As a young adult, it's easy to get overwhelmed when you get access to freedom, money and new responsibilities. So here's a step-by-step guide on how to financially get your life together, from a millennial to another.
I totally get it, being in your 20s in 2021 is no walk in the park. You and I (mostly) have no idea how to adult, you feel like you’re running out of time to get your life together, and your parents keep asking when you’re going to settle down/get married/get a promotion.
Yes, it is hard, but it’s not as hard as you think it is — after all, you’ve already taken the first step, which is reading this article.
While we can’t tell you exactly what to do with your life (everyone’s goals are different), we can help you out with some tips on how to get a headstart on one of the basic aspects of adulting — getting your finances in order.
The very important and first step you need to take towards financial adulting is learning to control the way you spend your money. The primary reason why some adults run into financial difficulties is not because of low salary. After all, surviving with a $2,500 income is totally possible in Singapore. What you need to overcome is the lack of self-discipline and the inability to delay gratification in the short run.
Here are a few ideas to take charge of your finances:
Don’t spend unnecessarily
Do you really need the latest Gucci bag or a basic white tee for $40? No. Do you really need to take a Grab ride to work every day? Also no. You just need to be disciplined enough to wake up earlier and have the willpower to walk away from these boutiques.
Put away 20% of your take-home pay immediately once it comes in
And stick to it. Every month. Without fail.
Set up an emergency fund
Have at least six to 12 months of your salary saved up, because you’ll never know what’s going to happen in the future. Psychologically, you’ll also feel less stressed because you know that you can handle almost any unexpected financial hurdles without going into debt.
Keep track of your spending with an app
Key it in every time you buy something. It may seem like a hassle, but when you look back at your expenditure for the month, you’ll realise that there are many expenses you can do without.
These are just some basic points to get you started on the road to financial adulting. Go deeper with SingSaver’s Ultimate Savings Guide to get ready for any situations you might face in your financial journey.
Help yourself to better financial shape in the new norm, with SingSaver's all-new Ultimate Savings Guide! Got your free copy yet?
The art of delayed gratification is all about working towards a long-term goal and feeling that immense satisfaction after a prolonged period of hard work.
In fact, the sooner you learn this, the better. You’ll naturally find it easier to control your finances and saving money will be a breeze.
Yes, you can get almost anything you want with a swipe of a credit card, but isn’t it more comforting to know that you can actually pay for the item in full? This brings me to my next point.
Whatever you spend, pay it in full
If you can’t afford an item in its entirety, drop it (unless it’s your BTO). One of the fastest ways someone can fall into the pit of debt is by raking up those notoriously high credit card interest rates, which can range from about 25% to 28% p.a.
Failing to pay off your entire credit card bill (paying the minimum sum of $50 is just as bad) could cause your credit card debt to snowball – a $3,000 credit card bill today could easily become more than $3,750 in a year. This is an additional $750 you are forking out simply because you have failed to pay your credit card bill.
If you’re struggling to keep up with your credit card monthly repayments in full, you’re officially in credit card debt. And that’s not good. Here’s how you can prevent it:
Swipe your credit cards only for what you need
The rewards are attractive, which ultimately entices you to spend more than necessary. But what’s the use of chasing for more rebates when you end up busting your budget? Make a mental note that it’s not about how much you save, but how much you spend. So swipe only for what you need.
Treat your credit card like a debit card
Pay your bill immediately whenever you swipe your credit card. This is a bit of a hassle, but it works because it’s always painful to see money immediately leaving your account.
Have mostly cash on hand
If transferring money from your account to your credit card doesn’t hurt your feelings (because they’re all just words on a screen after all), you can consider having mostly cash on hand. It hurts more to see $10 notes slowly leave your wallet throughout the day compared to swiping a plastic card at the cashier.
Set a monthly reminder to pay your credit card bills
Set an alarm, notification, or even get your partner/friend to remind you. Whatever you do, just pay it on time!
Save, save and save some more
Whenever you can, try to live below your means, cut as many expenses as you can from your day-to-day living. The price difference between economic rice from the coffee shop and a salad bowl may just be a couple of dollars, but it adds up in the long run.
Personally, one trick I use to save money is to compare prices with different stores before settling on an item. For example, when I get groceries, I would physically go to Sheng Siong, NTUC and Prime Supermarket to suss out the prices and see which store sells the item at a cheaper rate.
It may seem troublesome, but hey, you need to put in some effort if you want to save money. Besides, shopping is also considered cardio, okay?
Go cashless to get more
In addition to finding the cheapest items, I would also go the extra mile by paying for my groceries with Favepay, which is linked to GrabPay, which is then linked to my credit card.
It’s confusing and sounds like a lot of work, but hear me out. Not only do you get cashback (Favepay), you will also get Grab points (GrabPay) and rewards/cashback/miles (depending on your credit card). All of which then can be used to offset future purchases at the same store, Grab rides and more.
Needless to say, it’s very important that you link the right credit card to get the most benefits out of this triple point system. We’ve got that covered if you are still on the fence about choosing the best credit card.
Once you’ve learned how to save, stash your take-home pay away in a high-interest bank account like OCBC 360. With the maximum interest rate at 2.68% per annum, you can sit back, relax and watch your money grow every month without doing anything.
Save and safe with insurance
For the prudent millennials, you can also achieve your savings goal with an endowment plan. With this, you are killing two birds with one stone – you put in regular premiums as a form of disciplined savings, while enjoying modest insurance coverage over the duration of the policy term.
What’s more, endowment plans are designed to pay a lump sum of money after a specific number of years, and some come with a yearly cash bonus, which grows more if you opt to leave it alone.
Can’t decide which endowment plans you should consider? Here is a list of everything you need to know about various endowment plans available in Singapore, which includes short-term and long-term options.
Besides the above mentioned, there are other money saving tips you can consider:
- Don’t pick up money-draining habits like smoking, drinking and gambling.
- Keep a lookout for special deals (e.g: 1-for-1 promos) on social media.
- Use promo codes whenever you shop online.
- Avoid making friends who only want to hang out at expensive places.
Finding more income
Already have a main job and hungry for more cash? Great. There are countless ways to earn or grow your money, with the most popular being investing and side hustling. To get you started, here are 5 simple steps to build a side income.
Monetise your hobby
If you have a hobby, find a way to monetise it, like that 16-year-old raking in $30,000 a month reselling sneakers and this teenage girl making up to $7,000 a month selling slime.
Invest in yourself
But if you aren’t blessed with such talent, investing in yourself is also a good choice. Picking up new work-related skills can help you get a pay raise, advance in your career, or score in-demand roles in sectors such as IT and healthcare.
Consider all the steps that have been laid out up till this point: paying for what you need immediately, saving up for your emergency fund and sourcing for an extra income. By now, you will know how much disposable income you have, which leads to my next point.
Invest to grow your wealth
Should you spend your spare income to treat yourself, or take a calculated risk to grow it? If you chose the latter, you can now go ahead and start your investing journey. For beginners, robo advisors may pose a good starting point as they’re easy to use, charge very low advisory fees, and have minimum investment amounts as low as $50.
Learn how they work, the costs, the benefits, and the disadvantages of the various robo advisors available in Singapore.
Make plans to FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early)
Make clear financial and retirement goals, and then work backwards to get an estimated amount of how much you need to have in order to retire blissfully.
For example, you want to retire at 60 and live on $2,000 a month. Assuming you live until 85 years old, you need to have at least $600,000 in cold, hard cash (not counting CPF) before you can bid working life goodbye.
Draw up an excel spreadsheet with categories you would like to save for (e.g: retirement, wedding, house, etc). Every month, put away a percentage of your pay into these goals and stick to it. Again, self-discipline.
Here are some financial goals you should achieve by age 35:
Goal 1: Get out of debt
Goal 2: Be properly insured
Goal 3: Have an emergency fund
Goal 4: Save for a wedding or a flat
Goal 5: Start investing for your retirement
Goals act as a better motivational tool, compared to just saving up with no purpose. Soon enough, you’ll soon find yourself thinking if you really need to go on that $300 omakase date when you can actually put this amount of money towards achieving your financial goals.
As a benchmark, this is how much savings you should have by the time you reach 35 years old.
Take baby steps in order to adult financially. No one (well, ordinary people like you and I, at least) starts with $100,000 in their bank. It’s all about how you save, earn and manage your money.
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