#1 Set realistic goals
Set yourself up for success! Your targets should be attainable and if necessary, stretched over a few short-term goals. For example, don’t take out a S$50,000 loan at the start of the year and try to clear it by December when you only make S$30,000 a year. To save for a S$60,000 downpayment on a BTO flat, set smaller goals, for instance save S$20,000 annually for three years, to make it more manageable.
#2 Create an emergency fund
You may have youth on your side, but the unexpected can still happen. Try to set aside at least three months of your salary to help tide you over any contingencies like retrenchment or a serious illness. If that’s too daunting, try parking a few hundred dollars each month in a savings account opened only for emergency expenditures.
#3 Declutter and sell stuff you don’t need
One man’s trash is another’s treasure. If over-shopping during the pandemic has left you with stuff you don’t need, put them up for sale on Carousell or eBay, then just sit back and watch your bank account bulk up!
#4 Live within your means
In other words, spend less than what you earn. Many of us – especially those who are just starting out in the workforce – struggle with this because of an over-reliance on credit cards and the temptation to keep up with our peers. Learn to spend when necessary while giving yourself occasional treats. And rather than putting your purchases on credit, save up for them.
#5 Look into retirement planning
It’s never too early to start! Saving early means you’ll get to enjoy the magic of compound interest (i.e. interest earned on your initial principal + interest earned on your accumulated interest from previous saving periods), so your retirement pot will be far bigger than what you invested. Tip: Consider stashing your cash in a Supplementary Retirement Scheme account, which gives dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxable income.
#6 Prioritise paying off high-interest debts
If you have any debts to pay off, make the minimum monthly payments – including the one with the highest interest rate. Then make the biggest possible lump-sum payment towards that highest-interest debt. The logic: you’ll end up with the lowest overall total payments.
#7 Cancel unwanted subscriptions
Spending S$200 on a monthly gym membership when there’s a fitness corner in your estate, S$50 monthly on a cable TV subscription plan when you’re really on YouTube all the time, S$30 monthly for newspapers you can read for free in the office or public library… the list goes on. Collectively, these subscriptions can rack up thousands of dollars annually. Wouldn’t the money be better off in your pocket?
#8 Learn to cook
Making your own food is a life skill, so instead of relying on food delivery, try your hand in the kitchen. You’ll see immediate savings when you compare the price of your ingredients to your meal delivery bill. Additionally, being able to control food portions and how much oil, salt and sugar goes into your meals could translate into reduced risk of chronic illnesses like high cholesterol and high blood pressure – which could save you from costly medical bills in the long run.
High cholesterol is possible even if you’re in your 20s and thin. Make sure you know the risk factors.
#9 Invest wisely
You don’t need a finance degree for this. Look out for investment courses, follow blogs (like this one!) to enhance your knowledge and talk more with people you know to be savvy with their money. Then pick a strategy that works best for you.
Kickstart your investment journey with some basic terminology in our Grow Me the Money series.
#10 Make a will and set up your LPA
No one likes to picture the worst, but a will helps to ensure that your assets will be distributed as you wish. Remember to make a CPF nomination, too – without this, it could take longer for your assets to be distributed, adding to your family’s distress.
Equally important is setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) where you legally appoint someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf should you become mentally incapacitated. A stroke, an accident or dementia could all result is loss of mental capacity. With an LPA, there’ll be someone to act on matters such as your personal welfare and property and your loved ones will be spared from undergoing a court process in order to administer your affairs if you become vulnerable.
Building on your work skills or picking up new ones is something you should do throughout your career – not just in your 30s or 40s. Upskilling may not be tied directly to your financial health but it does improve your job security, which is crucial for your financial stability in the long run.
#12 Budget monthly
Use free online apps to set a budget before the start of every month – and stick to it. Simply input your income as well as your fixed expenses (e.g. rent, car loan instalments), variable expenses (e.g. streaming subscription, average electricity charges) and month-specific expenses (e.g. school textbooks in December, Chinese New Year clothes in January). Income left after budgeting for these expenses can go towards financial goals.
#13 Don’t skip the fun factor
Shaping up your finances shouldn’t be depressing. It takes some adulting to budget and save, but that certainly doesn’t mean depriving yourself of pleasure. So, plan for things like family trips and home redecoration. Your earnings are meant to be enjoyed, too.
#14 Have additional sources of income
There’s no harm in pursuing a side gig for a few extra dollars. You could rent out a spare room in your home, bake more of your famous cookies to sell online or be a pet-sitter. If you have a car, you could even sign up as a driver for a ride-hailing firm. Remember, you’re limited only by your creativity.
#15 Stay in the pink
Eating right, exercising regularly and strengthening your immunity minimises visits to the doctor due to illness. Keep up with your regular health screenings too as early detection of health problems allows for early medical intervention, which usually means a higher cure rate.
Read up about why you should give a hoot about medical insurance here.
#16 Get the right amount of insurance coverage
Under-protection means you won’t have enough financial coverage should the unexpected happen, while buying more insurance coverage than you need will hinder your ability to save for larger goals. As a guide, aim for a life insurance cover of nine to 10 times your annual income and critical illness cover of 3.9 times your annual income.
#17 Check your credit score
If you have a high score, financial institutions would be more likely to grant you a home, car or business loan when you need it. So, to keep a clean record and prove you’re not over-extending yourself financially, limit yourself to two credit cards, pay your bills on time, and spend with restraint to avoid debt.
#18 Go on a spending fast
Similar to how abstaining from deep-fried food or sugar over a time benefits your mind and body, committing to a no-spend challenge does wonders for your financial health. A short break from spending on non-essentials not only tests if you can live on basics alone, it’ll also help you save more and shrink your debts.
#19 Set aside funds for big-ticket items
As you focus on larger goals like your retirement fund and future upskilling costs, remember to leave some money for other equally important expenses, like replacing your old aircon system or taking your parents on a trip overseas.
#20 Lock up your savings
The lure of online shopping and discounts makes it too easy to dip into your bank account for that extra but unnecessary shoe rack. To protect your savings, consider opening an account just for savings with a different bank. Skip the online banking facility, and don’t keep the debit card in easy-to-access places like your wallet – this ensures you won’t touch the account for frivolous expenses.
Whilst everyone has different goals and needs in their 20s, these 20 reminders will help keep you on track amid future uncertainties. It may not be easy to conquer all the moves at once, so try a few at a time. Once they become a habit, staying financially healthy in your 20s and beyond will come naturally.