Age is a serious problem when looking for a job

Jobless 48-year old PMET with masters in logistics: “I will renounce my citizenship if I don’t have a job soon!”
“I will renounce my Singapore citizenship if I still cant find a job soon…”

48-year-old Edmund – looking younger with his jet-black dyed hair and boyish look, was dead serious when he related this shocking statement to me earlier in the week at Raffles City.

I have met close to two hundred jobless PMETs face to face during these past few years managing Transitioing but this is the first time that someone told me emphatically he wanted to renounce his citizenship due to prolonged unemployment.

Each year, more than a thousand Singaporeans would renounce their citizenship as they have found greener pastures abroad. Many have resettled in Australia (40,000), UK (30,000), US (20,000), China (20,000) among others.

I am sure that many who have moved abroad did so because they couldn’t get a proper job here. Many who chose to renounce their citizenship also has an eye on the fattening CPF account which they have built up during the hey days when they were working here.

Many Singaporeans are also unhappy that the withdrawal age has being extended from 63 to 65 years old recently and the government will only provide amonthly allowance to them based on how much they have put into the retirement account.

They wanted to have more say on how they should manage their own CPF retirement money.

As for Edmund, life went very much downhill when he was retrenched a year ago by a local semi-con company based in Indonesia. He was subsequently replaced by a cheaper local Indonesian who probably cost less than one third of his salary.

The company now has a one-third Singaporean workforce with the rest making up of foreigners – with Indonesians and Malaysian forming the bulk of the foreign legion.

He was earning close to $67,000 annually for the seven years that he was working with the company and even found a Indonesian wife while stationed abroad .

He was happy, life was comfortable then and he seldom returned to Singapore even though it was just an hour away by ferry across the straits. He also lost touch with the local employment situation while working abroad and only realised how much has changed when he returned to look for work recently.

Highly educated and armed with a master degree in logistics, there is every reason to believe that life would not be difficult for Edmund.

Now jobless at age 48 years old, he attended only 5-6 interviews over the past one year and realised that age was the main barrier for him getting rehired.

“One local employer even told me that I was the oldest candidate he has interviewed!” Edmund related to me intensely.

Edmund is willing to even to take up a job that pays half of his previous salary – only if there is one employer that is willing to provide him that chance.

As he was also interested in doing training, he applied for a driving instructor job with the driving school though the pay was only slightly above $2000. However, no one bothers to contact him for an interview.

I told him that his high educational qualification could also be a deterrance as interviewers who are department heads may find him a threat especially if they don’t have such high qualification as him.

“Perhaps so,” Edmund whispered softly. “I may need to remove my masters degree from my resume when I am applying for jobs now!”

As his severance pay is finishing soon, Edmund may have no choice but to take the drastic step of renouncing his citizenship so that he can withdraw his massive CPF money to start a small business in Indonesia.

“I have a Indonesian wife and recently the Indonesian government has make it easier for foreigners to apply for citizenship if they marry Indonesian women.”

He also hoped that the government will tighten up the foreign worker influx and brings in true talents and not just anyone who could fill the company’s foreign quota.

As we ended our interview, I found that there could be many Edmunds out there – highly qualified, well experienced but at the wrong end of the age barrier.

If Singaporean employers continue to shun older PMETs from the workforce, many of them will look for opportunities abroad resulting in a serious brain drain soon.

Those who could not move will have to stay on and if the dire situation persists it could turn into a potential social time bomb with adverse consequences.

Men at the age of mid to late 40s are still very productive and more signficantly they still have mortagges to pay and young children to take care of.

If they stay jobless for a prolongd period, all their savings may be emptied out and during acute financial distress, families will be adversely affected with many even ending in divorce.

Transitioning has estimated that 30% of the jobless PMETs faced serious familial issues at home with some even talking of divorcing their spouses due to financial stressors. It is with this sombre statistics that we have started a divorce support site
www.steadymarriages.com one and a half year ago.
Moreover, ironically, employers have always complaint that they could not find suitable local applicants when they put up job advertisements – the truth is that there are local jobseekers applying but they are not the younger lot whom employers want to hire.

Transitioning hopes that our local employers will be sympathetic to older workers applying for jobs.

They are willing to work for much reduced salaries and why not give them the opportunity to try it out than flatly rejecting them?

Remember that we are a fast greying population and if too many of our mid-aged workers stay unemployed or underemployed, I am sure that this will have serious social repercussion on our society.

transitioning.org

Poorest hardest hit by inflation in Singapore

By Jeanette Tan | Yahoo! Newsroom – 1 hour 51 minutes ago
Families that fall under the bottom 20 per cent of income earners in Singapore have emerged as the hardest-hit by inflation over the first half of this year.
Figures from the Department of Statistics (DoS) released on Monday showed that the country’s lowest earners experienced a 6.3 per cent rise in prices over the same six-month period last year, as compared to 4.6 per cent for people living in the top 20 per cent income bracket. The remaining middle 60 per cent experienced inflation of 5.2 per cent.
The DoS attributed the faster pace of inflation for the lower-income group to higher imputed rentals on owner-occupied accommodation. Such rentals, however, do not affect the cash expenditure of the households.
Even discounting imputed rentals, though, the bottom-earning 20 per cent of households experienced a 4.1 per cent inflation rate for the first half of the year, still exceeding the 4.0 per cent inflation experienced by Singapore’s top 20 per cent income-earning households and 3.9 per cent increase in costs felt by the middle 60 per cent.
Across the board, however, rising costs in food, electricity tariffs and cars triggered the increased inflation from January till June. Lower-income households, in particular, found themselves spending more of their money on food, housing and healthcare in comparison to higher-earning households.
Commenting on the increase, Institute of Policy Studies faculty associate Tan Ern Ser explained that lower-earning households could be feeling the pinch more because of the nature of their expenses, which are likely to be mainly on basic necessities.
“(It is for this reason that) they have less leeway for cutting down (on their expenditure) or turning to cheaper substitutes,” he said.
He noted, however, that the best way to deal with inflation woes for low income-earners is still to match increments in prices with wage hikes.
Acknowledging also existing rebates that have been offered by the government to moderate the impact of rising costs, he added, “Whatever solutions we decide upon (would need to) entail our factoring in sustainability and incentives for companies to continue in business.”

Due to overwheming demand for scarce amenities be prepared to pay $20K – 50K more for property purchases

Conditions in the private property market are still ripe for moderate price growth despite slower sales in the last few months which hit an all-time low for the year in June.
According to latest figures released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), 1,371 private homes were sold during the month, a 19 percent decline month-on-month (m/m) from the 1,702 seen in May.
Including executive condominiums (ECs), home sales fell 16 percent m/m and reached 1,725.
OrangeTee noted that the weaker numbers did not come as a surprise, given that developers held back many launches in June due to the holiday season, aside from the uncertain global economic conditions.
But it said that buyers’ appetite for properties, especially in the Outside Central Region (OCR) remains fairly healthy.
Png Poh Soon, Head of Research at Knight Frank Singapore, commented that developers continue to be competitive on their bids for well-located sites under the Government Land Sales (GLS) Programme.
So far this year, demand for private homes has been robust, with more than 12,000 units sold in 1H2012, added the consultancy.
River Isles, a 99-year leasehold project by Qingjian Realty was the top-selling project in June, with 263 units sold or 59.5 percent of the 442 units launched in the month.
Alan Cheong, Director of Research & Consultancy at Savills Singapore, said that strong sales at River Isles, which saw a median price of S$835 psf, implies that the mass market is capable of absorbing “that kind of pricing”.
Among the best-selling projects last month were Sea Esta, 1919, Flo Residence, and Tropika East.
Moving forward, Cheong noted that July could see robust sales from several major launches including Parc Olympia, Parc Centros, possibly River Sails and V on Shenton.
“Assuming a 25 percent sales rate, the above-mentioned projects alone would add 633 units to the new home sales numbers for July,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chia Siew Chuin, Director of Research & Advisory at Colliers International, believes that home buying sentiment will remain positive thanks to sustained yet moderated economic growth, rising inflation and low interest rates.
Nonetheless, “buying euphoria is expected to ease as pent-up demand is gradually being met. New sales volume is therefore expected to moderate to between 8,000 and 10,000 units for 2H2012. This will bring 2012’s total sales number to around 20,000 to 22,000 units”.
Li Hiaw Ho, Executive Director at CBRE Research, predicts that new home sales could be around 4,000 units per quarter.
“While this number suggests a slowdown in sales momentum, the total take-up of new homes for the whole year is likely to reach a record high of 20,000 units.”
At the same time, Dr Chua Yang Liang, Head of Research for South East Asia at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) said: “Previous policy intervention is now starting to work its way through the market and buyers are returning, especially to the CCR (Core Central Region), as landlords become more flexible on pricing and the price gap between the CCR and OCR narrows generating more buying interest.”
In addition, Singaporeans are also the main drivers of the region’s sales volume, “helping to soak up the unsold inventory”, he added.
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[Source]: PropertyGuru – for the latest property news and opinions from Singapore and around Southeast Asia, visit PropertyGuru.

Due to overwheming demand for scarce amenities be prepared to pay $20K – 50K more for property purchases

– pay more for higher floors
– pay more for poolview/seaview
– pay for for scarce units with excellent facilities eg penthouses with spa
– near mrt/shopping centres
– near well known schools
– near highways eg CTE/PIE
– special facilities eg special personal carpark spaces

Nobody I know who has paid interest and inflation for a piece of property wants to sell at a loss. And there will be greater demand for new flats near amenities near central regions instead of suburban, which will see the greatest price appreciation.
– Contributed by Oogle

50 year home mortgage loan has just been launched

United Overseas Bank (UOB) has introduced a home loan that now allows the home owner to stretch his home mortgage to 50 years – that’s half a century.
UOB said they introduced this longer loan package as more customers have been asking for it.
The loan is currently applicable to private residential and HDB only. Also, there is a cut-off age but UOB declined to say what it is.
If the property is leasehold, it needs to have at least 35 years left on the lease at the end of the 50-year loan. That is, the property needs to have 85 years or more left on its lease before the owner can apply for this kind of home loan.
Having a longer term will result in a smaller monthly loan instalment and will be of help in the monthly cashflows. However a longer repayment period also means that more interest will be incurred.
By taking on such a long-term loan, it means the home owner will be servicing the loan into his retirement years which means he can’t afford to retire since he needs the cashflows to continue servicing his loan. If a couple, say, marries at 30 years old, it means they will be servicing their housing loan until the age of 80.
Homeowner Edward Ti, 28, said, “I would take a 50-year loan if interest rates are low. I would think that it is more efficient to use the money saved from the monthly mortgages to do something else.”
If a borrower takes out a 50-year loan for $1 million at an interest rate of 1.7 per cent, he would have to pay about $2,475 monthly for his mortgage, compared with $3,548 if the loan ran for 30 years.
Hence, this spells good news for the developers since the high-priced properties especially those at the million-dollar level become more ‘affordable’ due to lower monthly mortgage payments.
It is not known if an even longer-term home loan will be available in the market in future.
In Japan, especially during the bubble years, Japanese banks created a “Two Generation” mortgage loan. That is, the home loan is taken out by 2 generations of people, typically the father and the son. When the father can no longer service the monthly mortgage payments, the son takes over.
Will we start to see some creative banks coming out with “Two Generation” mortgage loan in Singapore soon?
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Reforms at North Korea

Reuters
Friday, Jul 20, 2012

BEIJING – Impoverished North Korea is gearing up to experiment with agricultural and economic reforms after young leader Kim Jong-un and his powerful uncle purged the country’s top general for opposing change, a source with ties to both Pyongyang and Beijing said.
The source added that the cabinet had created a special bureau to take control of the decaying economy from the military – one of the world’s largest – which under Kim’s father was given pride of place in running the country.
The downfall of Vice Marshal Ri Yong-ho and his allies gives the untested new leader and his uncle Jang Song-thaek, who married into the Kim family dynasty and is widely seen as the real power behind the throne, the mandate to try to save the battered economy and prevent the secretive regime’s collapse.
The source has correctly predicted events in the past, including North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006 days before it was conducted as well as the ascension of Jang.
The changes could herald the most significant reforms by the North in decades. Previous attempts at a more market driven economy have floundered, most recently a drastic currency revaluation in late 2009 which triggered outrage and is widely believed to have resulted in the execution of its chief proponent.
“Ri Yong-ho was the most ardent supporter of Kim Jong-il’s’military first’ policy,” the source told Reuters, referring to Kim Jong-un’s late father who plunged the North deeper into isolation over its nuclear ambitions, abject poverty and political repression.
The biggest problem was that he opposed the government taking over control of the economy from the military, the source said, requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions.
North Korea’s state news agency KCNA had cited illness for the surprise decision to relieve Ri of all his posts, including the powerful role of vice chairman of the ruling party’s Central Military Commission, though in recent video footage he had appeared in good health.
Ri was very close to Kim Jong-il and had been a leading figure in the military. Ri’s father fought against the Japanese alongside Kim Jong-il’s late father Kim Il-sung, who founded North Korea and is still revered as its eternal president.
The revelation by the source was an indication of a power struggle in the secretive state in which Kim Jong-un and Jang look to have further consolidated political and military power.
Kim Jong-un was named Marshal of the republic this week in a move that adds to his glittering array of titles and cements his position following the death of his father in December. He already heads the Workers’ Party of Korea and is first chairman of the National Defence Commission.
The North Korean Embassy in Beijing, reached by telephone, declined to comment.
REFORMS
North Korea’s cabinet has created a “political bureau” which will wrest power from the 1.2 million-strong military to run the economy which has been in shambles after a crippling famine in the 1990s, the source said.
“In the past, the cabinet was empty with no say in the economy. The military controlled the economy, but that will now change,” the source said. Kim Jong-un has set up an “economic reform group” in the ruling Workers’ Party to look at agricultural and economic reforms, the source said, adding that North Korea will learn from its giant neighbour and solitary benefactor, China.
Beijing leaders are thought to have been pressing Pyongyang to do more to reform the economy, worried that a collapse of the North could send refugees streaming across its border and the loss of a strategic buffer to South Korea and the large contingent of US troops which help protect it.
It was unclear who will head the cabinet’s “political bureau” and the party’s “economic reform group”, but change was inevitable, the source said.
In sharp contrast to the austere, reclusive image of his father, state media have shown Kim Jong-un visiting fun fairs, speaking in public and applauding at a rock concert at the weekend.
Women appear to have been more freedoms, including wearing short skirts, although 200,000 people are in prison camps in the impoverished and isolated country.
The source dismissed speculation of any political fallout from the purge, saying: “Kim Jong-un and Jang Song-thaek are in control of the military.”
Jang has long been seen as a proponent of reform of an economy which through mismanagement has entirely missed out on the fruits of dramatic growth of neighbours like China and South Korea.
His push for reform was widely seen as having triggered a period of exile but he was later rehabilitated and given the primary role of supporting Kim Jong-il’s son when he was being groomed to eventually take over the leadership.
North Korea has yet to name Ri’s replacement as head of the army, the source said.
It was unclear how many of Ri’s men have been sacked, but the source said they have not been jailed. An assessment of the changes by the South Korean government seen by Reuters, said that some 20 top officials had been purged since Kim Jong-un began his ascent to power.

Medishield premiums to go up in major revamp

By Lin Wenjian | Yahoo! Newsroom – Wed, Jul 18, 2012
Premiums for MediShield, Singapore’s national health insurance scheme, are set to rise next year even as it aims to provides wider and enhanced coverage for Singaporeans.
The annual premium will rise between S$17 and $251 per year, depending on a person’s age.
For the majority of policyholders aged 65 and below, the raise will amount to no more than S$5 per month.
For those older, their premiums will be largely offset by the annual and one-time Medisave top-ups.
“The important thing is to assure Singaporeans that even with the adjustment in premiums and deductibles, MediShield and healthcare will continue to be affordable for Singaporeans,” said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Wednesday at the opening of a new training centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
Explaining the decision behind the revamp, the last of which was done in 2008, Gan said that costs have risen as patients receive better drugs and treatment. Claims by an insured person have also been going up.

The new changes would help “restore the focus of Medishield on larger bills which will impose a much larger financial burden on patients”, he added.
For those that have difficulties paying their MediShield premiums and deductibles despite the assistance given will have avenues such as Medifund to turn to for further help.
Medisave top-ups of up to $450 a year under the GST Voucher scheme can also offset the premium, said MOH.
In the Budget this year, a one-time Medisave top-up of up to S$33 per month was announced to help Singaporeans absorb the impact of the increase.
Among the major changes, the amount hospital patients can claims will also be increased. From next year, patients will be able to claim up to S$70,000 for their hospital bills annually, up from the current S$50,000.
The lifetime claims limit will be adjusted from S$200,000 to S$300,000 to help patients who face large medical bills.
MediShield coverage will also be extended to two groups of policyholders: Those up to 90 years old, from 85 previously; and newly-diagnosed patients who need in-patient psychiatric treatment, with daily claim limit capped at S$100.
MediShield will also cover short-stay wards in the hospitals’ emergency departments.  
Coverage will be extended to include congenital and neo-natal conditions, although this is subject to public feedback.
“For congenital and neo-natal conditions to be covered under MediShield, the population will then have to take into account the premiums that will be associated with this additional coverage. So we want to listen to feedback. It is a process of consultation,” Gan said.
The proposed coverage will cost about S$12 per year, or about S$1 per month, and a public consultation will be launched from 18 July to 15 August 15 to gather feedback. Singaporeans may also send their feedback to moh_info@moh.gov.sg.

Flip properties only if you got plenty of cash

Extracted from Yahoo.com
By Ryan Ong | MoneySmart – Wed, Jul 18, 2012 12:00 AM SGT

Back in ’07, house flipping was the express train to Moneyville. Stock brokers were flipping houses. Pensioners were flipping houses. My dog groomer, whose property knowledge doesn’t extend beyond 72 ways to de-stain a carpet, was flipping houses. Then came the government measures, which derailed the gravy train faster than a budget rail worker. But even with new regulations, is successful house flipping possible? I find out:

What is House Flipping?

Flipping is when someone buys a house, then attempts to quickly re-sell it for profit. While typical property investors wait years for property values to rise, a house flipper re-sells in weeks.
A house flipper secures the option to purchase (OTP), then transfers the OTP to a buyer who is offering a higher price. For example:

  1. A house flipper offers to buy a house for $1,000,000.
  2. The house flipper secures the OTP at $1,000,000. This costs 1% of the price ($10,000)
  3. The house flipper finds a buyer who offers $1,020,000 for the house.
  4. The house flipper transfers the OTP to said buyer. The excess $20,000, minus any legal fees, is the house flipper’s profit.

(And yes, the eventual buyer pays back the 1%).
But wait, isn’t there a Seller’s Stamp Duty? Yes, and a house flipper can bypass this:

Seller’s Stamp Duty

Since 2011, the government has attempted to discourage flipping. This is done through the seller’s stamp duty (SSD). When you sell a property within the first four years of the purchase, the SSD applies as follows:

  • First Year – 16% (of price or value, whichever is higher)
  • Second Year – 12%
  • Third Year – 8%
  • Fourth Year – 4%
The SSD must be paid within 14 days once the OTP is exercised. As such, it is the eventual buyer who must exercise the OTP, not the house flipper.
I can’t stress this enough: If you exercise the OTP, you’ve bought the house. You will incur the SSD upon trying to sell it

The OTP’s Shelf Life

The cost of the OTP is 1% of the price. So the OTP of a $1,000,000 house is $10,000. This must be paid out of the house flipper’s pocket.
In order to flip, the OTP must also contain the words “…and/or nominees” next to where the house flipper’s name appears.
Once issued, the OTP lasts about 14 to 30 days. The more urgently the seller needs the money, the shorter the given time. Within this duration, the house flipper must find a buyer to transfer the OTP to. Otherwise, the house flipper must either exercise the option himself (buy the house) or forfeit the 1%.
Sounds tough?
It is. But there are still ways you can perform a successful house flip:

  • Take Advantage of Fire Sales
  • Flip During an Up Market
  • Flip When You Have Deep Pockets
  • Flip Properties With Scarcity Value

* There is also another type of house flipping, which involves the transfer of the title instead of the purchase option. I will discuss this in a future article. Like us on Facebook to get updates!

1. Take Advantage of Fire Sales

Fire sales refer to situations when a property is sold below market value. This is usually the result of forced foreclosure by a bank.
Properties in a fire sale are sold below their actual market value. A house flipper could secure the OTP at the lower price, then transfer it to a buyer willing to pay market rates.
Watch out for outsized risks: If a property is going for $995,000, and the market value is $1,000,000, the risk is steep. The 1% OTP is $9,950, which outweighs the potential $5000 profit.

2. Flip During an Up Market

Kelvin Daud, who has flipped two properties, times his decisions according to the property market:
I watch for changes in the residential property price index. If the index rises by at least 2% – 3% between one quarter and the next, I might consider making a flip.
…you cannot flip when the bubble has just burst; that’s the danger.”
Kelvin stresses the dangers of attempting a “down market flip”. He mentions that, in a situation where buyers are waiting for the market to bottom out, it can be hard to find a good buyer in 14 days.
In general, ensure that you attempt flips when the property market is resting, or on an uptrend. Never try to flip when prices are going down.

3. Flip When You Have Deep Pockets 

The biggest problem with flipping is the 1% paid for the OTP.
The simplest way around this is to have cash reserves when you flip. Should you fail to secure your buyer in 14 to 30 days, you can just buy the property yourself. You can then treat your purchase as a regular property investment; drop by sites like SmartLoans.sg, and get the cheapest home loan to reduce your costs.
Hey, if you got it in a fire sale or something, it’s still a good price isn’t it? 
Alternatively, your bank account may be so substantial that the 1% is irrelevant to you.
Property investor Charlie Sng didn’t think so:
I bought a property with the intent to flip. My buyer backed out at the last minute, because he unexpectedly got divorced and wanted to settle proceedings first.
Rather than forfeit the 1%, which was around $12,000, I went ahead and bought the property for myself. Today its value has appreciated, so I have no regrets. But if I had very limited capital, I would have cried about that $12,000.”

4. Find Properties With Scarcity Value 

There are opportunities to flip besides fire sales. One of these is when especially scarce property appears on the market. An example would be a unit in a desirable condo, which is otherwise sold out.
How can you tell when a property is scarce? A lot of homework. It involves knowing the district inside out, and tracking the property market every day. And frankly, if you’re not doing this, you won’t be one who spots that scarce property when it goes up for sale.
Charlie Sng says:
Make sure there are no properties nearby that are too similar. For example, in Punggol right now, there are several new developments that are close to the upcoming mall. More than one such development is within walking distance.
This removes urgency in buying any specific unit just because it’s close to the mall. I think you would be hard pressed to flip a property under such conditions.”

Is It Worth Trying? 

If you have the money and the contacts, it’s worth trying to flip some properties. Hey, it’s fast money. But for those who can’t afford to forfeit the OTP, don’t even try.
Likewise, flipping is not for people who lack contacts in the property market. 14 – 30 days is a very short time in which to sell a house. You should have five or six prospects lined up even before you get t
he OTP; if you don’t, just put it down and back off.

If you are truly interested to hold out and sit out your investments, it is better to go for tax breaks for setting up a holding company if you are really trading properties for profits, there are many considerations for your risk appetide, better seek professional advice if you want to venture furthur.

– Contributed by Oogle