Friday, 29 April 2016

My hope for FinTech in Singapore

I update our Google Sheet regularly for changes in bank account balances, shareholdings, dividend & interest income received etc. As much as I like designing the templates, graphs and charts on the different spreadsheets (which is important in understanding your personal finance situation), I always think to myself whether it is possible to have a single window on all of our holdings.

After all, we have multiple bank, brokerage and retirement accounts and it's time-consuming having to login separately many times to access the information I need to update the Google Sheet. Plus the requirement to enter OTPs from devices and phone SMS after logging in is driving me up the wall. We have about 10 of these devices and even finding a place to store them is troublesome.
FinTech in Singapore

This is where I would like to introduce you to my hope for FinTech. It's relatively new in Singapore but it's starting to gain traction here. I have been reading articles on FinTech in Singapore and exploring the websites of some of the start-ups. This concept of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) as critical to innovation is really interesting.

APIs is defined as sets of requirements that specify how one application interacts with another. This will enable financial institutions to integrate their systems internally and allow for interaction with third parties such as start-ups or service providers for the development of better products.

Doesn't this sound like it's headed in the direction of a possible future in Singapore where I can access a third party website to view all of my bank, brokerage and retirement accounts holdings? I understand there will be issues around information security and data governance but I'm sure there are ways to address this.

Benefits for personal finance

This is already happening in other parts of the world like US and it should be an eventuality in Singapore as well. Imagine, real-time updates of all of our holdings with a single login. This is just one of the many applications of FinTech and you can already see how it will benefit many people.

With all these information, it is possible for data manipulation to come up with graphs and charts that can better present your assets, liabilities, income and expenses over time (past, current and projected). This will allow for a greater understanding of your personal finances to come up with changes to asset allocations, budgets etc to meet your future financial goals.

In any case, I reckon Google Sheet still has a role to play in the monitoring of our personal finances. After all, third party access to the relevant data might be limited or phased in and it might be a while before we can realise these benefits. Besides, it is possible to tailor Google Sheet to your own specifications and needs, which can at times give a better snapshot of your personal finance picture.

Ultimately, I hope FinTech continues to grow in Singapore and bring along benefits to all the consumers here. This could result in an evolution of personal finance management and that's an exciting possibility to ponder.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Monthly passive income hits S$1,000

I have been tracking our monthly dividend and interest income since 2015 and only started posting the figures from Jan 2016 on this blog. This is exciting for me to write because I just realised our monthly passive income has exceeded S$1,000 in Apr 2016. First milestone reached! 

We received a coupon payment from one of our corporate bonds and dividend income from our index ETFs and shares in one of the telecommunication services companies we are invested in. Together with the interest income from our bank accounts, our monthly passive income has hit S$1,000 for the first time.
I have been tracking our average monthly passive income for 2016 and it might end the year at S$800. I guess the second milestone would be for this to reach S$1,000 as well by 2017. Currently, our average monthly expenses (taking into account all types of costs) is about S$6,000. I just realised we have to increase the average monthly passive income by S$500 every year for the next decade for it to be able to cover our average monthly expenses (assuming this does not increase) by the time I hit 40 years old.

That will require a more aggressive allocation to our ETF and share portfolios for this to happen. It also assumes sufficient cashflow for investment every year with minimal cashflow drain from possible life events like having children, job loss, medical and other emergencies. Even just writing this assumption out makes me question how workable it is.

Which is why it helps for me to record all these down. We are testing this theory of financial independence over a long enough time frame of 10 years. If it is a success, I want us to know how we achieved it from this starting point. If it is a failure, we will have another 10 years to learn from our mistakes and make it work the second time round.    

Friday, 22 April 2016

Importance of letting time pass

I have always wondered what direction this blog will take when I started it 2 months ago in Feb 2016. It seems to be a mix of the technical and psychological aspects of personal finance. As much as I like writing about the things we do and updating the numbers in our portfolios, income & net worth, I enjoy exploring the psychology of personal finance as well.

After all, our values and beliefs drive the actions we take for better or for worse. Besides, I'm about to turn 30 in June and there's nothing like a major life milestone that makes you become more self-reflective. One valuable lesson we have learnt from our experience of studying, working & living in Australia & Singapore and getting on to this journey of financial independence is the importance of letting time pass.

I read personal finance blogs from all around the world and it's amazing how we can be at such different stages of our lives but yet have the same goal. The problem for me is when I start reading about bloggers that have already achieved the goal. The way they lead their lives is how I imagine it would be like for us - to be able to focus & do what you want and what matters to you without the financial pressure to make it work out.


Working in the office

Even though we know the steps we need to take to get there, it might be another decade or more before we achieve it. We work in the accounting and banking industries as accountants. While not the most exciting occupation, the pay is decent and has already put us in a better financial position. If we keep working in the office for the next several years, it might even shorten the time it takes to reach financial independence. However, working in the office can be a real grind every day. If we are to jump out now and do something that matters more to us, it might lengthen the time it takes to achieve financial freedom.

Now you can start to understand the topic of this post. The more I think about it, the more I realise that when you have figured out what needs to be done, doing it is sometimes just a matter of letting time pass. We do what we can to increase our salary income by working hard & smart but no amount of career navigation will significantly shorten the time we need to get there. It really comes down to just not overthinking it at work, reducing our expenses and keeping ourselves focused on the goal.

What we also try to do on the side is build up another source of active income. This doesn't refer to our dividend & interest income but should come from putting our effort into another active activity. Again, it takes time for the steps we take to yield results.     
Investing

The same lesson applies to our investments as well. When we got serious with investing in 2015, we over allocated our cash on hand to the stock market because we were anxious to really make some ground in our journey to financial independence. In short, we rushed it. What should have taken years to build, we tried to do it in a matter of months.

The recent bear markets have taught us that you can't speed this journey up by over-investing. We have to be patient, do more research, allocate cash to the stock markets according to our target asset allocations and wait for it to work. Buy consistently across time and even more so during bear markets but it can't be done at once. That's how we learn and that's how knowledge compounds. 

Personal Life

Time builds character and we have both grown up significantly since graduating from university. We have learnt not to over-plan when it comes to life because we have no idea what's actually going to happen in the future. We couldn't have imagined ourselves working in Melbourne, Sydney and Singapore over the next 7 years after graduating in 2009. How do we know what will happen in the next 7 years from now?

It's frustrating to know that the mistakes we have made along the way have added years to the timeline. But those mistakes came from not being afraid to try and they made us who we are. As long as we keep ourselves focused on the goal of financial freedom, the importance of letting time pass is to allow ourselves to actually enjoy this journey wherever it might take us. Life doesn't stop living and neither should we.        

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Progress update on financial goals

It's time for a progress update on our financial goals for 2016.

We have been buying the Singapore and International ETFs regularly over the past few months and the rebound in the stock markets in Mar and Apr have helped us as well. It's been growing at about S$3,000 every month since the Jan balance of S$20,000. The ETF portfolio looks on track to hit S$40,000 if we can keep this up.

However, I must admit that we have been buying less ETFs given the recent rally in the global stock markets. To be honest, we probably didn't buy the ETFs aggressively enough during the bear market in Jan and Feb. Having to buy the ETFs during the current bull market is not ideal.

Since we have switched to an ETF investing strategy in Mar, most of the growth so far has been coming from the recent rally in the Singapore stock market. It was growing at about S$5,000 every month since the Jan balance of S$100,000 but this is expected to slow significantly. We have not added any new stocks but have been averaging down on our existing stocks when opportunities come up.

Unless a bear market surfaces again during the rest of the year, we will probably not make any major purchases of stocks. We have been exploring the idea of dividend reinvestment plans to grow the share portfolio, especially for the REITs, but we have yet to come to a decision on them. In any case, we anticipate the Share portfolio to each S$120,000 by year end.

3. Other portfolio to reach S$150,000 by 31 Dec 2016

I realised we haven't set a goal for our Other portfolio and the aim is for this to reach S$150,000 by year end. We contribute about S$200 each month to our wholesale life policies and this grows slowly over time since the returns are low.

Our investment cash holdings have been increasing as we have been investing less in the markets. The bond holdings have not changed since mid 2015 and they are not likely to increase unless there are high quality corporate bond issues we can invest in later in the year. We still seem to be on track at this time. 

We are expecting quite a bit of dividend income in Apr and May but doubt we will get to S$5,000 by year end. The dividend yield of ETFs is lower than shares and our switch to an ETF investing strategy should probably result in lower dividend income growth.

We have also been experiencing dividend cuts with some of the shares (e.g. oil & gas industry) and this goal is not looking good unless we make some major investments in Q2 and Q3 of 2016. 

Our strategy to maximise interest income from bank accounts and hold corporate bonds is working out fine. The interest income is exceeding the dividend income by quite a bit for now although we do not anticipate significant growth in interest income.

If that happens, it might actually mean we are holding too much cash and more work is needed on the asset allocations. We should meet this goal but it might take until the end of the year for interest income to exceed S$5,000.

6. Net worth to reach S$100,000 by 31 Dec 2016

Generally, our net worth is increasing positively with each month from paying down our mortgage, tax & credit card debt. Although market gyrations do impact our net worth negatively at times, it has continued to trend upwards due to our current monthly savings rate of about 40%. We should be able to meet the goal of our net worth reaching S$100,000 by year end provided nothing major happens.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Why I prefer not to have a recession

I liked my post on the net worth update but have to admit the method of calculation is almost always going to be up for debate. In my view, our net worth is an arbitrary figure to begin with and I am generally more concerned with the direction it is headed over time. As long as our net worth trends upwards positively with each month, I'm okay with that and the absolute figures don't matter to us as much.

Global Financial Crisis and European Debt Crisis

However, the net worth update post did get me thinking about whether our asset portfolio & income can withstand a recession given the liabilities & expenses we have. Although we graduated in 2009 right after the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/2008, we were able to find jobs in Australia eventually and there was minimal impact on a very small investment portfolio. The European Debt Crisis of 2010/2011 had more impact on a then slightly bigger investment portfolio compared to 2009. However, it didn't impact Australia's economy as much and we were able to retain our jobs.

Overall, the resulting recessions from the Global Financial Crisis and European Debt Crisis did impact our jobs and might have slowed our career and salary progressions. However, we were young with no debt obligations and other than not taking the opportunities to grow our investment portfolio, there was minimal impact to our assets. We also had sufficient income to manage our expenses with savings leftover and life went on.
Oil Crisis

Now that our assets, liabilities, income and expenses have grown over time, I have no way of knowing how well we can withstand a crisis and recession. You could argue that we are now in the middle of an Oil Crisis of 2015/2016. Given how the MAS unexpectedly eased its monetary policy to try to jumpstart growth in Singapore, the risk of a recession has probably already increased to warrant such an action.

Preparation for a recession

Not like it matters or will change anything but I prefer not to have a recession. Every time it happens, I have come to realise that the main risk is to our jobs and salary income i.e. cash flow. Although our asset portfolio has increased significantly, the dividend & interest income is no where near replacing our salary income.

We have taken action to prepare for a possible recession by increasing our cash on hand and to hedge against the event of job loss. We have also increased the cash component of our investment portfolio to allow us to take advantage of falls in the stock market and maybe even the property market.  We have cash holdings in Australia that we don't disclose on this blog and even in our Google Sheet. This is our lifeline cash funds - not for emergency or spending. It's for starting a new life in Australia if we don't make it in Singapore. Now you know how seriously we take the threat of a recession.

Are we ready for a recession?

Despite preparing for a recession, I don't actually know what will happen if it occurs and how severe it will be. What I have come to realise is that when something bad happens, everything else can go south at once. There are many things I have learnt from reading personal finance blogs in other countries. This Canadian blogger (Bridget Eastgaard at Money After Graduation) has a great post on the things she has learnt from Alberta's recession. It seems like the Oil Crisis of 2015/2016 has already caused a recession in other countries like Canada. Go have a read about what's it like to be in a recession and the far-reaching impacts it can have.

A recession can be an opportunity if you prepare for it. The way we have done it is to reduce our liabilities, increase the bond component of our investment portfolio and raise our cash holdings. I don't see how we can recession-proof the equity component of our investment portfolio other than to accumulate more ETFs and shares if it happens.

This still doesn't mean I would like a recession to occur. I can see how everything can go wrong at once e.g. being laid off without salary income, watching our stock portfolio & property values freefall and still have to deal with monthly expenses. Don't underestimate how long you can be out of a job and running out of money while losing everything it took years to build might be something you never fully recover from. The big problem with a crisis and recession is how the after effects can structurally change a country's economy. This can present a significant risk even in the recovery because can you be sure you won't be left behind?

It's easy enough to convince ourselves that my wife and I are still relatively young and can recover from a recession even if it is severe. We have done some stress testing of our net worth and cash flow under various scenarios to see how we can survive a recession.

I have come to realise that we are underestimating our reliance on the salary income from our jobs to manage our expenses. Even with our increased cash holdings, drawing them down to manage our expenses without any inflow of cash from salary income is going to hurt. This is not forgetting our dividend & interest income will go down as well due to dividend cuts and us no longer meeting the bank account requirements to earn the higher interest. Coupled with declining investment portfolio and property values, this is going to send our net worth down the drain no matter how we calculate it.

Ultimately, we will only know whether we are ready when it happens. We have gone through enough while working & living in Australia to know we can depend on each other in bad times. Our next big test will come soon enough and we are as ready as we can ever be.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Net Worth Update

As I write more posts on this blog, I start to realise that the content becomes more relevant and applicable the more honest I get with our personal finance numbers. It's one thing to write about how to save more, how to spend less and how to invest more but if I don't actually write about the actual impact of these strategies on our net worth, it's difficult even for myself to see if they work.

I doubt we will ever fully disclose our net worth but I have already been providing snap shots of our portfolios & asset allocation and dividend & interest income. The only main piece missing from the blog is our liabilities and without these figures, it's not possible to calculate our net worth. In the spirit of additional disclosure, I have now included a net worth page.
It summarises our assets held as investment, retirement and cash. More importantly, it shows the following liabilities.

Mortgage

I mentioned in my previous posts that we don't view our apartment as an asset since it does not generate any income. However, we do view our mortgage as a liability since we have to make monthly principal and interest payments. The issue is that just disclosing our mortgage as a liability without the apartment value as an asset causes the net worth figure to become overly negative and it loses accuracy as a result.

To improve the accuracy of our net worth figure, I have used an amount for the mortgage that is calculated by taking 50% of the market value of the apartment minus 100% of the principal value of the housing loan. In a way, I have budgeted for a 50% drop in the housing market prices. It's a conservative approach but I rather understate than overstate our net worth.

Credit Cards

This shows the billed and unbilled amounts charged to all of our credit cards at the point of updating the net worth page. Although we pay off the full amounts of our monthly credit card bills, all outstanding unpaid amounts should still be disclosed as liabilities. Given how we charge most of our spending to credit cards, this amount is a good estimate of our monthly expenses on transport, telco, groceries, dining, entertainment and travel.

Tax

We pay our income and property taxes to IRAS using the 12 interest-free monthly instalments plan. It improves our cash flow position but sits as a liability on our balance sheet consequently. This amount should reduce over the year but increase once we file our taxes at the end of each year.    

Monday, 11 April 2016

Birthday Celebration

Celebrated my wife's 28th birthday over the weekend by having a nice dinner at Whitegrass. What caught our eye when choosing the restaurant was that the chef/owner Sam Aisbett trained in Quay and Tetsuya's, which are our favourite fine dining restaurants in Sydney. The service & food were excellent and we even got to drop by the kitchen to speak to Sam himself!
It's not that this personal finance blog is about to become a food blog. It's just more interesting for me to mention our other interests as well. Yes, we like to eat at fine dining restaurants for special occasions and this is one of our main spending areas. It's something that we have been doing since working & living in Australia and we have continued to do it here in Singapore even though it is more expensive.

I know how personal finance bloggers like me keep going on about reducing expenses and fine dining is definitely something we can cut back on. Makes you wonder why we continue to budget for this? Because it's one of the core things that make up who we are as a couple. The pursuit of more savings, more investments, financial freedom etc can be never ending. But you must never forget what makes you happy. Sometimes, we become so focused on the goal of financial independence that we ignore and sacrifice many things to achieve it.

This post is not about encouraging one to spend freely on everything that makes you happy. It is about you figuring out what you should spend on that is important in making you happy. For us, we have worked hard to get to a point where we can budget for such fine dining expenses. More importantly, this is how we take the time and make the effort to dress up, date each other again and celebrate the many milestones we have achieved together. Here's to thanking my wife for staying on this journey with me and to us for striving together!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Why you should use credit cards

I was thinking about writing a series of posts on analysing why and how we invest into the specific stocks in our Share portfolio. Given that we intend to focus much more on building up our ETF portfolio from now, it didn't make much sense to do that any more. Besides, there's also not much point in me dedicating a series of posts on our strategy of buying ETFs every month - more in bad months and less in good months.

I decided to go out on a limb and write about something more controversial - Why I think working adults should use credit cards especially in Singapore. I know this topic is more specific than the actual title of my blog post, which just sounds more catchy. I'm actually going to use my family and the credit cards we have as examples for the points I will make on the reasons for using credit cards. Hopefully this makes the post more personal and relatable!
Pay less for petrol

My brother doesn't believe in credit cards to the point he actually cancelled the one and only credit card he had (which I applied for him soon after he started work because I thought it would be useful for him to have at least one credit card). When my brother drives the family car to the petrol station, he pays for the petrol using Nets, which does not qualify for the many cash rebates you can get by paying for the petrol using certain credit cards at certain petrol stations. For example, the use of Citibank credit cards at Shell stations gets you at least 4% cash rebate. Can you imagine paying full price for petrol in Singapore?

Pay less for utilities

Many households in Singapore have utilities bills from SP Services. My mother used to pay her SP Services utilities bill via GIRO until we realised it's possible to get 1% cash rebate from paying the SP Services recurring utilities bill using her POSB Everyday Card.

Pay less for public transport

We use our POSB Everyday Cards as EZ-Link Cards when taking the bus and MRT. There is an auto top-up function by using EZ-Reload and we get 2% cash rebate.

Pay less for mobile/broadband/cable TV

Most people have some form of telco bills in Singapore. My sister used to pay for her Singtel mobile bill and the family Starhub broadband & cable TV bills via GIRO until we realised it's possible to pay for these bills online using a credit card. For example, you get 3% cash rebate from paying these recurring telco bills by using the OCBC 365 Credit Card.

Pay less for groceries

My mother used to pay for the groceries using cash. It took some time but I finally convinced her to start paying for the groceries using a credit card. You can actually get 3% cash rebate from paying for groceries using the OCBC 365 Credit Card!

Pay less for dining at restaurants

Okay, my family does pay for restaurant dining bills using credit cards but they were using rewards cards i.e. earn points from spending and redeem for stuff. Personally, I'm not a big fan of rewards credit cards since I find the items you redeem for actually encourage you to spend more. The OCBC 365 Credit Card offers 3% cash rebate for weekday dining and 6% cash rebate for weekend dining.

Earn more interest

In Singapore, spending on certain credit cards allows for higher interest to be earned on certain bank accounts. For example, the link between the UOB One Card and the UOB One Account or the link between the OCBC 365 Credit Card and the OCBC 360 Account.

Why use credit cards?

The cash rebates accummulate and work by reducing the credit card bills in the next billing month. Granted, most credit cards have minimum monthly spending amounts before you qualify for the above generous cash rebates. It's S$600 for the OCBC 365 Credit Card and there is a cap of S$80 on the cashback amount per month.

A good way to meet the minimum monthly spending amounts is to combine the spending of related parties. For example, I am the main card holder of the OCBC 365 Credit Card but my wife and mum are supplementary card holders. That way, I combine our separate telco, groceries and dining expenses to meet the minimum monthly spending amount of S$600 without each party having to spend more.

A credit card is a financial tool and a working adult should develop the discipline and learn the skills to utilise it. If you find yourself overspending and incurring large credit card debts, you have a much bigger problem than learning how to invest. I'm not saying you can't be an investor without having a credit card. What I am saying is that the discipline and skills one needs to learn to be an investor is similar to that one needs to learn to use a credit card.

One of the many reasons above should be good enough to motivate you to start using credit cards effectively and efficiently. Don't underestimate the cash benefits from doing so because a working adult in Singapore is actually spending on many of the items I have mentioned above and the cash rebates you are missing out on can really add up. The additional interest you can earn from linking the credit card to the bank account is also significant. More importantly, don't overlook the discipline and skills you will develop from using credit cards well.   

Monday, 4 April 2016

Mar 2016 Financial Update - BS

As mentioned in my previous post on the Mar 2016 Financial Update - P&L, this post will focus on the Balance Sheet (BS) - Assets and Liabilities. Again, I will summarise the main points of consideration for each item.
Assets

We have been building up our investment portfolio more aggressively since 2015. This is especially so for the ETF and Share portfolios due to the volatility in the stock markets in the past several months. However, the buying activity of ETFs and Shares have slowed down considerably given the recent rally in the stock markets. Our strategy is to continue to be vested, invest every month but only increase our ETF and Share portfolios aggressively in months that the stock markets are doing very badly. The growth in the Other portfolio has been more consistent.

We have started holding more cash due to the increased risk of retrenchment and this is expected to be the case for the next few months. It helps to know that we have sufficient cash to manage all of our expenses for as long as necessary in the event of job loss.

In fact, we have started building up our Central Provident Fund (CPF) Ordinary Account (OA) as well so it's possible to pay the entire monthly mortgage amount from the OA for several months to reduce any cash drain if required.

Liabilities

Our biggest liability is the mortgage i.e. housing loan. The monthly loan repayment amount is about 30% of our combined monthly income so you can imagine the size of the mortgage that is causing it. I have always wondered what it will be like to pay less than 30% of our monthly income for accommodation since we have always been paying about 30%. It was for rent when we were in Australia and now it is for mortgage when we are in Singapore. This is what happens when we try to retain aspects of our life in Australia here in Singapore.

The only other liability we have is credit card debts. Although we pay them off in full every month, we count each credit card bill as a liability since we will have to pay the full amount in cash via GIRO on the payment date. Monitoring our credit card bills is actually how we manage our expenses since we try to charge most of them to our credit cards. We only spend cash on certain items (e.g. food at coffee shops or hawker centres) or in places that do not accept credit cards (e.g. shop houses). This makes it easier to track our cash expenses.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Mar 2016 Financial Update - P&L

I'm going to try and start a regular series of Financial Updates, probably monthly for now to see if I can maintain it. It will be structured in a Profit & Loss (P&L) and Balance Sheet (BS) style in what I hope is a clear and concise manner. I will go in the following order: Income, Expenses, Assets and Liabilities and summarise the main points of consideration that impact each item. This post will cover Income and Expenses while the next post will cover Assets and Liabilities.
Income

Salary income for my wife and I have been consistent so far for the 2016 year. However, the bad economic times have impacted my wife's banking industry more than my accounting industry. The risk of retrenchment has increased for both of us (maybe more so for her) and we do not expect year end salary increases or bonuses.

We have always been preparing for possible job loss given my experience with unemployment and underemployment after graduation in Melbourne. In fact, my wife faced her own underemployment and unemployment issues after working for two years in Melbourne. I don't think I have mentioned this before but that's actually the reason we moved to Sydney. Although working overseas and facing such situations have taught us to depend on ourselves and plan for the worst, it's another thing to have to face this increased risk of retrenchment again.

This is the first year I'm recording our monthly dividend and interest income received. The dividend amounts are greater than the 2015 year because we have bigger ETF and Share portfolios but there have been cuts to the dividends received from certain companies we are invested in. We tried to make up for it by reorganising our bank accounts and credit cards to increased the interest earned. As our strategy is to try and invest every month into ETFs or Shares (less in a good month and more in a bad month), we expect the monthly dividend income to increase over time. We plan to increase our cash holdings in preparation for the increased risk of retrenchment, which means that  the monthly interest income should also increase over time.

We are on the search for other income sources as we currently rely on 3 income sources - salary, dividend and interest. It would be good for us to develop at least one more income source if possible but this will take a lot of time and effort.

Expenses

Our biggest expense continues to be the mortgage payment. Staying in an apartment in the East is certainly expensive but we are closer to my wife's parents and it's convenient for all of us to drive in to the city for work together. It's also nice to have family around nearby after being overseas and home-cooked food for dinner is a big plus after a long day's work.

I will run through the rest of the expenses in a descending order: Travel, Dining, Shopping, Apartment Maintenance, Groceries, Transport, Mobile & Broadband & Cable TV and Utilities.

I must admit that Lifestyle Inflation is a real problem for us. Although our incomes have gradually increased over the years, the same thing has been happening with our expenses as well. We are more willing to spend on taking taxis after work, eating out at restaurants, short-haul & long-haul holiday vacations. It might be the additional stress at work or just having to deal with more issues in life as we grow up but it impacts how much we spend to make ourselves feel better.

With the bad economic times and increased risk of retrenchment, we are taking the opportunity to re-evaluate our expenses and find ways to reduce them. For this to work, we will have to be disciplined in making gradual changes to our spending patterns to make the reductions more permanent.