Very few people would take their entire paycheck and spend it all on a shopping spree or a fancy night out. After all, there are bills and loans to be paid, and mouths to be fed. But a year-end bonus feels like a windfall, a reward for all the hard work you put in – and an invitation to splurge as you wish.
Is it really though? Your bonus is part of your earned wages for the year, and all bonuses received (be it your 13th-month bonus or performance bonus) are taxable. Should you then be treating money from your bonus that differently compared to money from your paycheck?
Instead of splurging all of that bonus, make a plan to allocate it wisely in line with your long-term financial goals, while still setting aside some money to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Here’s how to make the most of it.
Prepare for a rainy day
If you don’t yet have an emergency fund containing at least three to six months of your take home pay, use a part of your bonus to beef up your emergency savings. Having an adequate savings buffer can help cover unexpected events like a job loss or medical emergency too, without the need to incur further debt.
Pay down debt
Still paying the interest on last year’s credit card bill? Use your bonus to pay that off. Credit cards have some of the highest interest costs. If you pay just the minimum sum on your credit card bills each month, you could be paying up to 24% annual interest on your outstanding amount, and on any interest not settled by the next payment date. If you have other debt that carries high interest rate charges, your bonus can also be used to bring your debt down to a manageable level.
If you have set aside your emergency fund and carry no bad debt, your bonus can be a great way to kickstart your investment journey and fend off inflation. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) now sees core inflation at 2% – 3% in 2022, from the 1% – 2% expected in October last year.
Money left in the bank may be losing its purchasing power as prices of everything from petrol to groceries rise. Moreover, the rate of return for cash in the bank averages less than 1% – far below the core inflation rate.
One way to beat inflation is to invest in the stock market. Research shows that stock market returns have historically outpaced rising prices. Although past performance is no indicator of future results, Goldman Sachs has found that 10-year stock market returns have averaged 9.2% over the past 140 years.
To maximise your bonus, follow Warren Buffet’s recommendation and invest most of it in a well-diversified portfolio of low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs). One option to consider is the Syfe Core suite of portfolios. They give you diversified, global exposure to a broad range of stocks, bonds and commodities. Which Core portfolio – Defensive, Balanced, Growth, Equity100 – to select will depend on your risk tolerance, investment goals and time horizon. For instance, if you’re in your 30s, have moderately high risk appetite, and want to invest for your retirement, you could allocate a greater percentage of your portfolio to higher-risk assets such as stocks, and a smaller percentage to bonds.
Syfe helps you to start investing in Singapore into a globally diversified, low-cost portfolio of ETFs while keeping fees as low as 0.35% per annum. High fees erode your returns, so the best way to make your hard-earned money go further is by choosing low-cost investments.
Invest in yourself
Spend a portion of your bonus on your greatest investment – you. Take advantage of SkillsFuture credits / subsidies to deepen your area of expertise or learn new skills. Invest in a quality suit or dress that is appropriate for your work environment, and makes you feel confident when you put it on.
Use a part of your bonus to get a headstart on saving for your expected expenses in 2022. Be it a family vacation or minor renovations for your home, start saving for it now so you’ll be on track for these goals.
Give yourself a pat on the back
While we recommend saving and investing most of your bonus, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend a little on yourself. Go for a relaxing massage or enjoy a staycation over the weekend – you deserve it after working hard the whole year.
While your bonus can feel like a windfall, don’t treat it like one. Instead, save and invest that amount wisely. You can start by finding out which portfolio is right for you.
Invest now and you’ll reap the financial rewards of this decision years later when you’re enjoying your retirement by a seaside villa in Italy.