Our Life Cycle
In a person’s life cycle, we spent our first 20 years playing and learning new knowledge. Followed with the next 20 years to establish our careers, set up our families – when we get married and raise our kids, and working hard to pay for our home and car loans.
As we make headway in our careers, we use another 20 years to set up own businesses or further our careers, buying a 2nd property and paying for our children’s education. Eventually, we leave the last 20 years or more of our life for retirement, when we look forward to pursuing our interests or aspirations.
However, this is also the period when our energy level is the lowest and very often, a period when there is no income to sustain our personal interest or activities.
Therefore, before reaching our retirements, most of us often have the same desire to earn as much money as possible. By having more money, we will be able to pay off all our debts, spend on our pursuits and save for emergencies.
However, to have enough or more money to sustain us through the last quadrant of our life cycle, we will need to accumulate our wealth early to ensure a constant flow of incomes after our retirement.
By achieving financial freedom early, we can then decide if we want to retire early to pursuit our personal interests or to continue working. We will also be in a better position to choose what job to do, if we so decided to work, and it will probably be something we love to do.
Generally, there four ways which we can generate more incomes. Let us discuss the intricacies of each type, which is also applicable if we choose to work after retirement.
Most of us are employed by some companies or bosses, where we earn a monthly salary. We can choose to increase our income by taking up one or more jobs.
However, this may not be enough and would also take a much longer time for us to achieve financial freedom.
As self-employed, we can decide our own working hours and where we work from. We will have more control over our incomes as it depends on how hard we want to work. We can also choose who we work with, and importantly, we can do what we like best.
However, as self-employed, our income can be irregular and there will be no bonus. Furthermore, we do not get paid if we decide to go for a holiday or, unfortunately, need to be placed on a long-term medical leave.
Running own business can be quite fulfilling. We get to influence the people that work for us and control how we want the operations to be run. We are independent in deciding our business models and yield financial benefits with our business success.
Nevertheless, apart from having to worried about the daily business issues, including profit/ losses, resources and sales, business owners will also need to commit substantial amount of time and financial resources. Moreover, we will be exposed to risks of uncertainties that may affect the business, such as stock market sentiment or epidemics.
As Investors, we devote a certain amount of capital to an investment hoping to reap some good in return. Therefore, we basically let our money works for us, while we continue to enjoy what we like to do best.
Importantly, this may be the fastest way to achieve financial freedom in any near future and continue into the later years when we retired from our career. We can then work for our hobby or travel the world.
Types of Investments
Most of us will hope to grow their money exponentially in the shortest possible time. But all investments generate different yields and come with its associated risks. In order to be a successful investor, we need to pick investments that give us the most profit, while mitigating its risk factors.
There are four main types of investments that we can choose from, each with distinct characteristics, risks and benefits. Knowing the different types of assets for investment will allow us to combine these instruments to better fit our personal circumstances and risk appetites.
Defensive Investments are more focused on consistently generating income, rather than growth, and are considered lower risk than growth investments.
Cash investments include everyday bank accounts, high interest savings accounts and term deposits, which can deliver regular income and can play an important role in protecting wealth and reducing risk in an investment portfolio.
However, they carry the lowest potential returns and offer no chance of capital growth.
The popular fixed interest investments are Bonds, which are money borrowed by governments or companies from investors for certain purposes, and in return, pay these investors a rate of interest.
This instrument offers lower levels of risk than shares or property but also lower potential returns. Although bonds can be sold relatively quickly, they are not without the risk of capital losses.
Another traditional and conservative habit of putting our extra hard-earned money into Fixed Deposit. With a compounded average annual interest of 2%, it will never allow us to hedge against inflation, which is at an average rate of 2.56% per annum over the last decade.
Growth Investments are more suitable for long term investors who are willing and able to withstand the market ups and downs.
Shares are considered a growth investment as they can help grow the value of our original investments over the medium to long term. We may also receive income from dividends of our shares.
However, the value of shares may also fall below the price we had paid. Prices can be volatile from day to day and shares are generally best suited to long term investors, who are comfortable in withstanding these ups and downs.
Commonly known as equities, shares can deliver higher returns than other assets, but shares are considered one of the riskiest types of investments.
Property is also considered a growth investment because the price of houses and other properties can rise substantially over time.
However, like shares, property can also fall in value and carries the risk of losses. But property investment is less volatile than shares. It is also possible to invest directly by buying a property or indirectly through a property investment fund.
An investment property is a real estate purchased by investors for investment purposes. Investors usually rent out the property and use the income received to service their mortgage loan.
The intention is to own the asset and generate capital growth by selling it for a higher price in the future.
An investment property can be in the form of residential, such as house, unit and townhouse, or non-residential, such as land, commercial or an industrial property.
Acquiring an investment property is a popular choice for investors as property market can be safer and less volatile compared to other investments.
However, there are no guarantees and still has its inherent disadvantages.
Pros of Property Investment
We can earn rental income by renting out the investment property while waiting for its price to appreciate. We can even benefit much more from capital growth if we are able buy at a good price and the property increases in value subsequently.
Furthermore, the interest paid on mortgage loans for rental property is tax deductible for rental property.
Finally, our property, unlike shares, is a physical investment, which it can be seen, touched and possessed for own use if needed.
Cons of Property Investment
It is essential to note that the rental income may not cover the monthly mortgage repayments, depending on the loan size and duration. Therefore, we may need to set aside some of our income for repayments and other expenses.
Interest rate rises may also affect our return and thus our disposable income. If the property rental market goes down, we must be able to sustain the expenses and upkeep the property regardless if there is any tenant.
Unlike shares, we cannot divest a portion of a property if some quick cash is needed – it takes at least 8 weeks for completion of a property transaction.
Notwithstanding, there are high entry and exit costs associated with property investment, such as stamp duties, legal fees and agent commissions, though these costs can be recovered through its rental and capital gains eventually.
Why Investing in Property?
According to statistics, private property prices have been continuing in an upwards trend for the past decades, which is also in line with the government’s policy to help Singaporean grow their wealth and retirement nests through home ownership.
The Highs are Higher than previous Highs
The property prices in Singapore is like riding a roller-coaster through crisis after crisis. But, it is consistently cruising towards a higher mountain without a limit to its altitude.
The Highs of the property prices are higher than the previous Highs, and evidently, the Lows are always higher than the previous Lows.
This phenomenon is also an indication that most owners will preserve the entry prices of their properties and will not sell lower than the prices that they have paid. Hence, the prices will continue to be pushed in an upwards trending.
The Highs of the property prices are usually Higher than the previous Highs.
The Lows are also Higher than previous Lows
The same trend has been observed in the HDB Resale sector, where the Highs and Lows are always higher than the previous.
The Lows are always Higher than the previous Lows.
As for commercial property, the price and rental are generally stable and guiding upwards, except slightly affected by the US-China Trade War in 2019 and possibly the on going COVID-19 situation.
Nevertheless, the trend will continue upwards once these issues no longer exist.
As a real estate salesperson, I have seen many seasoned investors profited millions of dollars in Property Investment just by sitting on or renting out their properties.
Having accumulated the experiences for the past 10 years, I have not only gained much financial intelligence in this trade, it has also improved my strategic thinking and sharpened my farsightedness on property investments.
Besides achieving financial freedom through property investments over these years while continuing my job in the real estate industry, I have also given advice to many of my clients, relatives and friends to help them grow their wealth through property investments, to better prepare for their retirement years.
Some years back, I met a couple, Mr & Mrs Tan, in a new launch condominium at West Coast area. They were in their thirties and had a 5-year old son and a new-born daughter. They were overwhelmingly interested after visiting the show flat, so I assisted them in doing up a financial calculation for the purchase of a unit at this condominium.
I realised that Mr Tan, who was the sole bread winner with a stable income, was able to service the monthly mortgage for a two-bedroom type unit, which his family of four could comfortably stay together.
However, he did not have enough cash upfront for the required down payments.
Mrs Tan, who was so adamant in buying that unit, quietly asked Mr Tan: “If your friends, earning the same salary as you, were able to buy a condo of the similar price, why NOT you?”
I delved further and analysed the Tans’ situation. Subsequently, I advised the couple to cash out by selling their matrimonial home. That would allow them to buy 2 properties, with each property under one ownership so that they would not be subjected to the Additional Buyer Stamp Duty.
However, that would only be possible provided Mrs Tan would be able to step into the workforce to earn another income.
One property was for their own stay, while the other for rental to help generate passive income. Not only did they have left over cash after purchasing the properties, they also enjoyed a net passive income from the purchases.
Notwithstanding, the remaining cash and the passive income could be saved for future investments or contingencies. Eventually, they bought another property as they put a step closer to achieving their financial freedom for their future.
Towards Financial Freedom
How to Save ?
Where to get spare cash to invest?
This doubt has always lingered in our mind.
Even if we do not aspire to have full financial freedom, we should not be locked in a financial prison. Where we have no freedom to change our primary (and usually only) source of income without having an adverse impact on our life.
Simply because we need that income to pay for our living expenses. And we would continue to be worried if we are able to meet our monthly debt obligations.
Often, we are not sure how can we get out from this vicious cycle of having to keep working but just to have enough to pay for our mortgages, bills and expenses.
Ultimately, money management is an important skill to acquire and should start from young age when our parents start giving us allowances.
It requires effort, knowledge and planning to use the money wisely, while at the same time know how to grow the amount in the savings.
Unfortunately, our schools do not teach us on financial planning, while our older parents continue to remind us to work hard and be thrifty.
Most of us will only save if we have balance from the budgeting or after expending the salary. But money can never be enough for us to spend, so where to get the balance? Is there a way for us to save even though our salary is just enough to meet our expenditures?
Save First, Pay Next
As advocated by most financial coaches, we should set aside a portion of our income on savings/ investments first, before paying our bills/ debts and other expenses.
If we can see the importance of regular savings to be put into our investment, we will somehow find some ways to increase our incomes, especially during our younger and more energetic years.
We can save by cutting down or delaying on unnecessary expenses. Or finding a second stream of income, like riding on existing technology advancement to earn through online platform by selling a service/ product. Or getting another part-time job.
The savings we put aside, will accumulate and compounded over time.
It will enable us to invest and further grow our wealth. Not forgetting, investment itself is a form of longer-term savings for the future.
How to Build our Property Investment Portfolio?
The reason why most financial advisors say that higher returns mean higher risk is simply because the financial investment products that they sell allow very little control from the investors and are volatile.
Property Investment is a low risk investment that is not only tangible but also within our control.
To begin to build our property wealth, we need to take that initial step into the realm of property investment. It can be challenging and growing our investment from one to several properties may take time, money and effort. So, we should build our property portfolio one step at a time, at our own comfort.
Begin with a Good Investment
Experienced property investors would say their first property investment as being the hardest, but the subsequent ones were much easier. Always start small, in-country and work with an experienced real estate agent to begin the journey of building a profitable portfolio. If we get it right from the onset, we will be starting with a stronger foundation.
Appropriate Time, Appropriate Value
The property market goes through cycles of highs and lows. Some people will tell us to look out for properties that has hit the bottom but are starting to rise in value, and not to buy properties at the height of a boom.
But who can tell that it is at the bottom or it is already at its peak?
Especially in Singapore, there are always buyers or transactions when prices reached the bottoms or at their peaks.
Notwithstanding, Singapore’s property price index is on an upwards trending, with the new high or low higher than the previous. Hence, it will also have to depend on our time horizon for the investment plan.
People often say the trade secret in property market is “Buy Low, Sell High”.
Similarly, the seller whom you are trying to buy the property from, also understand this principle. So, he will want to sell high.
Of course, there will be opportunities whereby residential properties are being sold below market value, particularly when the seller needs to liquidate for cash or due to other personal circumstances. Or it could be the objectionable conditions of the property.
Buying a property below market value will enhance the potential for a better return on our investment.
However, the opportunity may not be always possible, especially in Singapore’s highly priced property market.
So, we may need to know the market value and offer an appropriate price to secure a desired property for investment. Otherwise, we may just miss out on some good deals.
Therefore, anytime can be a good time to buy. Importantly, buy at an appropriate time at an appropriate value to suit our investment purpose.
Make the Property Work for us
We should look for properties that generate positive cash flow (rental income – expenses). We can then use the cash flow to pay for the mortgage loan or to invest in other properties.
Many buyers acquire their properties base on emotions, like how they feel about the property.
But experienced property investors are not afraid to shop with some imaginations. They are not seeing the property as what it is, but how it could be in the future and its potential to grow. This will enable us to buy all sorts of properties below market value and make our cash and financing stretch further.
Cross-collaterisation is where we secure a home loan with more than one property as collaterals. This is undesirable as the bank can force us to sell multiple properties to satisfy the loan repayments.
Therefore, it is better to secure only one property to each loan we take.
Happy Tenants, Happy Rental
When renting our properties, the satisfaction of our tenants will determine the continuous flow of our rental income. With a positive experience living in our properties, the tenant will more likely to renew their tenancy.
Moreover, a pleasant looking home will attract tenants faster, thus reducing the down time of rental income.
It is, therefore, important to maintain the property well and to quickly do up after each tenancy. Some resourceful agents may also help the landlords in this aspect.
Close Partnership with an Agent
An essential aspect in building your property portfolio is to research and analyse the zone or area where we are interested to buy a property.
So that we can spot good property offers and up-and-coming areas and prevent ourselves from buying the right house at the wrong place.
An experienced real estate agent will be able to assist in this. Moreover, real estate agent will be able to help in understanding the finance needed and recommend to a list of bankers. Getting a good deal on your property finance can go a long way to helping you build a successful portfolio.
Although Singapore’s property market has slowed over the past few years due to government’s cooling measures, it continues to harness growth potential due to strong demands from home buyers and investors.
The statistic continues to show the upward trend of Singapore’s property prices. The highs and lows continue to climb higher than the previous.
It is considered a much stable investment as compared to other investment instruments. With the considerable rental incomes and capital gains, property investments will help us achieve financial stability and financial independence.
So that we are able to achieve financial freedom, where we have the ability to live the lifestyle we want.
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