook where I get can discounted tickets to attractions and transportation options.

For example, if you're going to Tokyo, you can book the train tickets on Klook at a discount and collect at Tokyo's airports on the day you arrive. You can also book Disneyland tickets in advance at a discount.

If you're new to Klook, you can get $5 immediately on Klook using my link here. Now you can book your travel experiences easily without any hassle.




Get additional cash back on Shopback

To push it even further, we can get additional cash back through Shopback. Shopback is my favourite cash back site to use not just for travel but for online shopping and almost any other things as well.

You can get cash back on flight bookings, hotel bookings as well. Look at all the places you can get cashback below:


I've got almost $50 in my Shopback account for me to cash out so far. You can use my lin6k to sign up and get $5 in your account straight away. I get $5 in return too.


Summary

Planning for travel becomes easier with all the resources out there. Let me summarise the complete travel plan below:

1. Search flights on skyscanner
2. Search for hotels using trivago or check your bank credit card privileges
3. Buy travel insurance with discount
4. Get wifi/data with Changi wifi or your Telco's data roam
5. Book travel attractions and transportation with Klook ($5 giveaway here)
6. Use credit card to pay for all the above to earn miles or cashback (Get $300 worth of vouchers when you apply here)
7. Get additional cashback with Shopback ($5 giveaway here)

That's a comprehensive travel plan! Any other ideas? Leave your comments below.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Latest Comparison of High Interest Savings Accounts in Singapore - May 2019

There have been numerous changes to the banks' interest rates in Singapore lately. As interest rates rises for loans, good news for savers who have savings in the bank as the interest we can get on our savings account is increasing as well.

However, the interest on normal savings account is still not increasing but the banks have come up with more creative ways to attract customers and offer higher interest with some small conditions. Let's take a look at which are the best high interest rates account in Singapore today?


OCBC 360

This is the bank account which I have most of my money in right now. They have revised their interest rates upwards without me not having to do any additional thing from before so those who already own this account will be happy to hear that as well.

The conditions is simple for this account. Let me summarise it:
  1. Salary credit of at least $2000 to OCBC 360 and you will get 1.2% on first $35,000 and 2% on next $35,000. 
  2. Spend at least $500 on OCBC credit cards and get 0.3% on first $35,000 and 0.6% on next $35,000
  3. Increase account balance by at least $500 as compared to the previous month, get 0.3% on first $35,000 and 0.6% on next $35,000
  4. Insure or invest with OCBC Bank and get 0.6% on first $35,000 and 1.2% on next $35,000

In summary, those who hold more than $35,000 to $70,000 in OCBC 360 account will enjoy much higher interest than before. As you can see, just by having salary credit will earn you 2% for the next $35,000 in the bank account which is quite a decent interest rate to me.

$70,000 savings in OCBC 360 account with salary credit will get you interest of $1120 per year just like that. This is close to $100 per month free money.


CIMB Fastsaver

For those who have extra cash lying around, CIMB fastsaver account is a no frails account which gives up to 1.5% interest with no conditions at all.  It was 1% previously for first $50,000 in the account but they revised it to include 1.5% for the next $25,000.
  • First $50,000 - 1% p.a.
  • Above S$50,000 to S$75,000 - 1.5% p.a.
  • Above $75,000 - 0.6% p.a.
This is quite a good account which I am using also. No salary credit, no credit card spend or anything required at all to earn that higher interest.


Standard Chartered Bonus$aver - $100 account opening special

The next account gives pretty high interest for those who can meet its conditions. With salary credit of at least $3000 and spending of $500 per month on a SCB card linked to the bonus$aver account, you can get 1.78% interest on the first $100,000. If you can spend $2000 per month with the salary credit, then you get a very substantial total interest rate of 2.78%. 
  • Salary credit of at least $3000 with monthly credit card spend of $500 - 1.78% p.a.
  • Salary credit of at least $3000 with monthly credit card spend of $2000 - 2.78% p.a.
Furthermore, there is a special account opening deal of $100 cash when you open an account. You can apply for the bank account through this link to get your deal. This deal is in partnership with Singsaver. 


You can pair this savings account with the SCB unlimited card to get additional unlimited 1.5% cashback on all eligible spends. You can apply for the card here and get $100 cash + up to S$120 cashback from SCB. 


DBS Multiplier Account

The last account worth mentioning is the DBS multiplier account. Previously, they only give higher interest for the first $50,000 in the bank account but this has been revised to $100,000. However, there are certain conditions and it may be a little complicated for those who are new to this account.

Getting higher interest on the first $50,000 is easy as we just have to have our salary credited and have another category such as credit card spend. This will earn us at least 1.55% on the first $50,000 only. For the next $50,000 to earn higher interest, we'll have to have our salary credited plus additional 3 or more categories such as credit card spend, home loan installment, investment or insurance. You can get a minimum of 2% interest on $100,000 in your bank account if you meet the above salary credit + 3 or more other categories. Otherwise, in my opinion, the OCBC 360 still works better to get higher interest for the first $75,000 without having to meet so many categories.


Best Cashback Credit Card

Apart from getting higher interest on our savings in our bank accounts, we can also get cashback for our spending with cashback credit cards. I saw this promo by Singsaver on the Citi Cash Back card which they are giving out $300 NTUC, Taka or Grab codes for new customers. This is surprisingly quite a generous offer to give out $300 worth of vouchers.

Citi cashback credit card offers 8% cashback on Dining, Groceries, Petrol & Grab rides daily, worldwide with a min. spend of S$888 per statement month. You can apply for the Citi cashback card here to claim your offer or view other cashback cards available here.


The offer ends on 9 June 2019. In this battle of the cards, you can get an additional $50 if you "choose" (apply & get approved) for the winning card. You can also get a chance to win a trip to Tokyo per battle! 

All you need to do is: 
1) Apply & get approved for the winning card 
2) Click on "Submit to Win" and write why you think the card will win.

Click on the above image to find out more!

Let your money roll!

I've always try to make the best out of my money with all the deals out there. The interest which I get on a high interest bank account such as the OCBC 360 is far better than what I would get in a normal savings account. It just takes the initial setup to open the bank account and thereafter the interest will be credited to my savings account on a monthly basis. I can get more than $100 in interest per month just like that.

Pairing the high interest savings account with cash back credit cards is a smart way to make our money work harder for us. Hope this article helped you in searching for the best savings account and cashback credit cards out there with the deals you can get at this moment.

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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

Read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/hdb-loan-cpf-rules-buy-property-flats-home-11518170


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. 
Note: 
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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KofiHFsBQk

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, Migrationology.com 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%
Ascendas-hTrust$0.728.25%
CapitaMall Trust$1.906.04%
Frasers HTrust$0.786.02%
CapitaCom Trust$1.326.59%
SingTel$3.504.97%

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 booking.com 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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