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28 Oct 2022
SOURCE: CPF Board
An exquisite aroma lingers across the open kitchen as the stew simmers down. Enthused eyes dart towards me, as I stand over the pot while an excited racket fills the air.
“To finish it off, let’s garnish with the snow peas… And now, you have all completed a warm Japanese stew of nikujaga!”
Welcome to my home studio for community cooking classes.
But this is probably in another 30 years’ time, when I quit my day job to fully run my passion project — a safe place for like-minded souls to connect over the simple joys in sharing culinary skills, knowledge and stories.
You may think it’s silly for someone in their mid-20s to be dreaming so far ahead, but having this vivid imagery and a plan are what spurs me on.
Trying out as many passions to get started
You’ll never know until you try. At least that’s how it was for me — I spent my schooling years pursuing various passion projects and working part-time in different industries. These experiences were not only my first steps into these fields, but another step towards financial security too.
After I graduated and moved on to a full-time job, I had quite a bit of savings but wasn’t sure how to better utilise it. Compared to my peers then, I was quite clueless. So I started taking an interest in finances, even familiarising myself with CPF, and recognised the importance of having healthy personal financial habits.
This was the reason I co-founded DareToFinance, an accessible platform for personal finance content to empower and share my learnings with people.
A big dream built on small habits
I went through phases chasing fleeting passions and interests when I was younger. When I found one that was close to my heart and felt sustainable, I created a vision board. It sets the direction for how I can pursue my passions, one step at a time — and acts as a daily motivation towards them.
Too much effort and commitment for something that’s 30 years in the making?
It does seem like a long way ahead. But by breaking the big milestone into smaller ones, I have images of my long-term goal — which is my home studio — as well as short-term goals, which are equally important in the next 6 years.
For me, those short-term goals currently include career advancement followed by two major expenses: my wedding and home purchase. These immediate priorities precede and set the foundation for my long-term goals that are further ahead.
By dicing my big dream into smaller pieces, I realised three things:
That is why this vision board exercise is important. It helps to put everything into perspective — to comfortably achieve my dream, my plan for the next 30 years is crucial as it takes time for me to build up my financial health.
And starting now is better than later simply because of the power of compound interest.
A good example is our CPF contribution. I had accumulated decent savings through part-time work in my schooling years, and the savings in CPF accounts grow over time at an interest rate of up to 5% per annum*. That also means every dollar in my CPF Special Account can more than double in 20 years for higher monthly payouts to support me in retirement.
Time is pivotal to amplifying your monies no matter which financial instrument you use to grow your wealth. Hence, adopting consistent habits such as small and regular top-ups into your CPF helps as building blocks to your dream. And I get to enjoy tax relief too! It’s easier to manage when breaking down challenges into smaller steps, so that you can take them on at a better pace.
I also do a yearly planned check-in on my vision board. I assess my direction and ensure I’m on track with my goals, which can take on different turns due to new learnings or changes in my environment.
It sounds daunting, but I have little hacks for each step of the way to ease myself into it.
Acting on a plan to support your passion
If you’re not sure how to begin, get started with your vision board, or whichever approach that’ll help you to map out your goals, needs and responsibilities — and identify what it takes to achieve them.
Planning career progressions for more income
As you progress in your career, you’ll naturally start earning more. While it’s ideal for meeting your goals, you’ll also have to be prepared to meet more work demands. Drafting out a career trajectory can help identify salary benchmarks and necessary skillsets to get to where you want to be.
Planning for life’s important moments
To me, the immediate future holds two important moments — my wedding and dream home (that’s also the studio!). Those are large expenses which will definitely impact how early I can achieve my long-term passion project. What helped me in this process is to rationalise what is needed and decide on an amount I want to — and am able to — set aside for.
For example, while it’s said that an average wedding in Singapore costs $30,000, it’s entirely up to you how that one-day event looks like. Get your partner involved and align on the non-negotiables and amount thereafter!
I also intend to purchase a resale home in 3 years — a calculated decision with the help of my CPF savings. Planning ahead for such big-ticket items gives me time to save up.
As I’ve been working for some time now, I’ve accumulated quite a bit in my CPF Ordinary Account (OA) through my monthly CPF contributions. Together with housing grants from the government, I will be able to buy a home before I turn 28.
One thing to consider in this process is to purchase a house within your means, so it doesn’t deplete all of your CPF savings. For those taking a home loan, a good rule of thumb to follow is that your monthly repayments should be kept to less than 30% of your gross monthly income.
It’s also wise to use a mixture of cash and CPF OA savings to pay off the mortgage, since the latter can continue to grow at a risk-free interest rate of 2.5% per annum if unused. You can also choose to set aside $20,000 in your CPF OA, and not use them at all. They can come in especially useful if there is disruption to your CPF OA contributions e.g. unemployment or period of rest from work without CPF contributions.
You can also make use of CPF’s My First Home calculator to help you in this planning.
Pursuing your passion without having to worry about finances
To run my home cooking studio in retirement without having to worry about a monthly income, I’ll have CPF LIFE get me started to ensure that I receive a monthly income no matter how long I live.
With life expectancy continuing to increase, I want to hedge against the risk of running out of savings in my old age. It’s reassuring knowing that my active contributions to my CPF accounts now can cover the essentials of life such as housing, healthcare, and retirement.
Take advantage of the longer runway you have now to leverage on the attractive CPF interest rates too. Whether you top up to all three accounts or specifically to the Special Account to boost your CPF LIFE payouts, your CPF savings should be the starting point when you plan for your finances to support your passion.
Embracing changes through planning
Having a flexible plan that is adaptable to change is something essential I’ve learnt in my years of adulting. Even if that means revisiting abandoned plans, or pause whenever you need a breather.
What’s more important is to realise that the road ahead is a constant journey of understanding yourself and making the effort, no matter how small, to pave the way for the day when you can do the things you love, without having to worry about the finances to support it.
Remember, it’s just like building a great pot of stew — you’ll need to give it enough time to simmer, as the flavours don’t come together instantly! Planning ahead and knowing the steps to be taken will allow ample time to work towards your goals. Get started on the small stepping stones that are closer at hand to enable you to get to your desired lifestyle.
I hope something has struck you from reading this, and whether that manifests in a vision board, or your own unique way of planning for your goals, there’s never a better time to start than now.
*To enhance the retirement savings of CPF members, the Government pays extra interest on the first $60,000 of your combined balances. Terms and conditions apply. Read about CPF interest rates here.
Sakura Seet is a freelance digital marketer and co-founder of DareToFinance, a platform targeted towards living the fullness of life through financial literacy.
Information in this article is accurate as at the date of publication.