Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The importance of health insurance

MediShield Life began in November last year (2015), bringing compulsory health insurance to Singapore and marking the coming of age for health insurance here. Just 25 years ago, hardly anyone here had personal health insurance. They either depended on their employers for healthcare support, or paid the whole sum out of their own savings. And hospital bills can be very big, even with Government subsidy, sometimes posing a severe financial strain on the patient's family.

With the launch of MediShield Life, no Singaporean or permanent resident will ever have to face big hospital bills on their own again. Singaporeans were introduced to medical insurance in 1990 when the Government launched MediShield. While there were commercial health insurance available to the individual then, few took them up, largely because few understood the importance of health insurance.

Things changed with MediShield, largely because people were allowed to use their Medisave to pay the premiums, which essentially meant no out of pocket payments were needed. As a result, close to 1.5 million people signed on for the rather basic health insurance. Coverage then was limited to $15,000 a year, $50,000 in lifetime claims and only up till the age of 65 years. Between then and now, the health insurance scene has undergone many changes, as people here came to appreciate the benefits of such coverage.

One major change was the government allowing private companies to offer health insurance whose premiums could also be paid for with Medisave. As a result, there is now a plethora of health insurance coverage with different payouts and premiums - making it extremely confusing and difficult for the average person to decide what to get.

But opening it to the private sector to offer coverage for private sector bills also saw these bottom-line driven companies cherry pick only the healthiest people, leaving those at higher risk of needing hospital care to the goverment-run scheme. So another major change came a decade ago making it compulsory for everyone using Medisave to pay for premiums, to also be enrolled in the basic MediShield coverage. This is done through the private insurers, with no effort needed by the individual.

Meanwhile, the basic scheme also changed, offering higher annual and lifetime payouts, as well as coverage for older people, and recently, for life. As healthcare costs continue to rise faster than general inflation, and as the population ages, many of those who really needed the coverage found themselves left out in the cold, either because they had hit their limits, or because they could no longer afford the hefty premiums charged.

Although Medisave could be used to pay the premiums, the government had put a cap on the maximum that could be used each year. Also, there were many people who have pre-existing conditions that have been excluded from insurance coverage. This led to the creation of MediShield Life, a concept that had been raised many times over the years, but that is finally reaching fruition, where everyone, regardless of age, infirmity or ability to pay would enjoy coverage. But the difficulty in choosing the best insurance for them remains for the two in three people who are on the private plans integrated with MediShield. For more information on MediShield Life, go to the Ministry of Health's website. 

If you need to understand more about how you can get a better coverage for yourself and your family, do message me (Jacky Goh 吴锦南, Senior Financial Planner, representing AXA Life Insurance Singapore Pte Ltd) for an non-obligation consultant appointment on any of the financial services at +65 9151 9924 today.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Is it usual to get really sleepy a couple of hours after a ride?

This is actually very common among endurance athletes.  In fact, many Pro or Olympic level endurance athletes are known to sleep 10 hours a night PLUS 2-3 hours in a nap during the day.  Why?  Not sure exactly.  It hasn’t been determined in research, nor has it been well studied.  There are hypothesis, though.  Some experts think that the cytokines released during long, intense training causes sleepiness afterwards – this does not occur with shorter exercise.  

In fact, most shorter or easier training is invigorating…longer can cause sleepiness.  These are the same cytokines released by the body during a short illness such as a cold, which is why most people feel very sleepy when they are sick.  Bummer.

While I may not have a “magic bullet” to fix all of this, I can help you optimize your fuel to give you the best chance of recovering well and staying energized after training and throughout the day.  And, maybe we can lessen the effect of those cytokines.  Here are my recommendations:

1)      Hydration: More hydration during your ride: Aim for 20-24 oz. per hour (at a minimum, 16 oz. per hour).  Dehydration is detrimental in many ways as it can cause nausea, fatigue, headaches, cravings, etc.  Additionally, stay on top of hydration day to day, aiming for 64-80 oz. fluid per day (in addition to what’s needed for training).

2)      Carbohydrates: Aim for 40+ grams of carbs per hour on the bike.  For these rides that are longer than 60 minutes, I recommend sports drink + 15-25 grams of additional carbs from a gel, ½ energy bar, energy chews, etc.

3)      Recovery: Your recovery shake needs to contain 30-60 grams carbohydrates, 10-30 grams protein, and fluid.  I also strongly recommend adding Medium Chain Triglycerides, from organic extra-virgin coconut oil, as they are an efficient energy source that’s used directly by the mitochondria (energy powerhouses) of the cells.  As a bonus, antioxidants and probiotics are helpful in recovery – the probiotics increase the absorption of the antioxidants which fight the extra free radicals created by exercise.  For a recipe, try: http://lovingthebike.com/cycling-nurition/loving-the-bite-almond-butter-smoothie and use plain yogurt in place of milk.  Try to consume your recovery snack within 30 minutes of finishing your ride.

4)      Supplements: It’s beneficial to most endurance athletes to supplement with a high-quality multivitamin.  One brand I like is the Rainbow Light Brand, and they have a multivitamin specific for men.  Since it sounds like this is an issue after long rides, and not fatigue in general, it doesn’t sound like an iron issue to me.  Also, being a male cyclist (as opposed to a female runner), you’re not in a high-risk group.

5)      Healthy Fats: Since omega-3s from fish oils slow the release of cytokines and thereby reduce their affects, hypothetically it’s possible that omega-3s may reduce this endurance-exercise-sleepiness issue – and, they’re healthy for you anyway, so it’s worth a try.  I generally recommend 1000 mg of DHA/EPA per day from supplements + 6 oz. fatty fish 2 times per week for ~1500-2000 mg of DHA/EPA per day.  Vegetarian sources of omega-3s may also help, but most research has used fish oil.

I hope this helps!  Let me know after your next big ride!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Interest rates and you – how to make your money work harder

Most Singaporeans earn a measly 0.05% on their savings, while the inflation rate and cost of living continues to climb. If you’re not satisfied with your bank’s low interest rates, you’re not alone. Here are some other alternatives that can provide you with much higher returns.

Fixed Deposits (FDs)
FDs are quite popular among Singaporeans due to the attractive rates offered by the banks over a short holding period. For instance, if you commit $20,000 for a lock-up period of 2 years on a FD, a bank will likely pay you a much higher return. For example, some banks may pay promotional interest rates of above 1% p.a., which is at least 20 times higher than the current 0.05% p.a. bank interest rate.

Endowment Funds
Offered by many insurance companies, endowment funds have traditionally been used by parents to save for their child’s university education. The average rate of return is about 2-4% p.a. among the different plans, with some insurers providing a certain guaranteed amount regardless of the market’s performance. The catch is that your money is typically locked up over an extended period (like 15 years or longer) and there will be a penalty if you wish to terminate the plan before its maturity.

The Singapore Saving Bonds (SSB)
If you have a low appetite for risk, government bonds offer a secure alternative for you to park your cash in, while earning interest higher than your bank rate. For instance, if you had put aside $20,000 in the February 2016 SSB placement and did nothing for 10 years, you’ll be rewarded with a generous $5,124 of interest by the end of that decade. Simply put, that’s a whopping 25% return!

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)
For those wanting to get in on the stock market action, there’s a no-brainer method of putting your money into a stock market index, usually known as ETFs. These are broad, diversified indexes that track market returns, typically comprising the largest companies on the market, or a series of companies within a certain industry. In Singapore, the STI ETF is a popular option, which can give you between somewhere 5% to 8% in returns over the long haul. 

If you're willing to work a little harder by doing some research, investing in equities or stocks can be quite rewarding when you invest in companies that grow and flourish over time. For instance, if you had bought shares of Google during its IPO in 2004, you would have made a total of 1,081% in returns today (as of June 2016)! Of course there are also other stocks that can crash and you don’t get anything back. Finding the right stocks and diversifying into different stocks will help to reduce the risk to your stock portfolio.

As you can see, there are plenty of other financial instruments available in the market, which can offer you more bang for your buck (or in this case, more returns on your money). The only question is, which tool will be more suitable for your needs and risk appetite?

About the Author:

Budget Babe is Singapore’s top female financial blogger, who enjoys sharing what she knows on personal finance, savings, insurance, investments, and other issues close to the Singaporean core. Having been featured on various media interviews including The Straits Times, Her World and 938 Live, her blog continues to inspire both men and women alike. 


If you wish to request for an non-obligation and free financial assessment, do contact me (Jacky Goh) at +65 9151 9924 for an appointment. I will be glad to provide you with my services as AXA financial planner.