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Remittance vouchers the new Illegal moneylending scam

Remittance Vouchers the new Moneylending Loan Scam?

With the hard clamping down of illegal moneylenders and the tightening of moneylending borrowing rules, moneylenders are now starting to feel the pinch. In a new rise of moneylending schemes, one that uses remittance vouchers has caught the attention of Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW).

Remittance Vouchers Scheme

This new remittance vouchers scheme that has been hitting the news targets specifically at FDWs They are the prime targets because of the tightening of licensed moneylending rules which permits foreigners from borrowing over a certain cap. This new loan cap caused a new struggle amongst foreigner workers as they are unable to pay back the money they owed.

Under the new regulations, foreigners earning less than $10,000 a year in Singapore can borrow up to only $1,500 from all licensed moneylenders combined. Even with rising concerns about a sharp increase in maids taking out loans and ending up in debt.

It was revealed in Singapore’s Parliament last November that 28,000 maids borrowed from licensed moneylenders in the first six months of last year. This number is more than double the 12,000 who borrowed in the whole of 2017. In 2016, there were just 1,500 maids who took out such loans.

Since then, foreigners are turning to other moneylending sources and at times turning to illegal moneylenders. Their debt further increases as they start missing their repayments.

The Story of Kata

Kata  Store, a cellphone retailer at Lucky Plaza, sold remittance vouchers which provided maids to remit money and get a loan indirectly.

It works by allowing them to buy remittance vouchers of a certain value, of which they have to pay an upfront fee. They are then required to make high-interest repayments which in one case was paying up 45% more than the initial loan. What’s more is that administrative charges of $2 a day would be imposed if repayments are not met on the due date.

With the remittance vouchers, they will give it to the staff at Brunphil Express. They will then remit the cash back to their hometown.

Kata does not hold a moneylending license and is issuing loans that are disguised as instalment plans to maids who do not understand the consequences. This form of offering is causing people to end up in bigger debts.

There have been cases of foreign workers not being able to pay back loan sharks and ended up being recruited by them as runners. Some would even persuade their friends and colleagues to borrow money from them.

Some of the maids are being pressured to send money home thus leading them to borrow from illegal moneylenders. This has resulted in a slew of foreign worker scams too. Scam operators call and threaten potential domestic workers, harassing their employers making them pay money not owed.

It appears that the new rules have somehow affected foreigners living in Singapore although the loan cap ruling was initially introduced to allow them to avoid over-borrowing.

If you are an employer of a foreign domestic worker, do educate them about the problems of borrowing and they would be repatriated back if they borrowed from unlicensed moneylenders.

Advice on Borrowing

If you are thinking about borrowing, always borrow from a licensed moneylender or licensed financial institution. They undergo stringent checks by the government and ask for financial advice on their offerings. Make comparisons with other lenders and read the fine print. Clarify any questions before you attempt to make the loan.

Learn about personal loan and how to leverage on its advantages.

How to Use Personal Loan to Your Advantage?

Personal loan is readily available to anyone via multiple financial institutions such as banks and moneylenders. With such flexibility, it also meant that individuals now have the capability to spend first and think about the consequences later. But as the cliché saying goes, with “great power, comes great responsibility”. So here’s how to borrow responsibly so that you don’t regret your decision later.

Always Borrow for Needs, Never for Wants

There are a few reasons why people would end up over borrowing on personal loan and it almost always have to do with materials wants rather than need.

It was recently reported in the news that a couple landed themselves in more than $100,000 worth of debt with personal loan after their wedding.

While marriage is a once-in-a-lifetime affair and many dream of having a dream wedding, planning one without the consideration of cost will guarantee to kick-off your marriage with a rocky start.

Here’s what Mr Lee, 35, told The New Paper,

“We have had more fights since our wedding than in the six years that we were dating.

Most times, it was over money… and we’d end up blaming each other for the situation.”

So, how we can make sure we don’t land ourselves in such a situation?

Plan Your Personal Loan Carefully

Reasons why people tend to over borrow is because they plan with the mind-set of achieving a material want. We often tend to convince ourselves that we will be able to take care of the debt later on when all is over, but it has been proven over and over again that it’s not the case.

Once you have land yourself in debt, you will find it harder to keep up with your current lifestyle with a smaller amount of budget every month. And more often than not, you will borrow to fulfil that particular lifestyle, landing yourself in even more debt.

Such as the case of a couple who landed themselves in debt after their marriage and proceed on to buy a five room flat and had a child. They got so much debt that it threatened their marriage.

So instead, when planning for major life events, such as buying a flat or having a child, always try to plan your finances beforehand. Sit down with your partner and separate items between wants and need. (e.g. do you really need to hold your banquet at a hotel instead of a restaurant?)

By carefully listing out the items, you can then successfully plan for what is essential, and if necessary, take on a personal loan to achieve what is needed.

If you are only asking for a small loan, your friends and relative might be able to help

Instead of going to financial institution, which charges for interest rates, you may try approaching your family or friends for a personal loan.

Most people are wary about lending to their family because they are afraid of the awkwardness when it’s time to ask for their money back, and also the possibility that they won’t.

However, if you can work out a weekly or monthly return plan, they might just be willing to do so.

So, our advice is to never take on a personal loan for a material want because you tend to overestimate your repayment ability. And even when you need one for a need, make sure you have a plan on how you wish to make the repayment.

Smart Ways to Spend Your AWS or Year-End Bonus

Everyone’s counting down to 2015. In just a couple more days and we are headed towards a new year. And everyone is looking forward towards AWS or Year-End Bonus. It’s time to maximise your hard-earned bonus. We at Empire Global had a good year and would like to dish our some sound financial advise for our readers.

What is Annual Wage Supplement (AWS): Demystifying AWS

Definition of AWS:The Annual Wage Supplement (AWS) is commonly known as the 13th month payment. It is a single annual payment to employees that supplements the total amount of annual wage earned by them.

Common Idea// Misconception: It’s compulsory for employers to award employees AWS.

The Truth:An annual bonus is an optional, one-time payment given at the end of the year. It is usually paid to motivate employees who have performed well. It can also be drafted in employee’s contract.

Read more on Annual Wage Bonus from the MOM

What to do with your Bonus

Worst thing to do? Rack up credit card debt in advance of your bonus and expect things to pay off eventually. That’s a big No-No! Use your bonus to treat your family members extravagantly.

Avoid making sudden big ticket purchases. Splurge spending and not checking out the best deals.

Best thing to do? Pay off high interest credit card debts and loans first. Clear as much liabilities as much as possible before the interest piles up. Clear all the bills! That’s your number one priority.

This is the best time to improve your credit score if you previously had some bad records. Having a clean sheet, void of debts would be most advisable. It helps in terms of future loan application especially for houses (it’s really tough to get a new BTO HDB flat).

Make that money work harder for you. You can channel some of that money into your CPF account and make your CPF work harder.

Learn more about how to Make Your CPF Funds Work Harder 

Don’t Forget Taxes

An old saying is to sound your chickens before they hatch. Even if you know your bonus amount, don’t assume its something extra. It is still taxable under Singapore’s IRAS. Save some of the bonus for the year’s taxes (set aside 10-40%) based on your income bracket. Those annual pesky taxes will make your bonus smaller. Which is why you should not be blowing off the extra cash that easily.

If your taxes are on the higher end, donate some of your bonus and receive a  250% tax rebate (http://www.iras.gov.sg/irashome/page04.aspx?id=1274)! Most people would not think about donating. Perhaps it’s time for you to donate some for a good cause plus you can some tax savings. Of course you need to check whether the charity is a registered IPC (Institutions of a Public Character).

Check out the charities on https://www.charities.gov.sg/

Fund Financial Goals

Plan your finances for the year ahead with this added bonus. Add some of that bonus money to your emergency savings. You can use that bonus to pay a small lump sum towards your housing loan. Any bit helps in the long run as the amount of compounded interest is equivalent to getting another house from HDB!

Put that entire bonus amount in a retirement fund. If you’re really ambitious and wish to retire early, a compounding interest with regular lump sums added can go a really long way.

Save for the Fun Things Your Like

Save that Bonus into your Piggy Bank

Save that Bonus into your Piggy Bank

We all love to treat ourselves to something nice. Firstly add a portion of that bonus to your piggy bank. As long you are financially stable, have some of the savings stashed up somewhere, well spend it! Not all of it of course. We suggest a good 20% will do.

Look out for really good deals for the items on your watch list. It’s the year-end and companies are going all-out to give you the best sales ever. Doing online shopping? Look our for coupon codes first before hitting the checkout button.

Rakuten(popular e-commerce in Singapore) for example has a great social following and regularly holds great sales. So check out companies Facebook pages, websites and surf around (sometimes bloggers are sponsored to give out coupon codes). All these can amount to great savings, not to forget, use the correct credit card for your purchase.

Summary: Spend or Save?

Everyone of us have had small windfalls or bonuses in our course of work. More often than not, that bonus money can be spent very quickly. Bonuses by nature are infrequent and is something we aren’t used to.

So treat that bonus as something separate to your regular income. Ideally, stash that bonus into your savings. This way, it allows you to keep your lifestyle and spending the same.

Read more related articles:

6 Tips to Help you Manager Debts & Finances

Managing Debt in Singapore

In our fast-paced society and growing needs, it has become a stage whereby most people would have debts. Be it a home loan, mortgage, personal loan, car loan or credit card bills. Most importantly, one should pay off one’s debt as soon as possible to avoid incurring unknown expenses. It will save you lots of hassle and money in the future.

It is important to understand that getting into debt is a major responsibility. Too much debt can easily get us into trouble. Ask yourself the following questions before making a commitment to borrowing.

6 Big Questions before Borrowing & getting into Debt.

1. Do I really need it in the first place?

Many a times we tend to buy things we do not need. Getting the latest iPhone? Getting new clothes because of an event? A growing number of people are now buying things that they don’t really need, but due to the people around them or society itself we make the purchase on the item. We love ‘the thing’, hence we need ‘the thing’. Sounds familiar?

Many of our purchases are due to our inability to resist the temptation for instant gratification. We are turning into a first buy, and then pay for it later lifestyle; without knowing whether we can earn that money in future! Be very careful of instalment plans on purchases. It’s easy to underestimate the small weekly payments as it can add up to a whole lot more. Avoid being rash in purchase decisions and check the terms and conditions of any such instalment policy.

Start simple. Assess whether the purchase decision is a need or a want. Determine whether if it’s something that you can wait. Then save up for it and make the purchase later. Buy when you need it, not when you want it.

Impatient: Today's tweens want everything fast, with 56 per cent admitting they prefer instant gratification - Dailymail.co.uk

Impatient: Today’s tweens want everything fast, with 56 per cent admitting they prefer instant gratification – Dailymail.co.uk 

2. Is there another way I can pay for my items?

Sometimes, there are subsidies and grants for items. Some of the easiest way to pay for a new item is to sell an old one. At least this reduces your purchase price of the item or even make a profit out of your sale.

Try making a bargain on your purchase items or check out online marketplaces for cheap deals and second-hand purchases. Many a times, we seldom need items that are brand new. Pre-loved items are currently in trend now as it sharply marked down from its usual price.

Stretch your dollar on your purchases. Singaporeans are embracing the second-hand market and its a fast booming economy.

Stretch Your Dollar - Second-hand Economy

Stretch Your Dollar – Second-hand Economy

3. I already have other monthly expenses. Can I still afford it?

Track your budget. Use a budget tracking app or even an excel spreadsheet to understand your financial standing. See how much you have left after your monthly expenses, borrowings and savings. Look at the amount at the end of the day and determine whether it is still advisable to buy it or to put off the purchase.

Make a budget. Always.

Make a budget. Always.

Here’s a quick video on managing your debt in Singapore.

4. How much should I borrow?

How much should I borrow

How much should I borrow

Always try to make a larger downpayment that you can afford or go with a repayment policy that is bigger and shorter within your means. Go for loan plans that can be paid off earlier than the set period so as to avoid incurring further interest on your debt.

Borrowings should always be kept within the repayment limits; too much or too little can be restricting in their own way.

5. How much do i have to pay every month?

To keep your financial status healthy, you should not fork out more than 35% of your gross income on your total debt that you have.

Balancing Your Debt Payment

Balancing Your Debt Payment – Ensure that you plan your debt repayment well against your income

6. How long will it take to pay off my loan?

Managing Your Loan Repayment Period

Managing Your Loan Repayment Period

The longer a loan period is, the more you end up paying. Ask for a comparison of loan tenures across different loan packages that loan companies offer. Look for the interest rates and cumulative interest rates as this will help you in making an informed choice to decide on a comfortable repayment period for your debt.

Ask the loan officers for a manageable repayment period within your means. Understand the different undertaking of each loan types from them too. Payday loans, personal loans, housing loan or even renovation loans are different terms that a loan officer will use. Choose one that best suits your situation.

Conclusion

The whole point here, is that we don’t think much about long-term aspects of our spending and hence make bad financial decisions that land us into debt. Always spend within your means.

Ask yourself repeatedly; Do i need this? Can I afford this? How can I pay for it?

Know your own financial ability and borrow the minimum you need. All these will allow you to have a peace of mind and be financially sound. And finally, always be prepared for life’s “What if’s”. Have emergency savings to fall back on to cover against life’s ups and downs.

References