The MoneySmart Covid-19 Survival Guide - How Can We Get Through This?
The Covid-19 pandemic impacts us on so many levels, from job loss and economic uncertainty, to the fear of getting infected with the virus, to plain old cabin fever from being stuck at home. If you have been hit in any of these ways, you might be at a loss as to what to do next. At MoneySmart, we can't give you ALL the answers - but we can at least give you some advice on how to plan and act financially to get through this.
Surviving the Circuit Breaker
If you're living in Singapore, your most immediate concern is likely to be how to get through the Covid-19 circuit breaker period. From now until 1 June 2020, we all need to stay at home to reduce community transmission. Everyone's cooperation is important here.
Don't Let the Circuit Breaker Break You
To survive the circuit breaker, we all have to make changes to our lifestyle. We have to substitute restaurant dining with homecooked meals, social gatherings with Zoom hangouts, hitting the gym with livestreamed workouts, and going to the office with working from home. All these changes require a re-think of how you plan your time and allocate your budget.
Circuit Breaker Guide
We've compiled a handy guide to surviving the circuit breaker in Singapore. Find out all about the circuit breaker do's & don'ts, which businesses will still be open, where to buy essentials online, and how to maximise your household expenses during this period.
Now that we are all hiding at home, your regular expenses might have gone down. After all, you are no longer spending money on Grab rides, dining out, and meeting friends. But before you go on an online shopping spree with all your spare cash, make sure you budget for these circuit breaker essentials.
Groceries & Food
Plan your grocery shopping well to save money and reduce the risk of transmission. Buy groceries online if you can; if not, go to the supermarket less frequently, during off-peak hours. As for meals, food delivery is the safer alternative to buying takeaway, but do compare the delivery platforms to avoid getting overcharged.
Utilities & Household
We're spending more time at home than ever, and all this leaving your air-con on 24/7, cooking frequently and watching tons of TV could result in bill shock. So keep an eye on your subscriptions and bills. If you haven't done so yet, consider switching to a cheaper electricity retailer, internet service provider, mobile data plan, and so on.
Health & Wellness
Keep your body healthy and immunity levels up with home-based workouts. At the same time, don't neglect your mental health: Budget time for your well-being through video calls with loved ones and learning new skills through e-learning. Don't forget regular illnesses can strike too, so do set aside some just-in-case money for medical care.
What If You Get Infected?
As the Covid-19 situation is a pandemic, there's a very real chance that we might get infected with the virus. Let's prepare for this scenario by looking at the possible costs.
Will the Government Pay for It?
Generally, you won't have to worry about the financial impact of catching the coronavirus if you are a Singapore citizen, resident, or long term pass holder. As long as you didn't go overseas after 27 March 2020, the Singapore government will fully absorb the cost of your Covid-19 testing, as well as treatment and hospitalisation costs at public hospitals. Singapore citizens and PRs also get subsidised rates at PHPC clinics.
Does Your Insurance Cover Covid-19?
If you already have an existing health or life insurance plan, you may be eligible for further financial benefits. The major insurers in Singapore have added Covid-19 coverage to their insurance policies. These include hospitalisation income, quarantine allowance, and lump-sum payouts for critical condition or death.
Summary of Covid-19 Healthcare Costs
|Healthcare Cost||Do You Need to Pay?||Notes|
|Seeing a GP||Yes||SG citizens & PRs get subsidised rate at PHPC clinics|
|Covid-19 Testing||No||Paid by Singapore Government|
|Treatment (Public Hospital)||No||Paid by Singapore Government|
|Treatment (Private Hospital)||Yes||-|
|Stay in SHN / Isolation Facility||No||Paid by Singapore Government (including meals)|
Covid-19 Medical Bill Reliefs
Be financially prepared for the possibility of catching the coronavirus. Here's what you should know about what's covered in the event that you or your loved ones contract Covid-19 - and how you can get financially protected against it.
What If You Lose Your Income?
Whether you are the average salaried employee, a full-time freelancer, or a business owner yourself, most of us trying to make a living in Singapore will suffer some form of income loss due to Covid-19.
Covid-19 Relief Schemes to the Rescue
Although the pain right now is intense, surely it will end at some point. For immediate relief, you can seek help from the government. There are a lot of relief schemes and payouts for temporary income loss, but the schemes are generally for 3 groups: Employees, the self-employed, and business owners.
The Temporary Relief Fund and Covid-19 Support Grant are schemes that are available to all Singapore citizens and PRs whose incomes have been affected by Covid-19 (e.g. job loss, pay cut, income loss). The key scheme is the Support Grant, which pays out S$800 a month for 3 months to eligible individuals.
The government is paying special attention to self-employed persons (SEPs) including freelancers, gig workers and taxi/Grab drivers. These hard-hit workers can benefit from the SEP Income Relief Scheme (SIRS). You get S$3,000 in May, Jul, and Oct 2020. In addition, SEPs can get S$10 an hour if they go for industry training and up-skilling during this period.
Business owners have to face some very tough decisions during Covid-19. To ease the burden, the government has a whole slew of support schemes, from co-funding staff costs, property tax rebates, deferred loan payments and more business loan facilities. The hope is that businesses will stay afloat and retain jobs for their workers.
Covid-19 Relief Schemes
Need further details on eligibility and how to apply for all these government help schemes? Head over to our sub-page on Covid-19 relief schemes in Singapore. You'll find all the info you need over there.
How to Deal with Debt & Credit
If you suffer any income loss at all, you are most likely extremely worried about your debt - how are you going to repay your loans!? Or maybe you are so low on cash that you don't know how you can even get by without borrowing money. In this section, let's talk about your options.
Everyone's Circumstances are Different
Just a disclaimer: You're going to see some seemingly conflicting advice here. On the one hand, we're asking you to reduce your debts, while on the other, we're presenting personal loan options. This is because we acknowledge that there's no one-size-fits-all financial solution to every case. We ask that you think through your situation, choose the least risky path, and compare the options carefully before committing.
First, let's talk about what to do with your existing debt. As a special economic measure against Covid-19, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) now requires banks to be more lenient with home loans and credit card bills. These are the two most common forms of consumer debt, so the new measures should go some way in easing the burden. Some other loans, such as car loans, may also be deferred.
Home Loan Repayments
All borrowers in Singapore are allowed to defer their home loan repayments until 31 Dec 2020. As long as your mortgage payments are no more than 90 days overdue, you can apply to the bank for deferment. Alternatively, refinance your home loan to a cheaper one - and reduce your monthly expenses.
Credit Card / Line of Credit
If you are a Singapore citizen or PR who has lost at least 25% of your income since Feb 2020, you can apply to convert your credit card / credit line balance into a term loan of up to 5 years. MAS requires this loan to have a standardised effective interest rate of 8% p.a. (lower than credit card interest rates).
Car Loan & Insurance
Depending on your provider, you may be able to get your car loan deferred. For example, OCBC allows car loan deferments for up to 3 months. Commercial vehicles (e.g. Grab cars) are also protected from confiscation under the law. On a related note: Consider switching to cheaper car insurance to save money.
What If You Need More Cash?
If you still have a decent income but are increasingly worried about it, you may need to explore your borrowing options.
One option is a personal loan, where you get a lump sum and commit to monthly repayments for a few years. Another is a credit facility (credit card, credit line, or extended credit limit), where a bank agrees in theory to lend you an amount - but you don't have to repay as long as you don't use it.
Taking on additional debt during these times is obviously very risky and not recommended for everyone! But if you are out of options and need to buy time while you turn your business or income stream around, borrowing could be an option.
Special Financial Relief Programme
Wondering what's going to happen to your debt - from your mortgage to your credit card bills? Under the MAS Special Financial Relief Programme, you can defer some loan payments to help ease your cashflow. Here's the lowdown on what you can and cannot defer.
Should You Start Investing?
If your income has not been adversely affected by the Covid-19 crisis, you may be wondering if you should start investing. After all, most of us are aware of the coronavirus-led stock market crash. Today's low share prices could mean tomorrow's profit, but only if you are conscious of the risks. Two questions to ask yourself:
Do You Have Enough Cash Savings?
Just because you still have your job now doesn't mean it will be there forever. Covid-19 has a domino effect on the economy, and the situation has far from stabilised. Regardless of how well you're doing at work, it's best for every one of us to beef up our emergency cash savings at this point. We recommend keeping at least 6 months' worth of expenses in your cash savings, to tide you over in case you suffer a pay cut or worse.
Are You Ready for the Risks?
Investing in pre-coronavirus times was risky enough as it is. But investing during uncertain, rocky periods like this? That takes nerves of steel. If you start investing now, you must be prepared for extreme, nausea-inducing volatility. So be sure you have the stomach for these risks, as well as immense holding power. Those who can profit from market conditions like these are the ones who can hold on to their stocks long after everyone has panic-sold theirs.
Should You Invest During Covid-19?
Is it a good idea to start investing during times like these? Head over to our dedicated Covid-19 investment page to find out more about the pros and cons of investing during the pandemic - plus a crash course in the basics of investing.