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Only one in three have enough savings to last more than 6 months: OCBC survey

People in face masks seen along Orchard Road on 12 May 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
People in face masks seen along Orchard Road on 12 May 2020. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Only a third of Singaporeans and permanent residents have enough funds to last them more than six months if they were to lose their jobs now, according to an OCBC survey released on Monday (1 June).

The OCBC Financial Impact Survey for COVID-19 conducted in mid-May found that about 18 per cent have enough savings to cover one month of expenses.

The bank surveyed 1,000 Singaporean and permanent resident working adults aged between 21 and 65 who are earning $2,000 and above per month. The survey was conducted about six weeks into the circuit breaker period and the respondents ages’ and income were representative of the Singapore population.


Nearly half of those surveyed have experienced a dip in income, such as through wage cuts, being forced to take no-pay leave or a reduction in commission earnings. A similar proportion are worried about losing their jobs despite extensive government support.

More than half the respondents said their savings had taken a hit. About 22 per cent said the reduction to their savings has been more than 20 per cent.

The OCBC Financial Impact Survey for COVID-19
(Source: The OCBC Financial Impact Survey for COVID-19)

OCBC said the survey seeks to point out gaps in financial planning and knowledge during a crisis and provide timely tips by its wealth experts on how to move ahead.

The survey found that among those who have invested, 54 per cent are worried about their portfolio, with 40 per cent saying they plan to cut their investments. About 16 per cent said they will reduce by more than one-fifth.

About 27 per cent of those with financial plans said they have stopped setting aside or even reduced their funds for retirement. A third of the sandwiched generation — those between the ages of 40 and 54, many of whom have to care for both young children and aging parents — said they have cut down on retirement funds.

In contrast, 23 per cent of those in their 20s and possess a retirement plan have put aside more money for retirement during this time of uncertainty.

About 41 per cent are worried if they have enough insurance coverage, with 47 per cent of Singaporeans aged between 40 and 54 being the most concerned about this issue. Yet, 12 per cent of insurance policyholders intend to decrease or terminate their policies.

(Source: The OCBC Financial Impact Survey for COVID-19)
(Source: The OCBC Financial Impact Survey for COVID-19)

Taking action

However, many Singaporeans are taking steps to future-proof themselves. One in two are attending more online courses than before, and three in five are working harder than before the virus hit, with more than half of them doing so to keep their jobs. About a third intend to take on or have taken on a second job.

One group stood out for their optimism and hustle – those in their twenties. About 64 per cent of this group said they were taking up more online courses, compared with an average of 53 per cent across all the age groups. About 23 per cent of this group are also setting aside more funds for retirement.

“It is encouraging that some are doing the right thing to boost their financial health, by continuing to save, spending prudently and making sound investments according to their risk appetite and financial circumstances,” said Tan Siew Lee, OCBC Bank’s Head of Wealth Management Singapore.

She hopes those who are cutting back will not despair.

“Events such as the current COVID-19 crisis, like SARs and the Asian Financial Crisis, will pass. If you are currently experiencing discomfort from the situation, take the opportunity to learn from the experience and do not give up,” she added.

OCBC Bank has launched a series of videos featuring its employees sharing their experiences going through previous crises, as well as its wealth and human resource experts – who provide tips on how to make the most out of the current situation.

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