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3 Financial Rules for Expats in Singapore to Live By

Many financial rules for expats remain unchanged, wherever you’re living. Beyond the familiar faces such as the Merlion statues or Universal Studios, being an expat in Singapore means you’ll have to make necessary financial adjustments to suit your relocation abroad.

Today, Pacific Prime CXA will go over three notable financial rules for expats in Singapore to live by to ensure financial stability for you and your family.

Why Financial Planning Matters

Singapore is an expensive country for expats to live in, ranking as one of the world’s most expensive cities for expats up to four times in a row. Your biggest expenses will likely involve housing and rentals, transportation (especially if you own a car), and tuition fees for your children.

Housing options in Singapore range from high and low-rise flats to landed properties such as houses. However, due to the large number of expats entering the country, housing demand has since increased and the cost of living in Singapore is also subsequently high.

In the way of education for your children, Singapore has a huge selection of both public and private schools ranging from international and local schools to specialized institutions. The cost of enrolling your child into schools in Singapore will vary depending on the level of education.

Regarding transportation, Singapore has a reliable MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) system along with a comprehensive bus network, as well as taxis. For expats, owning a car is relatively rare due to the high cost of car ownership and strict regulations.

Financial Rules for Expats

In order for your finances to gain traction soon and for you to reach your financial goals in time as an expat in Singapore, we suggest you adhere to the three rules below:

Before You Go, Do Your Research

Before you begin packing up in preparation for relocating to Singapore with your family, it’s crucial to do your research on possible expenses in the country first. Be sure to also do your research to compare equivalents between your local currency and Singaporean Dollars.

Expats can open a bank account in Singapore, as banks in Singapore offer accounts for non-residents. Processes will vary depending on the bank. Below are the documents you’ll need to open a bank account in Singapore as an expat:

  • A copy of your passport.
  • Proof of residency in your home country.
  • Employment or student pass (for those working or studying in Singapore).
  • Long-term visit, dependent pass, letter of employment, or letter of admission.
  • Additional documentation as required (varies from bank to bank).

The bank account process takes around one week or less.

The following are some examples of expenses in Singapore. For more information, please check Numbeo’s cost of living results for Singapore:

  • 1 Liter of Gasoline: SGD $2.84 (approx USD $2.14)
  • Annual international school tuition fee for one child: SGD $35,832.44 (approx USD $26,940.47)
  • One-way local transportation ticket: SGD $2.00 (approx USD $1.50)
  • Monthly mobile phone plans with calls and 10GB+ data: SGD $24.30 (approx USD $18.27)

Be Realistic About What You Can and Can’t Afford

The next financial rule for expats to keep in mind when living in SIngapore is you have to be realistic about what you can and can’t afford.

Previously, we mentioned housing and personal vehicle costs as factors that can contribute to large expenses when living in Singapore. If you’re short on money earlier in your relocation to Singapore, it might not be a good idea to go with housing or vehicle options you can’t afford yet.

Instead, start by settling for the least expensive housing option that will be enough to accommodate you and your family for the time being and then slowly save up as you proceed with your new job in Singapore.

Since car ownership is expensive in Singapore, it’s a good idea to opt for public transportation methods such as MRT or taxis and motorcycles as a means of getting to work or sending your child to school.

You may need to pay transportation fees, but these expenses are considerably lower in comparison to the full cost of owning a car, allowing you to progressively save up.

Know Your Tax Responsibilities

The other financial rule to keep in mind when living abroad is to know your tax responsibilities, and Singapore is no different.

Thanks to its tax-friendly policies, Singapore has attracted numerous expats. Singapore is a territorial tax country, meaning you only have to pay tax on income earned in the country. Singapore also doesn’t have capital gains or inheritance tax.

As a result of Singapore lacking capital gains tax, no income tax is due on the sale of shares, properties, and intangible assets.

And according to the EDA’s section 2A, inheritance tax only applies to someone who died before February 15th, 2008. No inheritance tax would be applicable to deaths on or after that date.

For taxed income, Singapore has a progressive personal income tax rate ranging from 0-22% (for SGD $320,000 or more) for residents and 15-22% for non-residents. On the other hand, corporate tax rates in Singapore are 17%.

Further reading:

Guide For Expats To Personal Income Tax In Singapore

Begin Making Your Financial Plans

Once you have done your research on potential expenses in Singapore, defined your affordability limits, and know your tax responsibilities, it’s now time to begin making your financial plans to set savings and investment goals taking into consideration your current financial status.

You can start by thinking about what you want to save for. It could be for enrolling your kids in schools or universities, houses or private vehicles, or your retirement. The point of your financial plan is to define your savings goals and determine how long it’ll take to reach that goal.

While sticking to your financial plan, don’t forget to set up an emergency fund in addition to your default financial plan, in case you fall ill or lose your job.

Secure Health Insurance with Pacific Prime

By doing your research on potential expenses in Singapore, being realistic about what you can and can’t afford (such as housing options and vehicles), and staying mindful of tax responsibilities, you can make efficient financial plans while living in Singapore as an expat.

However, whether you’re an expat living in Singapore on your own or with your family, the risk for illnesses and injuries always exists and potentially costly medical bills can disrupt your financial plans, even with emergency funds.

That is where Pacific Prime CXA and our team of health insurance experts come in. We are more than happy to help you find the right health insurance plan that matches both your budget and healthcare needs with impartiality and service-mindedness.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us or have a free no-obligation plan comparison.

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Content Writer at Pacific Prime CXA
Wish Sutthatothon (Nickname: Guy) is currently a content writer at Pacific Prime Thailand, an insurance broker that connects individuals and businesses with insurance providers worldwide. He creates and edits blog articles, guides, reports, webpages, and other types of digital content.

He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts, Media & Communication major (concentration: Creative Content) from Mahidol University International College (MUIC). During the compulsory major elective period in the summer of 2021 and voluntarily during the summer of 2022, he also interned as a video and photo editor at Mbrella Films.

He has experience working as an English Content Writer at a real estate buying/renting/selling platform in Thonglor. There, he crafted company blog posts on a multitude of topics. Topics include market trends, legal issues and disputes in property businesses, financial guides, expat guides, home insurance, home decoration and maintenance, and weekly real estate news quick-recaps. Occasionally, as part of the blog-writing process, he would also translate existing Thai blogs to English.

In his free time, Guy enjoys doing scriptwriting and storytelling for comic strips, watching movies, and listening to music (particularly film scores).
Wish Sutthatothon